Dark Streets (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Run Time 83 minutes.
This is an inventively made
noir with a terrific sound track of 12 original songs, sung by people
like Bijou Phillips, the daughter of John Phillips of The Momas and the
Papas, who also wrote one of the songs, and also featuring BB King and
Richie Sambora. Bijou shows she’s a good actress, as well as singer and
songwriter, playing Crystal Labelle, the jilted love interest of Chaz
Davenport (Gabriel Mann).
This is a noir in the
truest sense of the world. It’s got Chaz, a naďve young man who runs a
nightclub in an unnamed city in the 1930s, although it looks a lot like
Los Angeles, since that is where it was filmed using the old art deco
structures that still remain, like the Tower Theater, a former movie
palace that now stands hidden behind a taco stand, City Hall, the
Alexander Hotel, the 3rd Street Bridge, and the Hollywood
Forever Cemetery. Production designer Frank Bollinger has created an
amazing surrealistic world.
But nothing is
recognizable. The era is the 1930s, but the governor is black and the
dress is odd. Costume designer Maria Schicker has created a look that
didn’t exist in the 1930s, but it fits right in with the world created
The city, though, is dark.
Chaz’s family owned the power company and the city is hit with constant
blackouts. Chaz’s father has died and Chaz comes to think he was
murdered. Mysterious characters appear at his night club and Chaz gets
in deeper and deeper, like a corrupt, oddly dressed policeman, The
Lieutenant (Elias Koteas), who offers Chaz protection at a price. A
beautiful chanteuse, Madelaine (Izabella Miko), shows up, and Chaz falls
for her, dumping Crystal. As any noir devotee must instantly realize,
this is a bad idea.
The film is almost totally
surrealistic, which is enhanced by the use of a cinematography technique
using swing and shift lenses. This gives a shaded depth of field
resulting in distorted images. The main person in the shot is fully
focused but the surroundings are slightly out of focus. Enhancing the
noir feel of the film is the darkness. Not only is the film subject to
the city’s blackouts, but the entire film is shot pretty darkly. The
alleys are full of trash and some bodies. This is really noir taken to
I found the film enticing.
The acting is good, the characters odd but interesting, and the story
held my interest. Director Rachel Samuels hasn’t used much filler. There
are enough cuts to keep the story moving without dwelling too much on
Miko, a Deborah Harry nee
Blondie look-alike, gives a wonderful performance as the girl who seems
so nice and who takes Chaz away from the girl who really loves him,
Crystal. But Phillips is just as good, even if she can’t cry real tears.
Maybe the best of the film
are the singing and the dancing. Samuels honors George Acogny’s music by
letting each song play through to its end without any interruptions. The
choreography (Keith Young) is original and a lot better than you’ll see
in big movies like Mamma Mia, whose choreography would get a “1” to Dark
Streets’ “10.” It’s not “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” but it’s as
good as I’ve seen recently.
This might not be for
everyone, but if you like noir, it’s one that shouldn’t disappoint.
October 15, 2008