On Contemporary Noirs :: The Perverse Truth – Part Two

christopher sly

::If you haven’t yet, read Part One of The Perverse Truth::

In this respect, The Naked Kiss differs from these typical noirs. The Naked Kiss was released in 1964, directed by Samuel Fuller. This places it in that period in which the noir could be said to have been dormant (at least in American film), in between the last of the classical noirs, Touch of Evil, and the revival neo-noirs of the late 60’s and 1970’s.

This, added to the fact that Fuller was considered one of the early independents, meant that he worked in a less visible setting, which implied less outside control over his work, resulting in considerable latitude and freedom to film what he wanted how he wanted, though the extent of which is debatable, but definitely more than major studio directors.

This comes through in much of the controversial subject matter of his films – touching upon communism, racism, politics. It also had an effect on the style that he was able to utilize.

His style is often described as “in your face”, very confrontational and aggressive. Coming from a tabloid paper background, one can say that this sensationalism carries through to his work. Low-budgets only contributed to this confrontational style by adding a raw edge.

We are introduced to this style in The Naked Kiss right from the start, literally with a blow to the head. The film opens with a first person shot of a prostitute attacking, swinging an object towards the camera, towards the viewers. Rapid cutting between the first person shot and the reverse shot of the pimp being beaten, scored to a peaking jazz soundtrack, immediately throws the audience into the action, a shot of adrenaline to the mind.

Another stylistic technique Fuller employs is the use of the extreme close-up on faces, shoving the actors and actresses right into the audience, and in that way exaggerating the emotions on their faces, heightening the emotional intensity of key scenes.

These intense, blatantly turned-up sensational scenes of violence and high drama are then contrasted by placid, peaceful moments. Instead of lurid, fantastic scenes of prostitutes and pimps, abortions, pedophilia, and murder, we have scenes of children singing, playing, laughing.

We have romance scenes and dream sequences of a happy-ending romance. We have the placid moments of the prostitute turned clean singing to children in a hospital for abandoned disabled children.

These moments deliberately border on cheese, providing all the more contrast once faced with the sickness underneath. The stark contrasts provide the basic setting for this noir, shocking the audience at the appropriate moments.

It is worth noting that despite the sensational nature of the film, there are still very subtle innuendos of the actual poverty under the affluent appearance of the town. These consist of carefully placed details, such as having almost all the children at the hospital for the abandoned and disabled be non-white.

The intense close-ups on such children singing does point attention to this detail, however, though the context of the scene does not persuade the mind to think in those directions.

The key to The Naked Kiss, and what makes it different from other noirs, is that the protagonist is not a character that exists in-between the two worlds, such as a private eye, nor is the protagonist someone from the “good” world that we can relate to.

Here the protagonist of the film is the prostitute, very much so existing initially in the audience’s minds as the seedy underside, instead of the “clean” side. The prostitute, named Kelly, has decided to turn a leaf after arriving in a new town.

Unfortunately, this decision is made after sleeping with someone first, who happened to be the town sheriff. The sheriff immediately tells Kelly to leave town, not wanting to lose his job. Further efforts by Kelly to change are greeted by the sheriff’s skepticism and he becomes her foil in preventing her efforts to clean up.

April 18, 2009 2:09 pm

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