Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tightrope (1984) Neo Orleans Noir

"There's a darkness inside all of us..., you, me, and the man down the street, some have it under control, others act it out, the rest of us try and walk a tightrope between the two."

New Orleans

Mississippi River

I really love when this happens. As a serious Noir Aficionado when I get interested in a subject, i.e., Noir, I investigate all aspects of it, its sources and influences, hard-boiled detective and crime novels, pulp paperbacks, Black Mask and True Crime/Detective Mags, the Jazz age, the culture at the end of prohibition and WWII, the Blacklist and the transition to the Cold War, etc, etc,.

And, like me, I'm sure you all also check out or buy every book you can get your hands on about Noir to acquire more insight, more background, more films to pursue to fill your appetite. I enjoyed TCM's Summer of Darkness, also, participating in the class, the discussions and getting to re-watch some of the great, and see for the first time some of the forgotten Noirs.

I happy to say I've seen a lot of Noirs over the last five years easily over 300, and the new ones I find now, are either marginally noir or very low budget. For instance The Female Jungle, it's not listed in Selby's Dark City The Film Noir, it's not in the first edition of Film Noir An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style it did make the 2010 edition. So, there are still films out there waiting to be seen and re-discovered and added to the canon.

The same goes for Neo Noirs, but with Neo's it's even worse, Noir is a new craze, a fad, the in-thing, Noir has a certain cachet that can add to sales for a particular film, and you'll find that there are films that are "no-brainers" as their being no question "mainline" Noirs that aren't even mentioned by the list makers, while others, that are a real stretch at being classified as so, are included.  It makes you wary, it makes you question the author's knowledge, the extent of their research, or if there is a hidden agenda. There are quite a few that make lists are NIPOs, Noir In Plot Only devoid of any Noir Stylistics or may have a token Noir sequence, which, in my book makes them just CRIME genre films. All this makes you curious to explore on your own.

 The corpse of Melanie Silber (Jamie Rose) lt. Wes Block (Eastwood) rt.

Recently I re-watched a Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood collaboration Dirty Harry (1971), Siegel was one of the last of the Classic Noir directors, and the film did have some noir-ish sequences it's a good film but for my tastes, Noir lite. One thing it did was that it got me thinking and I remembered a much better Eastwood Neo Noir candidate. It's not usually thought of because it wasn't your typical Eastwood vehicle, he played against type, he doesn't even shoot a gun on screen.

Wes Block (Clint Eastwood) Molinari (Dan Hedaya)
Tightrope was written and directed by Richard Tuggle, though there are rumors that Eastwood either helped out or took over at some point. But judging from the comparison of style between this and other Eastwood directed films something doesn't quite wash. This film is very dark in subject matter and stylistically extremely Noir, more so than anything else ever directed by Eastwood so something must be attributed to Tuggle and a definite shout out to cinematographer Bruce Surtees. Right now, I'd say it's one of the best Neo Noirs set in New Orleans, others, that come to mind are The Big Easy, Angel Heart, and The Drowning Pool.

Hot Tub Hooker Jamie Cory (Randi Brooks)

The film stars Clint Eastwood as Wes Block, Geneviève Bujold as Beryl Thibodeaux, Dan Hedaya as Det. Molinari, Alison Eastwood as Amanda Block, Jenny Beck as Penny Block, Marco St. John as Leander Rolfe, Rebecca Perle as Becky Jacklin, Regina Richardson as Sarita, Randi Brooks as Jamie Cory, Jamie Rose as Melanie Silber, Margaret Howell as Judy Harper and Graham Paul as Luther.

The Blocks, Wes (Clint Eastwood), Amanda (Alison Eastwood), Penny (Jenny Beck)
The story, a recently divorced and somewhat alienated (from average women) homicide Detective Wes Block is raising two daughters on his own. He enables his inner "demons" and gets his various sexual outlets/kicks with prostitutes in the Latin Quarter/Bourbon Street red light district of New Orleans.

A lot of us compartmentalize our lives, we show one face at work, another with our friends. We may look like square johns on the outside but have our kinks on the inside. Your wife may be a saint in the streets and a whore in the sheets. It how we get along its how we let off steam.


Sarita (Regina Richardson)

Becky Jacklin (Rebecca Pearl)
Massage Nurse (Becki Davis)

As lead detective Wes and his partner Molinari investigate the murders the serial killer beings to focus on his pursuer Wes. Soon the regular hookers Wes frequents in his district start showing up dead, sexually violated and strangled.

The serial murders has the Press, the Mayor, and the police brass, demanding quick results. Another complication for Wes is Beryl Thibodeaux, who is head of a Rape Crisis Center and also friends with the mayor. Beryl is interested in protecting women and she tries to get Wes to acknowledge that she can help alert women about the maniac. At first Wes macho puts her off, and the two are quite opposites in personalities, but as often is the case, opposites attract, and soon the two are spending time together. Their initial sharp exchanges are excellent and their segue into mutual attraction believable.

Another excellent aspect of this film is the relationships depicted between Block and his daughters. The chemistry is real. Alison Eastwood as Amanda is Eastwood's daughter and it shows, and Jenny Beck as Penny is equally very believable.

Beryl Thibodeaux (Bujold) and Wes Block (Eastwood)

Wes at first suppresses his connection to the victims, possibly questioning his own sanity, but as the serial killer gets closer to hearth and home, clues and detective work ultimately close the case in a denouement that you could say homages the ends of classic Noirs, Act Of Violence, The City That Never Sleeps, and Highway 301.



This film just WALLOWS in Noir. It's got a great jazzy/bluesy score by Lennie Niehaus too boot. It's easily a 10/10 for me. Screencaps are from the Warners DVD.

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