The Naked City (1948)

Directed by Jules Dassin
Written by Albert Maltz & Malvin Wald

Uniqueness keeps us from the mundane, from boredom and the routine. Get up in the morning, drink your coffee, off to work, back for dinner, maybe lounge for an hour or two and back to bed to do it all over again. We often find little times to escape the mundane and live vicariously through exciting stories of others; a mysterious murder of a pretty model in her apartment bathtub for instance. We often escape to the movies for entertainment and a change of pace. That is exactly what The Naked City does, yet it manages to achieve it by showing us this exciting murder case in the most of mundane eyes. The style of this film manages to take just another noir and somehow transform it into a great film.

And it wasn’t something I really noticed so much while watching it, but rather only after I sat back to contemplate what I had just seen. Much of this has to do with the fact that while watching the film, I was more focused on the story itself and less on the style, which is a testament to the craft of the film. The ability to infuse such style and make it go unseen because of the heightened tension of the film in the first place is cut rate filmmaking in my book. We are arrested with great visuals from the start of the film, but the tension takes its time to build and build and build until the final payoff is made in a spectacular last 20 minutes or so of the film which left me on the edge of my seat and glued to the screen.

All that had come before had me interested, but I must admit that I found it to be somewhat mechanical in its procedure. The acting, the storytelling. It all seemed so delineated and as such bordering on, well mundane. The narrator seemed an odd choice to me, not in the fact that they used one, but the things he narrated. I am not totally sold on the film, and there are little things like this that help hold me back just enough from loving the film. But I soon did come round on the mundane presentation of the story until the climax. For a big city like New York, the Naked City, murders like that of Jean Baxter seem commonplace. As exciting as it may seem, at the end of the day it is just one of many, newspaper story left in the nights gutter to be swept away from the next headline. It’s a bit like the noir genre itself I suppose. Just another story, but what makes this one stand apart is the details, the details that weren’t printed in the headline news story, but those that Det. Muldoon and young Jimmy Halloran know. That’s what makes it unique

***1/2 – Great

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