Monday, January 05, 2009

Bad Influence and Neo (Not so) nNoir

Cross-posted at the Film of the Month Club.

One of the interesting features of neo-noir, probably following in Chinatown's footsteps, is the use of light, in place of darkness. Bad Influence follows that trend -light plays a key role in its look, throughout. It begins in darkness, and certainly, shadows and dark are significant in the film - but it is remarkable how much emphasis there is on light.

Its key spaces (Michael's workplace and his apartment) are bright, airy places, with white walls, bright lighting, windows, white decor.

When he moves outside, much of the story takes place under the brilliant LA sky:

Meanwhile, as the deeds grow darker, darkness enters the film, as well - though light remains significant. The robbery spree the men go on leads them through dark streets, but the actual crimes occur in the light.

And light itself is a significant part of what is seen. The light of the TV screen is a recurring motif, the TV and camera are integral to the plot; plot points also depend on a tail light, the light of a refrigerator door opening, etc. Even incidental details like the dance routine at one of the underground clubs are built around lights:

And here is darkness, framed in light:

It's a strong pattern throughout the film, and helps establish a theme, maybe: that light hides our bad impulses - darkness reveals them. That may overstate it - the film does fascinating things with what it shows and hides, puts onscreen or off... but its use of light (and whiteness, and glass, surfaces, etc.) is quite remarkable.

...One more thing (added here, not the FOTMC, since this is not a completed thought) - the look of Bad Influence reminds me of certain high modernist films, Antonioni, Edward Yang. It does not present itself as an art film, but it really is - the decor, the modernist spaces, the clean lines, the whites and light, the glass and steel - and the ambiguity of the story. For it is a very ambiguous story. Exactly how many characters are there in this film? A question to be asked! a hint of posts to come!

No comments: