We’ve screened classic noir, neo-noir, even musical noir to date. On 2/8, we’ll watch Fritz Lang’s M (1931), one of the most famous examples of German Expressionism, a style that features some of the central components that would come to identify film noir, including chiaroscuro lighting (dramatic patterns of light and darkness) and the exposure of dangers that lurk below the surface of modern life. M also features an urban setting, gangsters, and the screen’s first serial killer.

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The film predates the Nazi’s coming to power by only two years. Director Fritz Lang would soon flee to American–despite Hitler’s affection for Lang’s silent masterpiece Metropolis (1927). Though raised Catholic, his mother was born Jewish and that was enough for Hitler. Hollywood was a series of significant compromises for Lang, who enjoyed far greater freedom from market pressures in the creation of his Berlin films. Compromising between high expressionism and low budget films, he produced a number of powerful, memorable noir pictures, including the two we’ve screened at #bnoirdetour, The Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945).

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M, a film we might think of as pre- or proto-noir, is famous not only for its complex (and not entirely unsympathetic) portrait of a contemporary serial killer, but for the actor who played the role, Peter Lorre. His tortured monologue late in the film is a powerful piece of acting.

MLorre

Rarely again did Lorre earn such a complex, tortured role, becoming famous in the US for quirky roles (such as Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon) and grotesque B horror parts.

Lorre

Though the film is in German, it features relatively little dialogue, so I’m hoping we can live tweet even as we read the English subtitles. It’s an experiment, as was M, and I hope viewers will enjoy the film as much as I do. See you then!

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