The fact that I'm a huge fan of film noir isn't exactly a secret ... I write a column called Noir Bar for Pop Syndicate, and will bring up Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Ryan and Fritz Lang and Edward Dmytryk and Joan Crawford and Otto Preminger and …. Well, you get the picture. Film noir is there whenever I can legitimately or illegitimately squeeze it in.
In the acknowledgements for NOX DORMIENDA, my first book, I tried to share a little of how inspirational noir maestro Eddie Muller has personally been for me, and how much I recharge my little battery of darkness at the Noir City film festival every year.
I'm an old-fashioned kind of girl ... as my fedora should tell you. So I don't think it will come as any surprise to those who know me when I choose as my favorite crime film of the past thirty years .... (drum roll, please ... No drum? OK, cue the blues piano) ...
L.A. Confidential (1997).
Wow. This movie is just jaw-droppingly superb. I mean, take a look at the cast:
Young, burly, in-shape and hellaciously ferocious Russell Crowe. As Catwoman would say, "mrrreeaow."
Gorgeous, fragile, sexy and vulnerable Kim Basinger in the role of her lifetime. She earns her Screen Goddess Crown with this movie. (Forget Never Say Never Again, OK?)
Angular, wiry, sculpted and edgy Guy Pearce, Aussie on the cusp of stardom, and never better than here. Perfectly cast.
Kevin Spacey. Nobody—and I mean nobody—ever played the charming sleaze as well as Spacey. The man is somehow believable as a ham, a wannabe celebrity, a good detective, an honest cop and the guy on the make … all at the same time. Powerhouse.
James Cromwell. And you thought you knew him in Babe.
Danny DeVito. And you thought you knew him in Taxi.
David Strathairn. Before Good Night and Good Luck, he turned in this riveting, memorable performance and again transcended the confines of a supporting role.
Add a top-notch, inventive and brilliant adaptation of an equally brilliant masterwork by the Demon Dog himself, James Ellroy, and superb, sensitive direction by the under-appreciated genius Curtis Hanson, and you have, ladies and gentleman, a modern noir classic.
Film noir was noted for the depth of quality of its character roles … I’ve sat in a darkened theater and witnessed the audience erupting into applause when Elisha Cook, Jr.'s title card pops up. Like the greats of old, L.A. Confidential exhibits such a depth of fine acting and perfect casting, such a taut and well-honed script, that it ranks up there with Out of the Past and Double Indemnity as not just one of the best crime movies of the past thirty years … but as one of the best of all time.
Pacing, plot, characterization. Cinematography, makeup, art direction. Anywhere you turn, it’s a great, great movie.
You can take that to the bank. If you haven’t seen it, treat yourself. Tell ‘em Kelli sent you. But keep it off the record, on the Q.T. … and very hush-hush. ;)
Kelli Stanley’s CITY OF DRAGONS is coming February 2, 2010.