1 November 2014

Dual Format Review - The Naked City (1948)


Genre:
Film Noir, Crime, Drama
Distributor:
Arrow Academy
Release Date:
27th October 2014 (UK)
Rating: PG
Director:
Jules Duassin
Cast:
Barry Fitzgerald, Howard Duff, Dorothy Hart
Buy:The Naked City [Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD]

“There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” is how The Naked City ends. It also gives you a good idea of the hardboiled nature of the film. It would later spawn the hugely popular and successful TV show of the same, which also shared the semi-documentary nature of the source film. The film was also directed Jules Dassin who is often mistaken a French director due to the fact he directed many French films including the classic heist film Rififi. He fled the US to France during the Hollywood blacklist of the early 50s.

The film is a fairly rudimentary police procedure not unlike the later show. They cops are on the hunt for the murderers of ex-modal Jean Dexter who died from getting knocked out by chloroform and drowning in her bathtub. They question everyone who knew her until they get to the truth and capture the killer. The film’s strengths however come from the editing, the hard-boiled narration and most importantly the cinematography. The film’s narrator Mark Hellinger (one of the film’s producers) would died of a heart attack after watching the finished film at home.

It was one of the very first Hollywood films ever shot in location in New York City that now of course is as standard as shooting across the states in L.A. However it was pioneering and in many ways in a response to what was happening over in Italy with neo-realism. Both The Naked City and Italian Neo-Realism take a documentary film approach to fictional filmmaking. The film actually takes it’s name from a photography book by Weegee who was a street photographer in New York who also worked as visual consultant on the film as well and would later work with Stanley Kubrick who also was a photographer before he started making films.

The film remains one of the finest film noirs to come out in the 1940s and would go on to win Academy awards in editing and cinematography. It’s also Jules Dassin’s finest American film before he left for France and it’s pioneering editing and cinematography would inspire generations of filmmakers to come most notably Martin Scorsese. It also climaxes with a brilliant set piece Williamsburg bridge which would gives Hitchcock a run for money.

The film has never been released on Blu-Ray before in the world so it’s a welcome addition to any noir fan’s collection. It’s the 3rd Dassin film Arrow Video has released on Blu-Ray after Brute Force and Rififi. It boosts a wealth of new bonus material including a commentary by Malvin Wald, an interview with the critic Amy Taubin talking about the history of New York on film, Jules Dassin’s 2004 appearance at the LA Country museum of Art and a vintage feature on the Hollywood ten.

★★★★★
Ian Schultz

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