Nov. 24, 2011
OUT OF THE PAST is perhaps the most carefully structured of all films noir--a narrative divided (like protagonist Jeff Markum/Bailey) between an inescapable past and an impossible future, teetering on the slimmest hope for the present such that any action taken by its poor players tips them down into the abyss. Director Jacques Tourneur, cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca and screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring perfectly synchronized their efforts on this film, creating a narrative masterpiece where every image perfectly accompanies or contrasts every line of dialogue, where the whole is so self-conscious that it forces us to view each moment through every other, creating a true mise-en- abyme. It would be as impossible for the viewer to enter into such a story as it is for the characters to escape it, if it weren't for the decision to create a "Meta" narration at exactly the halfway point of the film, allowing the viewer to sort past from present in a film that constantly blurs that distinction in order to show how lives are always lived in servitude to what comes out of the past. For all of these reasons, the film is a constant source of inspiration, and a constant obsession, for those who watch it carefully. Artist and novelist Jonathan Santlofer joins Clute and Edwards to discuss how the film has repeatedly inspired his work, and Clute and Edwards consider how the case they would make for this movie is reframed each time they reopen their investigation into its means and motives.