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L.A Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997) is a neo-noir film about a shooting at an all night diner and the three Las Angeles policeman who investigate in their own unique ways. It is based on the book by James Ellroy and after a very well adapted screenplay, won nine academy awards. It starred actors with big names like Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Danny Devito, which made it a very high earning film.
The Narrative or storyline is much the same as any other film noir movie. It has a ‘hard boiled’ cop (Russell Crowe) who we grow attached to. The narrative of any film must have certain ‘key conventions’ which are apparent for the audience to tell the genre of the film. The narrative can be used to provide an explanation as to why the film contains certain things, or why a character does something.
The genre of the film is how we know what kind of film it is. Genre is a French word which literally means type; it shows what category a film comes under. There are certain factors in a genre which will identify it. Things like settings, characters and themes can all be similar in one specific genre.
‘L.A Confidential is in the film noir genre. Other films in this genre are ‘The Big Sleep’, ‘The Maltese Falcon’ and ‘Double Indemnity’. Lighting is very important in film noir. It uses techniques such as chiaroscuro to give the film a darker, more obscured feel. The characters are often similar in film noir. The main protagonist is always some hard boiled cop or investigator who doesn’t always play by the book to get his desired results. There is often a femme fatale; a very pretty woman with whom the main protagonist has a love interest. There will always be bad guys who will try and stop the main protagonist from completing the case.
In L.A Confidential Danny Devito narrates. A narrator is quite common in noir films. The purpose of a narrator is to explain, to the audience, parts of the film which cannot be explained by conversation on screen or visually. A voice over is non- diagetic which means that we can hear it but it is not apparently coming from anywhere on screen. Danny Devito is perfect in this role because he has quite a seedy voice this is good to illustrate the sleaziness of film-noir, it shows the real voice of L.
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The setting of film noir is usually quite cheap. This is used effectively to actually show the dark tacky parts of society where film-noir usually takes place. There is not a lot of light in these films and they are often set on location. A seedy underworld is often present in film-noir movies, where all the bad or undesirable parts of society are exposed. Things like drugs, alcohol, murder and corruption.
In my analysis I will be looking at a scene near the end of the film where Bud White and Ed Exeley take part in a shootout at the victory motel. The narrative conveys very common noir aspects here; the shootout takes place in a very dark room. The only light comes from outside. This shows the mood of the scene to be sinister and bleak. It puts the audience in a scared state as the shadows can conceal anything. It is also hard to see what White and Exeley are doing. The shadows are very menacing because they use a chiaroscuro lighting effect. This means that the rooms, people and settings are hidden from view by shadows. The blinds over the window cast strong grid shadowing over the characters showing uncertainty and anxiety. This lighting is very common in film-noir films as it shows the seediness of the settings. The narrative within this scene is very stereotypical because it uses the key conventions.
When the two main protagonists arrive it is night time but there is quite a lot of light. The entire setting reflects film-noir; we can see this just by looking at the motel, it is decrepit and messy which is very stereotypical of film noir.
Once the action starts happening the shootout is very conventional to film-noir. The main protagonists are on their own against an overwhelming amount of ‘bad guys’ or the cops who work for the bad guys. This shows that the ‘good guys’ are in fact very remote and deserted.
The only thing different from most noir films is the fact that there are two main characters rather than just one. Both of them still have the characteristics of film noir though. Bud White is the strong one, the muscle and Ed Exeley is the smart one, the calculating one.
The Scene ends with a twist that Dudley Smith, the police chief, is behind all the murders and organised crime. This comes back to the key convention of corruption in film noir.
The mise en scene here is good because when Exeley gets shot there is a page of the newspaper L.A Confidential. This suggests that the paper has had a hand in everything that has happened in the film so far. At the end of the scene Exeley shoots Dudley Smith. This shows how much he has changed through the course of the film. He started off as a ‘goodie goodie’ son of a lieutenant who was sanctimonious and smug. He has grown into a man who shoots fellow police officers in the back because he believes it is the right thing to do. He believes this because Smith is the one who killed his father. He has switched his priorities round from ‘the book’ to his personal judgement. It shows how much he has matured.