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As a man in search of a theme I thought I'd talk about good movies. I love movies of all sorts and kinds. I particularly like movies with a plot or some sort of originality, so I frequently turn my gaze to past decades. I actually do like good special effects. You could see I have a professional interest in them. But while those films get a massive audience, there are plenty of great movies that can be seen for nothing, or almost nothing thanks to the wonders of the digital age. I thought I'd describe a few to you, and then if you get the chance later you can watch, or maybe add them to your Netflix.
I have always loved film noir. The funny thing about noire is that many people who have seen it don't really know what it's about. Film Noir is remembered as a type of movie filled with private eyes, police, and the denizens of the night. This Gun For Hire is one of my favorites.
Unlike most of the movies shown today, it has a plot different from the heroes journey, and it gives us characters who are not always likable immediately, but are more sympathetic later. It begins when a murderer meets someone who contracted him to kill. When he is paid, he checks the money, and his employer assures him he cant trust him. Then he laughs, and remarks that its not as though he could go to the police if the money isn'tt all there. The killer assures him that he is his own complaint department.
This statement foreshadows what is to come.
When the killer is cheated and betrayed to the police, he doesn't do what would seem obvious to many in that position. Rather than fleeing and trying to stay ahead of the police, he goes in search of those who paid him in counterfeit cash, ignoring the fact that police are searching for him. He continues on his single minded mission of destruction even as he learns that his employer was playing a dangerous game not only with him, but with others. He was stealing goods earmarked for the war, and selling them to our enemies.
He meets a woman along the way whom he thinks has seen too much, so he kidnaps her and takes her along the way. He's never portrayed as being anything other than a dangerous man and Veronica Lake's character wants to be rid of him, but after awhile you also sense that he gains her sympathy after Lake finds out something about where he came from.
The gunman doesn't care about national defense our other issues, but in the final hours of the film he does change what he was going to do, not because he suddenly cares about morality or the country, or even because he is deluding himself into thinking he will get the girl. He simply changes what he will do because he realizes that she is his friend. He had none before, and when he finally found one person who cared about him even a little, it was important to him. He continues his doomed journey to its conclusion without caring about law or country, but in his last moments, he spares a few moments for her.
In the time that most film noir movies were made, there was a code in Hollywood that could really hurt a studio if there was a even the vaguest suggestion of Communist sympathy in any movie. Even Cary Grant faced investigation simply because he stated as his character that he'd grown up with nothing, and people from a normal home could never understand what that was like.
The role that film noir frequently filled a kind of important role in society. Everyone took it for granted that America was the kind of place that if you worked hard, you would make it. Film Noire explicitly let you know that for some people it just wasn't like that. Not only were criminals and killers shown, you also saw people who had worked hard for years and couldn't make enough to survive. Some were forced to break the law even though they feared being caught, simply because it was their only way out.
In this way, film noir occasionally showed people in the early years of our country a part of the reality they otherwise never would have seen. Some didn't have a great deal to say, but some were the only voice that the down and out had.
This movie is available for mail by Neflix if you are to order it. It's also frequently broadcast on Turner Movie Classics.