toppings 12 : night and the city

in 1949, jules dassin left the states fleeing mccarthy and his blacklist. this is how his 1950 night and the city got to be filmed on location in postwar london.

the city is fog and grey and like eliot on crack. in the opening sequence, we're dropped into this thick stew of soot and scoundrels: the smoke (i.e. london) is portrayed as a foul underbelly of streetlife and nightlife and streetypes and angels of the night. it seems the whole city, scarred and traumatized form the war, sustained itself on vice and swindle: from the petty thieves and information peddlers (taxi drivers and waiters are the prized informers of the main character in the film, harry fabian, a nightclub "promoter", conman and hustler) to the usual big bosses that control the law enforcement, the quids, and the entertainment (sex joints and wrestling). picaddily is clogged with street vendors and black market traders and hordes of professional beggars and drunkards. the effect isn't quite dickensian: more than victims and pour souls, we're presented a merciless jungle of every man and woman for him and herself. and all of it is accepted, planned, choreographed, market-driven. the quest for development (for power and advancement) is suicidal. progress is reduced to making it big, which in turn requires falling (in the biblical sense). the city is the dark after-dark, the darkness after darkness (even the daytime shots are full of darkness). the remains of urbanity, the gentlemanly ways and the civilized conversation are part of the farce: "excuse me sir, would you be so kind as to allow me to break your neck, please?" but before you can reply, out of common courtesy, you've already been snapped.

compared to night and the city, cronenberg's eastern promises is cotton candy exotica. it's not the russians that are rotten.

* i'm recovering the toppings themed posts, but since this whole blog has pretty much become a shameless deviation from architecture itself, i'll just stick to poking at architecture and citythings in film.

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