The final day of this year’s Noir City

There was a time when Noir City rarely showed movies made after the early 1960s. Not this year. The last two films screened at the festival are so new they were both shot digitally.

And, of course, they were both screened off of DCPs, as well.

Victoria

This German thriller was shot in a single, two-hour-and 18-minute take, with camera operator Sturla Brandth Grøvlen following the actors as they move about on foot, bike, and automobile. The story, therefore, unfolds in real time.

The title character is a young, Spanish woman in Berlin. Leaving a club, already a bit drunk, she meets up with four young men who, if she had any sense, she would run from. Instead, she finds herself in love, and then becomes an active participant in armed robbery and a shootout with police.

Single shot films from Rope on have always struck me as something of a pointless gimmick. Victoria works better than most of them, but the absence of editing becomes a real problem at times. Some scenes lose pacing. On the other hand, the immediacy makes much of the film more powerful.

I give it an A-.

Victoria could not have been shot the same way on film. That would have required a 12,000ft film magazine and an elephant to carry the camera.

A digital film projected digitally, it’s the film as it was meant to be seen.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

I saw Sidney Lumet’s last film in first run in 2007, loved it, and wrote about it back then. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is dead serious drama, more like Bergman with guns than standard Hollywood fare. Lumet and screenwriter Kelly Masterson want you to experience what’s it’s like to have your entire world fall apart slowly, bit by bit, and know that it’s because you did something very stupid and very, very wrong.

Seeing it at Noir City, after nine other movies about heists gone wrong, I had to ask myself why this one had such a bigger emotional wallop than the others. I think it’s a matter of approach. The other films were genre movies – crime thrillers or crime comedies. They were somewhat stylized, with characters that you don’t really, truly believe in. But Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is more like a Shakespearean tragedy examining a dysfunctional family, with a level of character development rare in thrillers.

I still give it an A.

I don’t know why Lumet and cinematographer Ron Fortunato chose to shoot the picture digitally – still a rare choice for a major independent picture in 2007. The digital cameras of those days didn’t measure up to today’s options, and the color range is restricted. But then, that might have been intentional.

Anyway, the DCP showed the picture as the filmmakers intended.

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