For my first contribution to “Tuesday’s Overlooked Films,” I will take a brief look at one of my favorite films in the film noir genre, Jules Dassin’s The Naked City from 1948.
It is a hot summer night in the city that never sleeps. After glimpsing into the mundane activities of New Yorkers from various walks of life at play, we see the shadowy figures of two men in the act of murdering a young woman; the young woman is later idenitified as a model named Jean Dexter. Soon after, an equally sinister scene is visited upon us – the disposal of one of murderers (obviously overcome with a sense of remorse) by the other.
As day breaks and the model’s body is discovered, the police investigation begins. The investigation is headed by veteran detective, Lt. Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and his young partner, Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor).
What follows is a step-by-step procedural of the murder investigation. Along the way, we are introduced to a variety of characters, who together are key to identifying the persons responsible for young Jean’s demise.
Why I Love this Movie
From its outset, we are told that The Naked City is “a motion picture unlike any other that we have seen.” Of the movies that I have seen in this genre, this film most ably combined the narrative of cinema with a very realistic portrayal of a post-war New York City.
This due mainly to the fact that the majority of the scenes were shot in various locations in and around New York City. This lends a “true-life” or documentarian feel to the film. At the time, the cinematopgraphy earned The Naked City several plaudits, including the Academy Award in 1949 for Best Cinematopgraphy.
I also love how, at times (especially in the beginning), the narrative is intercut with scenes of the city (and it people) as a living, breathing organism in which so many things are happening around the main story.
As for the narrative itself, while it may sound a bit mundane, the police procedural is actually quite gripping. The complexities of the people and places involved in the murder investigation is fascinating to watch.
Of course none of this would work if not for the solid writing, acting and directing.
The Naked City is indeed a city of “8 million stories” and we are given a glimpse of a very fascinating one indeed.