The Public Enemy (1931)

I honestly thought this film was going to be a bit of a bore because though I like modern gangster films and TV shows, I thought classic gangster films would have less violence.  This one did (I’m guessing because of the time era) but I still liked it anyways.

To start off, I could tell from Tom and Matt’s childhood that they would grow up to be gangsters because of the way they behaved.  They were brats in that they would pull tricks on people, especially on Tom’s sister.  They were in the profit making game by selling watches.  And Tom was fearless because he wasn’t scared when he knew his father was going to beat him.

Camera angles showed social standing and personalities.  For example in an scene from the childhood years Tom’s father is standing on top of the porch and Tom is on the ground and they’re talking/scolding.   When we see Tom’s image its a high-angle shot and his father’s image is a low-angle shot.  This showed the difference between authority.  The father is “looking down” on the son while the son has to “look up” to his father and obey him.   The difference between authority is also shown in the scene when Tom and Matt are true gangsters and they are about to kill that piano man from their childhood.  The high-angle is  on the piano man in the chair showing how weak and powerless he is while the low-angle is on Tom and Matt to show that they are the ones with the power.  Isn’t it nice though to know that Tom went from a high-angle punk to a low-angle “man”.

Speaking of the piano man, I thought it was really really cool the way his death was shown.  Not because he died off-screen but because Tom shot him in a musical way.  The piano man was playing and singing and before he finished the words “her back”, he was shot but it was 2 gunshots on beat to probably symbolize the two left out words.  His death also symbolized the end of an innocent childhood.

Tom’s gestures are another thing to talk about.  One of his favorite things to do is to knuckle people faces which can be seen as a hug or handshake depending on the person.  But I must say, knuckling ones mother is a bit out there.

Though the knuckle gesture was sweet his other movements were violent which is to be expected of a gangster but I was surprised when he was violent towards his wife. I thought a stereotype of gangsters was that though they are rough people, they are gentle towards women.  Tom would also shove his girlfriend and mother so I guess that’s not true. By way another stereotype which seemed to be true in the film is that most gangsters have a wife and girlfriend.

There were 3 times in the film when I felt sympathetic towards the gangster character. First was at Larry’s funeral.  His mother was crying but the police and some other men didn’t care about his death and even said that he got what he deserved.  The second time was when Matt was killed.  Though Matt was a gangster, he was kind and loving and loyal.  Last time I felt bad was when Tom show up to the door of his house dead.  I knew it was going to happen because I had a gut feeling something wasn’t right but I feel bad for his family.  It was like they were one being punished.

Speaking of Tom’s death that was my favorite scene.  When his brother opened the door and Tom’s body was there, the background was PITCH black.  I thought it was a very symbolic meaning of death, emptiness/nothingness, and the ultimate end of a gangster.

M (1931)

Well I liked this movie before we even saw simply because I like a lot of things German.  But I did like the film for what it is.  There were many little things that made the movie cool.

The first thing I noticed was the use of off-screen sound.  An example would be in the beginning of the film when the little girl is going home from school and she is about to cross the street and you hear the sound of a bus coming.  It may have been nothing to worry about but I thought for some reason the bus was going to hit her.  I don’t know, it was just loud and sounded like it was right next to her.  Now that I think about it, of course she wasn’t going to be hit, the movie is a about a murderer not a bus accident.  The other use of off-screen sound I can think about was when the newspaper guy was saying “Extra! Extra!” while the screen was black.  By the way, the screen went black after the image of the now murdered little girl balloon was tangled in the wires.  Maybe they had sound with a black screen to add more drama to her death.  It was like saying after death of an innocent child comes nothing but darkness but when he hear the newspaper guy its like ok we are done mourning now lets move on.

Another thing I noticed was the lack of background music in the movie.  Maybe its just me but it felt quiet most of the time.  In movies today there seems to be a lot of background music (even if its just a low low low volume) while people are having a regular conversation even.

The murder scene of the girl i spoke about earlier was interesting because they never showed the actual murder, just her ball rolling on the ground slightly and the balloon in the wire.  I’m sure that people think not showing the murder and replacing it with those objects was a creepier way of doing things because its lets you imagine what happened to her but it would have been as equally creepy or even creepier if they showed the murder.  But then again, I don’t know if I would be able to stomach seeing a gruesome murder of a child.

One thing that definitely stood out to me and probably to most of you was the whistling.  Every time there was whistling it meant that the murderer was near.  I thought that was a clever way of signaling us that.  It was also strange because the whistling could be seen as both diegetic and non-diegetic sound (and no I’m not trying to use fancy college words, I just really saw it as that). Diegetic because I think one time the murderer heard the whistling plus the person who is doing the whistling is in the movie. Non-Diegetic because it doesn’t seem like anyone else in the film have/would have heard it even if they were near the whistler. Its like the whistle was specifically for our and the murders ears.

Oh now that I think about it, the best use of off-screen sound was at the end when the police came into the mock trial area.  You heard the police but only saw the “mob” raise their hands.  That was definitely cool and made that scene more entertaining because you see the crowds surprised facial expressions.

P.S. Did anyone else notice that unwanted crotch shot of inspector Lohmann while he was sitting at his desk?  What was Lang thinking? Ew.