Episode #44: Rian Johnson's Brick
Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir
Rian Johnson's superlative 2005 debut film BRICK is neither a nostalgic tribute nor a modern reaction to noir style. But due to the conditions surrounding its production, it has more in common with classic noir than most films that play overtly with noir tradition: stiletto-tongued hard-boiled dialogue, razor-sharp editing, on-location shooting, the creative use of ambient sound, and narratively-rich canted angle shots and high-contrast lighting allow BRICK to overcome the pitfalls of a small budget and limited crew–just as these same techniques allowed classic films such as DETOUR or THE HITCH-HIKER to do. In fact, financial constraints lend BRICK an artistic coherency it might otherwise lack, for Johnson was forced to write, direct, and edit the entire picture, and to use family to finance and score it. The resulting work is as disarmingly familiar as classic noir and as surprisingly fresh and inventive as its creator, who clearly understands how to borrow from the past where appropriate and innovate whenever possible. Like the work of all great artists, BRICK demonstrates that aesthetic leaps forward find their surest footing in the past.
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