Noir-vember Day Thirteen: L.A. Confidential (1997) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Noir-vember Day Thirteen: L.A. Confidential (1997)

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Guest writer Christy Shchultz enthuses over the great neo-noir L.A. Confidential.
Okay, I'm going to admit it right here and right now... I'm not a huge fan of black and white movies.

Let the chastising begin!

I know that I'm missing out on years and years of great movies, but the only movie that's in black and white that I'll watch is The Wizard of Oz. And let's face it, only half of it is in black and white!

So when asked to write about a noir film for Noirvember I needed to be creative. I needed to think of a film that fit the definition of noir but is also in color.

In 1998 I rented L.A. Confidential on VHS. That’s how people watched movies before DVDs came out. For me it was right up there with Pulp Fiction (which I also loved). It was also my first encounter with Kevin Spacey. After that, I was hooked (on Spacey, I was already a movie lover).

Guy Pearce! Russell Crowe!

L.A. Confidential brought the 1950s to life for me. Everything I dreamed of (when I had aspirations of becoming a famous actress--and I did) was right there, the good, the bad, and the needed-plastic-surgery-to-look-famous hooker. And it was all in amazing Technicolor!

Los Angeles. The 1950s. A tabloid journalist (and the right photo) can make or break a wannabe movie star’s career. The cops are the good guys. The bad guys go to jail. In an open-and-shut multiple homicide, the criminals are found in the first 30 minutes. Everything is beautiful and all is right in the world.

Well, not exactly. Guy Pearce, in the role that got him noticed in the U.S., is the overly and overtly ambitious Ed Exley. Russell Crowe plays Bud White, a tough cop with a soft spot for abused women, with the brooding intensity he brings to every role. And Kevin Spacey's Jack Vincennes wants to be a star. Spacey's performance as a cop who doesn't see a camera he doesn't like is superb. As cops, these three couldn't be more different. What they share is a desire for the truth. Something's not quite right in the "open-and-shut" case, and they all know it.

Like so many great mysteries, there's also a beautiful woman. Kim Basinger is Lynn Bracken, a Veronica Lake lookalike for the elite Fleur-de-Lis escort service. Whatever You Desire is Fleur-de-Lis' slogan, and it fills the niche market for clients who want their prostitutes to look like movie stars (and who doesn't?). Rounding out the cast is Danny Devito as the leading tabloid reporter Sid Hudgens and James Cromwell as Police Captain Dudley Smith.

Director Curtis Hanson seems to have a knack for working with both seasoned and less experienced actors. Or maybe he just chooses those who don’t need a lot of direction. Either way, all the actors in L.A. Confidential gave phenomenal performances.

Kevin Spacey! Danny Devito!

And part of that is thanks to a great script. Just watching the movie, you can tell that Curtis Hanson respects writers, writing… words. It’s apparent in everything from the writing of the movie to the power of the (albeit tabloid) press in the movie. Not a single line is a throwaway; they each serve a purpose in moving the story along.

In the same way that every word was integral to the story, music wasn’t overused or overbearing. But it was used deliberately and only where appropriate, helping bring noir cred to the film without making fun of the genre.

So, if you’re looking for a great neo-noir film that has it all: excellent acting, a strong story, and vibrant colors that help characterize both the dream and the gritty reality of California in the 1950s, L.A. Confidential is it.

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Posted by Melissa

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