With a haunting voice, retro-glam sexiness, and material both subtle and raw, Juliette Beavan of 8mm melds a femme fatale’s sophistication with flinty rock energy. From the first searing notes, often punctuated by smoke and shadow, the songs draw you in like a Hitchcock thriller; lyrics linger in your head well beyond the show’s end. This part of “Crawl,” for instance, is hard to forget: “or maybe there’s another/ trick, another spell/ and I could change you/ and I’d draw you to me/ pull you to me, crawl to me./ draw you to me/ pull you to me/ call you to me/crawl to me.”
Her bandmates include her husband Sean Beavan (guitar, vocals) and Jon Nicholson (drums). They describe their sound as “trip-hop influenced pop-rock.” First-rate musicians, the guys are the perfect complement to Juliette’s vocals and keyboard.
“That’s right, blame it on the girl,” she might tease them between songs, before adjusting her mic or straightening a cord. A New Orleans native, she’s fond of bringing beads, candy and banter to toss to the eager crowd, many of whom clutch cameras the way people used to flick lighters as preface to an encore.
Together since 2004, 8mm has an impressive resume that includes four albums and several tours (the US, Canada, the UK and Chile). Sean Beavan, who hails from Cleveland, formerly worked with bands such as Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails and God Lives Underwater. He and Juliette write the songs; their work has been featured in the 2005 film “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” as well as in a number of TV shows, including “One Tree Hill,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Moonlight,” “Dirt,” Road Rules,” and “The Real World: Sydney.”
You can see 8mm for yourself Friday, June 3, at the Roxy Theatre, with the Kidney Thieves, Cage 9, The Shakers and DJ High Voltage. The show starts at 8 p.m. and 8mm goes on at 9 p.m.
I caught up with Juliette recently to chat about the band’s penchant for noir.
Mr E Man: The band’s name is a film reference, your shows are richly atmospheric and your songs often deal with mystery, secrets, betrayal and hidden desire, much as a film noir would. Can you talk about how the aesthetic of film noir in general has been an influence for you?
Juliette Beavan: Yes, a reference to the film stock, because for us, 8mm film brings to mind smoky back rooms of 1930s Berlin, the first stag films, the early home movies … in other words, secrets, memories, longings (secret and professed) and decadence … all the things we try to bring to our music. They also happen to be things that are part and parcel to any good film noir. In addition, the look, the sleek styling, elegant and dangerous players, well, that sounds like a band to us!
FNB: Any femmes fatales that stand out for you? JB: Hahaha, are you gonna ask any questions with short answers? Where to start … Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Gene Tierney, Lauren Bacall, Joan Crawford, Anne Baxter, Nora Zehetner in “Brick” does a wonderful job, not to mention (I know they’re not femmes fatales, but I would be remiss to leave the men out) Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives Bogey a run for his money in that film. And for the men, of course, there is the one and only Humphrey Bogart.
FNB: Of ’40s and ’50s singers or bands, who are your top favorites? JB: Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf, Bing Crosby, to name a few.
FNB: Do you essentially get into character when you perform, especially Juliette as the frontwoman? JB: In a sense, yes, and it varies from song to song, because each one is a different story, character, sort of mini movie for us. I’m a storyteller not a character (like a GaGa or Madonna), so the approach is a little different. It only takes a note or two for me “see it” in my head again, to step into “her” shoes … from there it’s just natural.
You kind of have to use your whole body to tell the story, and the story becomes my own for that time.
FNB: Raymond Chandler said a good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled. Do you think that’s true for writing songs and music? JB: Certainly at times … what Sean plays makes me see stories, so I suppose you could say that is a bit of a distilling process to bring the story down into its key emotional components for a 3 minute song. However, there are other times when you get a “cosmic FedEx” (a term we’re stealing from Scott Russo of Unwritten Law). That’s where the song comes to you almost writing itself and you have to grab and get it down before it moves on. You know, the muse will find another host if you aren’t paying attention.
Four days of devouring big-screen classics has left me deliciously sated! At least until my next film fest.
About 25,000 people attended this year’s sold-out TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, which featured more than 70 films and special events. Stars who made appearances included Julie Andrews, Alec Baldwin, Drew Barrymore, Warren Beatty, Leslie Caron, Kirk Douglas, Angela Lansbury, Hayley Mills, Peter O’Toole, Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds and Mickey Rooney.
Before the screening of 1940’s “Fantasia,” in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Sunday night, TCM’s Bob Osborne announced that there will be a third fest in 2012. He also announced a new event: the TCM Classic Cruise, Dec. 8-12, 2011, a five-day/four-night event aboard Celebrity Millennium. The cruise will sail from Miami to Key West and Cozumel.
Most important for me was getting my noir fix and, happily, dark delights abounded. For example, there was the chance to see Nicholas Ray’s “Bigger Than Life” with James Mason as a teacher struggling with an addiction to prescription cortisone. As co-star Barbara Rush told Osborne before the screening, this 1956 psychological drama has been programmed in several film noir festivals “because it’s so dark and so scary.”
As you’d expect from Ray, it’s very well done and the performances are excellent. Despite telling the audience that she was “very old,” Rush is very lively. When Osborne asked her to talk about her leading men, she replied, “I had them all!”
Another noir high point was meeting the charming Marya of Cinema_Fanatic and chatting with renowned author Foster Hirsch at the screening of 1953’s “Niagara,” directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Marilyn Monroe (as a murderous wife), Joseph Cotten (as her off-kilter husband) and Jean Peters (as a plucky, pretty brunette). Hirsch told the audience that film noir can absolutely be in color, describing “Niagara” both as a “minor masterpiece” and a “pulp-fiction paperback come to life.”
He pointed out the contrast in lighting between the bright exteriors and dark interiors, ending with the comment: “If you’ve come for laughs and joyous uplift, you’ve come to the wrong place.”
Also a treat was seeing “The Man with the Golden Arm” from 1955. Adapted from a Nelson Algren novel, it’s a story about drug addiction in a gritty urban setting, by master noir director Otto Preminger. I’d seen it before but, as with “Niagara,” the big screen really intensifies the storytelling. It is definitely Frank Sinatra’s best performance and one of Kim Novak’s finest as well. In attendance were Preminger’s daughter Vicki Preminger and Sinatra’s daughters Nancy Sinatra and Tina Sinatra. Rounding out the noir programming were “The Third Man” (Carol Reed, 1950), “Gaslight” (George Cukor, 1944) and “Taxi Driver” (Martin Scorsese, 1976).
Other films with noir elements included Orson Welles’ masterpiece “Citizen Kane” (1941), “The Tingler” (1959), “The Mummy” (1932), “Went the Day Well (1942) and “Whistle Down the Wind (1961). (I saw all but “Kane,” which I’ve seen several times before.)
The festival also honored master composer Bernard Herrmann, who scored “Citizen Kane” and “Taxi Driver” as well as “Psycho,” “Vertigo,” “Cape Fear” and many others.
On the neo-noir front, I’ll be excited to see Cinemax’s upcoming “Femme Fatales” anthology series “about powerful, sexy and dangerous women” starring Ana Alexander and Anya Monzikova, both of whom walked the fest’s red carpet to promote show.
The first of 13 stand-alone episode starts May 13 and I hope to catch up with the actresses sometime soon.
TCM’s Classic Film Festival starts tomorrow and I’m fretting about packing in all the viewing and events. Definite draws are the classic noirs “The Third Man,” which screens at 9 a.m. Saturday; Henry Hathaway’s “Niagara” from 1953, starring Marilyn Monroe, screening at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday; and “Gaslight” (George Cukor, 1944) showing at 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Other must-sees: Marlene Dietrich in “The Devil is a Woman” (Josef von Sternberg, 1935) at 10:15 p.m. Friday and “Citizen Kane” (Orson Welles, 1941) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Third Man/1949/(104 min. UK, 93 min. US)
If a city could be a femme fatale, it might be Vienna in “The Third Man” from 1949. The voiceover at the beginning of the film refers to “old Vienna with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm.” But new Vienna, a war-torn metropolis split into four Allied zones after World War Two, is a city living by its wits, host to a thriving black market. Hey, a girl’s gotta make a living somehow.
The voiceover also introduces us to a slightly naïve and completely broke newcomer to the hallowed city: Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), an American writer of pulpy Western novels, who has come to visit his old friend and fellow Yank Harry Lime (Orson Welles), a sly operator.
Instead of a buddy reunion, though, Martins ends up at his friend’s funeral: Turns out Harry was hit by a car and has died. Also at the burial is the distinguished Major Calloway (Trevor Howard), who suggests they get a drink.
As they sip, Martins starts asking questions about Lime’s death and eventually suspects foul play. So, Martins hunts for more info and, along the way, he meets a handful of vaguely nefarious characters who traveled in Lime’s orbit: his porter (Paul Hoerbiger), “Baron” Kurtz (Ernst Deutsch), the Romanian known as Popescu (Siegfried Breuer), Dr. Winkel (Erich Ponto). One source he particularly likes is Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli), a sultry, cynical Czechoslovakian actress, who was also Lime’s lover.
What troubles Martins is learning that there were three men who carried Harry’s body from the street after he died, but he can only find two. Finding the mysterious third man drives the action, ultimately leading to a chilling chase through the dank sewers of underground Vienna.
Director/producer Carol Reed, working from a Graham Greene novel, draws us into a perfectly rendered world where tension and trouble pulse just beneath the surface, where anxiety and disillusion are tempered with fleeting pleasures and faded love. I love the details of everyday Viennese life: a moonfaced boy, an ancient balloon seller, a haggard landlady, a prowling cat and the forlorn-looking Teddy bears of the children’s hospital. The lecture hall scene reminds me of a similar passage in Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” from 1935. More
Jean Harlow may have been the first of the movie blonde bombshells, but her sharp, saucy screen persona was quite a ways removed from that of her sublime successor, Marilyn Monroe.
Brassier and earthier than Monroe, Harlow was a bouncy sexpot who knew what she wanted and knew how to get it: a streetwise babe who lived in the real world and knew just how to manipulate it to her advantage. Harlow, like Monroe, had a baby-talk mode, but it was more clearly a put-on. Harlow’s juvenile antics, her “Daddy’s girl” banter with sugar daddies like beefy Wallace Beery let the audience firmly in on the joke.
Marilyn, or at least her screen persona, often seemed more like a little girl in a woman’s body, a blonde baby doll who never quite grew up, and often lived in a world all her own. Marilyn on screen, in some ways, is always a fantasy. Harlow on screen is usually real. Very real.
In the new TCM/Warner Home Video “Greatest Classics Legends: Jean Harlow” set, Harlow holds her own with the elite of MGM’s acting royalty — with the Barrymores(John and Lionel), and with Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell, and classy supporting players like Billie Burke, May Robsonand C. Aubrey Smith, and even with the young James Stewart.
Holds her own? She’s a star, even in a roomful of stars. This Jean Harlow set includes the following four films.
“Dinner at Eight” (George Cukor, 1933) An MGM all-star special and in some ways, a better movie than the studio’s talent-studded “Grand Hotel” — wittier, more knowing, with a deeper, stronger cast, and more beautifully directed, by Cukor. David O. Selznick was the producer, and the source was the hit Broadway play by Edna Ferberand George S. Kaufman, with the screenplay and additional dialogue from Herman Mankiewicz, Donald Ogden Stewart and Frances Marion.
The play is classic. The script is brilliant. The direction and production are impeccable. The stellar cast, one of the all-time great Hollywood ensembles, includes Lionel Barrymoreas the beleaguered shipbuilder Oliver Jordan and Billie Burke as his fluttery society wife, who’s holding a dinner (at eight) for British aristocrats Lord and Lady Ferncliffe.
On her guest list: Old-time diva actress Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler); washed-up alcoholic Hollywood actor Larry Renault (John Barrymore, in an astounding piece of self-revelation and a classic of the actor‘s art), who’s romancing their twentyish daughter Paula (Madge Evans); voracious business shark Dan Packard (Wallace Beery) and his feisty platinum-blonde trophy wife Kitty (Harlow, in one of her best roles); smooth society doctor (and Kitty’s lover) Wayne Talbot (Edmund Lowe) and his tolerant wife (Karen Morley); and Paula’s hapless society beau (Phillips Holmes).
I’ve often thought that playwright Garson Kanin may have gotten the idea for “Born Yesterday” while watching Beery and Harlow in this film. In fact, she’s great with all her co-stars. A classic Harlow-Dressler moment is this exchange:
In the last scene, as they stroll in for dinner, Harlow muses, in a thoughtfully brassy way, “I was reading a book yesterday …”
Dressler: “Reading a book?”
Harlow: “Yes, it’s all about civilization or something, a nutty kind of a book. You know, the guy said that machinery is going to take the place of every profession! ”
Dressler, as she takes Harlow’s arm: “Oh, my dear, that’s something you need never worry about!”
It couldn’t be bettered. And neither could the movie, which, in some ways, is less another “Grand Hotel,” and more in the line of Jean Renoir’sgreat ensemble comedy-drama “TheRules of the Game.” Not as good, of course. Nothing is. More
“The Asphalt Jungle” from 1950 by director John Huston is rightly considered a masterpiece. Excellent storytelling and an outstanding cast, including Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Sam Jaffe, Jean Hagen and Marilyn Monroe, have helped it stand the test of time.
But its stark, unwavering realism is not for everyone. Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, where Huston made the movie, had this to say about the flick: “That ‘Asphalt Pavement’ thing is full of nasty, ugly people doing nasty things. I wouldn’t walk across the room to see a thing like that.”
Um, did he not see luminous and fragile Monroe as mistress Angela Phinlay? Huston portrays a gang of thieves as flawed humans trying to make a living. “We all work for our vice,” explains menschlike mastermind Doc Erwin Riedenschneider (Jaffe). Recently released from jail, Doc has planned every detail of a $1 million jewel robbery and seeks to round up the best craftsmen he can find for one last heist.
A fat wallet means Doc can head to Mexico and court all the nubile girls he can handle. Dix Handley (Hayden), a tough guy with swagger to spare, hopes to pay his debts and return to his beloved horses in Kentucky. Getaway driver Gus Minissi (James Whitmore) is sick of running his dingy diner. Bookie ‘Cobby’ Cobb (Marc Lawrence) covets booze. Safecracker Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso) has a wife and kid to support. Alonzo ‘Lon’ Emmerich (Calhern) is a wealthy but overspent lawyer who wants to be solvent again.
“You may not admire these people, but I think they’ll fascinate you,” says Huston in an archive clip included on the DVD. They pull it off, but what heist would be complete without a doublecross and crossing paths with the police?
In this macho, man’s-world movie, there is alas no femme fatale. But rest assured there are flawed women aplenty. Hagen plays the neurotic Doll, a struggling performer, and her vice is Dix. Monroe, as Lon’s barely legal girlfriend, orders mackerel for his breakfast, flips through travel magazines and is fond of saying, “Yipes!” Lon’s bed-ridden wife May (Dorothy Tree) wishes Lon were home more often. Teresa Celli plays dutiful wife Maria Ciavelli.
The actors complement each other deftly. Jaffe, both sage and seedy (when he lusts after pretty young things) is particularly entertaining; he nabbed an Oscar nom for best supporting actor. Helping his rich characterization is the fact that he gets some terrific lines, for instance: “Just when you think you can trust a cop, he goes legit.”
The movie is full of such dry asides. The whip-smart script, by Huston and Ben Maddow, also scored an Oscar nom. W.R. Burnett‘s novel provided the source material, though the book told its story from the police point of view; Huston and Maddow flipped the perspective. Huston was also nominated for best director; Harold Rosson for best B&W cinematography. (None won.)
“Asphalt Jungle” is the only noir I know of that’s set not in NYC, LA, Chicago or London, but in a smaller city in the Midwest, usually seen as the bedrock of integrity, and it’s fun to try to figure out exactly where this is happening.
The dark film was a departure for MGM—known for upbeat, lavish, escapist fare—but the studio’s production chief Dore Schary ushered in a period of social consciousness for the company, notes Drew Casper, film scholar and author of “Post-War Hollywood Cinema 1946-1962,” in his DVD commentary.
As for the look of the film, Casper points out that in addition to elements of Expressionism (fractured frames and diagonals or horizontals blunting verticals to create tension), Huston’s experience filming war documentaries as well as the work of Italian Neo-realism (1945’s “Open City” by Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica’s “The Bicycle Thief” from 1948) also influenced his visuals.
In turn, Huston’s groundbreaking movie clearly had an impact on the great Jules Dassin, director of 1955’s “Rififi,” one of the best of all noirs. “Asphalt Jungle” was remade three times: “Badlanders” (1958), “Cairo” (1962), and “Cool Breeze” (1972). None is considered as good as the original.
Dry but never dull, “Jungle” is a straight-shooting portrait that undermines Hollywood’s often-moralizing and hypocritical gloss. “Crime is only a left-handed form of human endeavor,” as Lon so matter-of-factly puts it. Yipes!
John Huston‘s classic heist movie, which earned four Oscar noms, broke new cinematic ground by humanizing the criminals rather than writing them off as one-dimensional cheats. A suspenseful ride with stellar performers. The top-notch cast includes Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe and an up-and-coming young starlet named Marilyn Monroe.
Don’t Bother to Knock”/1952/Twentieth Century Fox/76 min.
For any fool who still questions Marilyn Monroe’s depth as an actress, “Don’t Bother To Knock” should be required viewing. In this 1952 film directed by Roy Ward Baker and written by Daniel Taradash, Monroe stars with film noir icons Richard Widmark and Elisha Cook, Jr. and entirely holds her own.
She plays Nell Forbes, a vulnerable and mysterious young woman who might be dangerous. Well, if you look at the movie poster, she’s definitely dangerous, though the image (Marilyn wears a shiny bright-red bustier) is a bit misleading — Nell doesn’t wear anything quite that daring. Of course, no matter what she wears, she’s still uber sexy.
Anyway, Nell has recently moved to NYC, from Washington state, to make a fresh start after a long recovery from a broken heart (a pilot who died in World War Two). Her sole contact in the big city is her ever-nervous and slightly creepy uncle (Cook Jr.), an elevator operator at the McKinley Hotel. When a couple staying at the hotel needs a baby-sitter, Uncle Eddie taps Nell for the job. Lurene Tuttle and Jim Backus play the parents; Donna Corcoran is their daughter Bunny.
Once the little girl goes to bed, Nell kills time by trying on Mrs. Jones’ jewelry, perfume and a negligee. She also notices Jed Towers (Widmark) in a room across the courtyard. He’s a pilot in from Chicago trying to patch things up with ex-girlfriend Lyn Lesley (Anne Bancroft), a sultry and svelte singer who performs at the hotel lounge.
Nell and Jed flirt from afar and he eventually joins her in the Jones’ room, bearing a wicked smile and a bottle of rye. It slowly becomes clear that Nell needs more tonic than a handsome cocky stranger with hard liquor can provide. (Rats!) By leading Nell toward help, Jed reveals a side of himself that changes his relationship with Lyn.
Though the plot’s quite simple, the film’s strong direction and writing as well as resonant performances from some of the finest actors of the era infuse it with tension that fairly crackles. Luminous, fragile, restless and alluring, Monroe brings an undercurrent of torment and confusion to this memorable role.
Widmark appeals as the insolent yet sympathetic suitor. And the supporting cast is marvelous; in addition to Backus and Tuttle, there’s Verna Felton and Don Beddoe (nosy hotel residents), Willis Bouchey (the hotel bartender), Corcoran as the cute kid, and of course Cook Jr. and Bancroft.
The story is based on the novel “Mischief” by best-selling suspense author Charlotte Armstrong; Taradash wrote the script a year before he won the Oscar for adapting “From Here to Eternity.” “Don’t Bother to Knock” also offers moments of wry humor, such as when Jed asks the bartender if he fights and argues with his wife. The bartender’s deadpan reply: “Some of the time she sleeps.”
If you are a Marilyn fan, you’ll love her even more after seeing this movie and you’ll have definitive proof of her sensitivity and subtlety as an artist from early in career, just in case you ever happen to be chatting with someone who is dismissive of her talent. In 1952, given the way she was marketed and managed, you could forgive an assessment based purely on her physical assets. Nearly 60 years later, however, so much has changed. 😉
Btw, I found a wonderful blog called Blonde & Red. Author Rosanna “loves vintage fashion, red lipstick and Marilyn Monroe” and each week runs Marilyn Mondays. Enjoy!
Don’t Bother to Knock/1952/Twentieth Century Fox/76 min.
Great writing and a strong cast (Marilyn Monroe, Richard Widmark, Elisha Cook, Jr., Anne Bancroft) make 1952’s “Don’t Bother To Knock” by Roy Ward Baker a cinematic treasure, but one that is, sadly, often overlooked. Monroe plays a deranged baby-sitter who likes diamonds, perfume and negligees (ok, she’s clearly not completely bonkers) but can’t seem to put her past behind her.
Happy Saturday and hello from San Francisco! It’s beautiful weather here and there’s much to see at Noir City 9, the terrific film festival put on by the Film Noir Foundation.
This year’s theme is “Who’s Crazy Now?” described by festival organizers as a lineup of 24 tales of madness, ranging from Oscar-winning performances by Ingrid Bergman (“Gaslight”) and Ronald Colman(“A Double Life”) to obscure rarities, all presented as originally intended, in glorious 35mm. The fest runs through Jan. 30.
Just returned from “Strangers in the Night” by Anthony Mann at the Castro Theatre and will be returning for tonight’s double feature, the little-known “They Won’t Believe Me” and “Don’t Bother to Knock,” the sexy thriller starring Marilyn Monroe.
Between movies, there are so many divine restaurants, I’m afraid I might lose my mind. 😉
There’s much for noir aficionados to see this month at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles. Highlights at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica and the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood include:
That Special Something: A Tribute to Great Screen Icons, spotlighting “film actors [who] transcend the realm of mere celebrity, reaching a more profound level of cultural significance.” The series honors Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, John Wayne, James Dean, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Elvis.
Film noir entries include: “In a Lonely Place,” 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7 at the Egyptian as well as Hitchcock gems “Rear Window” and “Dial M for Murder” starting at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Egyptian. The Screen Icons series runs Jan. 5-29.
“Chinatown” and “The Tenant” will show at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 28, at the Egyptian as part of Traumatic Rendition: A Roman Polanski Retrospective.
William Friedkin’s “The French Connection” and “To Live and Die in L.A.,” will run at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22, at the Aero. This double-bill is part of Strangle-Hold: The Gripping Films of William Friedkin.
This is just scratching the surface, so be sure to check complete schedule. The Egyptian Theatre is at 6712 Hollywood Blvd. The Aero Theatre is at 1328 Montana Ave. General admission is $11; members pay $7.
Meanwhile, I just booked my ticket to attend the Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City 9 in San Francisco, Jan. 21-30 at the Castro Theatre. Looking forward to the excellent lineup of films!