"The Naked City"

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by samstevens, Apr 14, 2020.

  1. "There are 8 million stories in the naked city ..."

    I just watched the movie, The Naked City, which is the film precursor to the TV series of the same name. It was made in 1948, directed by well-known noir filmmaker, Jules Dassin. It won Academy Awards for cinematography by William Daniels and film editing by Paul Weatherwax.

    It's filmed on location throughout New York City, done in a semi-documentary style though it's still a film drama.

    The reason I mention it here is because, while watching it, I was impressed by what seemed like a street photographer's sensibility. The streets are vibrant and alive, there's a realism even within the drama, and it feels very immediate. Only after watching it did I discover that three years earlier Weegee had published a photo book called The Naked City (1945) which helped inspire the movie's style, and that Weegee, himself, was a consultant on the film.

    Now, I will say it's not my favorite film of that era or even close to it. But there's an awful lot to recommend it, especially the street work and some of the more noirish scenes. The voice-over narration often feels a little out of tune, there's an inconsistency of tone between tongue-in-cheek and intense that doesn't quite work, and some of the acting is off. There's sometimes a lack of seamlessness when high-pitched dramatic moments seem to erupt a bit too suddenly.

    But I'm a tough critic on some of this stuff. Despite these criticisms, I loved watching it and it has so much going for it and is somewhat unique for its time. Since we seem to have lots of time to pass, it's worth a look.


    [Apologies to those who thought they were going to find photos of naked women on the street. Metaphorical only!]
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  2. For shut-in photographers there's always Rear Window, 1954.

    Jimmy Stewart plays a photographer whose leg is broken and who can only look out of his apartment window.
    He suspects a murder and his telephoto lens on his Exakta plays an important part.

    Stella (Thelma Ritter), the nurse, observes on the mixed theme of impotency and voyeurism:
  3. My first introduction to Weegee’s photography was seeing one his gang killing photos “corpse with gun” (or whatever the title) on an album cover from NYC’s avant garde saxophonist John Zorn’s record called.....

    Naked City.

    the album featured a crew of notable musicians -including guitarist Bill Frisell- who went on to become a band of the same name.

    edit: thanks, Sam. Will seek out the film.


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