Saturday, April 9, 2016

Made Men in Manhattan

Jean-Pierre Melville is one of the foremost French proponents of film noir, and Two Men in Manhattan (1959) is his Naked City. It's a story of all-night journalism shot in cinema verite style.

It actually stars Melville himself as a journalist for a French agency in New York. When a French diplomat doesn't show up at the UN, he goes out to find him. He takes along his favorite photographer and crony, the alcoholic, amoral Pierre Grasset. They start trolling the nightspots and strip clubs for his known mistresses, looking for the answer - or at least Melville is. The photographer is looking for a payday, and isn't above faking a photo if he thinks he can get it.

The exteriors are shot in the New York night - we see what's playing in Times Square (Separate Tables) and a lot of big old 50s cars. There may or may not be rain-slick pavement, but it seems like there would be. This part is both a strength and weakness: It was classic film noir location shooting, but it tended to go on a little long. Melville was either seriously enchanted with his own work, or didn't get enough interior footage or something, because the timing is way off.

But it is very noir, set to a very cool jazz score. So if you've seen Le Samourai or Cercle Rouge and want something more and a little different, check it out.

No comments: