History of Cinema 2

September 17th, 2010

“With No Heart and No Brain.. Your Gonna Need it”

Posted by therant in Uncategorized

Another long boring entry, but I cant help it.. i get so many ideas.. i need to work on a new style of blogging.. in the mean time.. here it is.

James Cagney.. James Cagney.. James Cagney.. I repeated to myself, I know I have heard that name before.. but I knew that I never watched any of his movies… I couldnt even recall an image of his face.. I kept drawing up images of Humprey Bogart and looney tune depictions of gangsters from the 1930’s. I knew the stereotype of the accent was of the people during that era, but I wasnt at all familiar with the values of the time. “The Public Enemy” directed by (I have no idea, but will after some research) puts on display the values, fashion, politics, environment and attitudes of the public of that era. The film starts with a foreword by Warner Bros Pictures Inc, stating that “it is in the ambition of the authors to honestly depict an environment that exists today.. of american life, rather than glorify the hoodlum or the criminal”.. Now, I dont know if Warner Bros puts this statement out to give themselves some credibility towards authenticity towards their work on screen or if they actually have an ambition to change the direction in which society was moving towards (all these big companies are bloodsuckers, its ironic to me how they criticize others for bloodsucking).

When the movie opens up we are taken through images of the environment that our main characters grow up in, a community that loves its alcohol and beer consumption, even the kids of 1909 are drinking out of a beer by the bucket, leading them to do drunk mischief. I may be wrong but I think during this time, children were working in factories with little rights or protection from the employers that exploit them. I think during the 1930’s there were laws placed to regulate and protect the lives of children in the work place. Tom Powers and his buddy Matt Doyle were always more advanced than the other boys when it came to being mischievious, it led them to a world of hustling, thieving, money making and rebellious attitudes in a organized form known as gangsters. When they were first introduced to their first job for putty nose, they were a little reluctant to do it.. but the power of handling a gun for the first time helped motivate them.

I liked how the director started with 1909 and then jumped to a few years later and a few years later after that, always showing how the boys were evolving in their environment, giving insight to the viewer of the adventures they were in. Most of the movie is shot very simple, with not much fancy camera work. The director uses camera shots that work, nothing experimental, just the proper shots tell the story fluidly. For some reason, I really like the scene when Patty and Tom are in the bar and become friends by doing a favor for each other.. I like when Patty spits over his shoulder and you here it land in the bucket, then tells them that the boys can count on him, Tom then agrees and spits over his shoulder, also landing in the bucket.. This spitting.. it must have meant something during that era.. something cool maybe?? something tough??

Tom and Mike are brothers, but since young they both have always been on opposite sides. During the scene where Tom finds out his brother has enlisted into the Marines, he learns that Tom has been into some crooked work, the director pulls in to a close up, over the shoulder shots and then pulls out into a ¾ shot to show the tension, Mike ends up punching his brother in the face and making his way out of the room. The scene after that is somewhat informative, in the sense that the director shows people all putting there priorities and responsibilities to the side for the desire of “booze”, people are drinking and carrying it by the loads. I like how Patty, in the scene following, is telling the boys that the time has come to make a move in selling booze, but while hes doing it, he is stuffing his face with chips, so much that hes talking with his mouth full.. like a greedy pig.

In class some people complained about scenes not having dialogue in it and it seemed boring to them, I disagree, in this film, as the boys and friends are robbing a warehouse of alcohol and running the liquid into an empty gasoline truck, there is no dialogue, but I think it works perfectly because the images tell the story as much as any words can.. and thats the artistic job of the director. I really like the slang and language of the time, I think it was very witty. I can see why James Cagney was so popular, he was tough, rebellious and an individual with his own beliefs and ideas and I think it shows in his personality and acting. As I watch the movie again on Veoh.com, I notice that the editing was on point during the switch of the camera angle/shots within the scene… this either means that the actors could repeat the same exact motions over and over again for the cameras or they had numerous cameras recording at once. I prefer to have numerous cameras at once shooting from different angles but its harder to control what each records but a director cant be at numerous places at one time, unless you work inside a studio with numerous monitors for the cameras. I wonder why movies of today dont use the dissolve to move from scene to scene like the movies of old. During the scene when the family is having dinner and there is huge keg in the middle of the table (like the elephan in the room) and Mike gets up and says he knows what Tom’s been up to, I nearly cried laughing at mikes accent of the 1930’s, there is a good point to be made of that scene, Mike says that Tom is making a living off other peoples blood, but Tom rebuttles back, that Mike is also living off the blood of people while being in the marines.

I wonder if how Tom acted when he slapped the piece of fruit in his girls face was the attitude of most men during that time, if he portrayed accurately how men were encouraged to be. As the scene played out, I was reminded of RAGING BULL, Robert Deniro’s character was abusive too and I think it was a few years after this movie took place. A person of Tom’s values and personality isnt interested in love more than lust, his friend matt says it perfectly, “he isnt the marrying kind”. His second girlfriend in the movie says something insightful about Tom too, she stops him halfway as he tries to leave the room, the camera pulls in to a medium close up, she says, “your spoiled boy tommy, you want things and your not content until you got them… you dont give, you take”, then she orders him to stay with the right tone that he obeys.

 I really enjoyed how the offscreens death of Putty Nose was used, while he sang, Matt is on screen and his eyes follow the sound of Putty Nose’s dead body fall unto the piano after he is shot by Tom. After Nails Nathan dies, the boys kill the horse, which I found very funny.. they hide out in Patty’s place and they hand over there guns and money, Tom got drunk and it reminded me a lot of when SCARFACE was so coked out of his mind that he lost his focus… leading to his downfall. I didnt understand why Patty’s girl slept with Tom, was the director trying to say that there is no loyalty among these kind of people.. or did the girl set Tom up knowing that after he found out they slept together he would storm out the house into the hands of the other gang. I thought the way Tom was able to swindle the guns from the Gun store was funny, but idiotic on the part of the owner. Going into the last scene I had a gut feeling that he would seek revenge with the guns and go into the other gangs hideout shooting, I knew he would get hurt too.. what I didnt expect is the director and the writer to allow Tom to say, as he fell, “I aint so tough”… throughout the whole movie he was extremely confident in all his actions and then he says this.. its as if the gangster realizes that his life living the way he was living isnt as good as he tought it was.. but I have a feeling the writer wrote that line for the viewer to have a fear or to realize that the consequences of gangster life is more than one could handle. The following scene is Patty coming to the Tom’s home telling Mike that Tom has been kidnapped and he told Burns Gang that if they bring back Tom he would leave town and the Burns Gang could have the whole racket. But I have a feeling that Patty gave Tom up in a deal to quit the war among the Gangs, which brings me back to a previous theory that I think the director is trying to say… there is no loyalty among these people. The film ends with Tom’s hospitalized body tied up and falling on his face as Mike opens the front door.. I find that there is some symbolism there.. then comes my least favorite part of the film… it closes the same way it opens up, with a black screen that has words that say… “ The end of Tom Powers is the end of every hoodlum, The Public Enemy is not a man nor is it a character, it is a problem that sooner or later WE the public must solve”. I still find it very hard to believe that the director and Warner Bros were all concerned in what direction America of the 1930’s was headed. The years that followed, film companies made tons of money off the glorified portrayel of Gangsters.

The overall production of this movie was $151,000 dollars, (either flixster or ImdB) and I believe it, the costumes, the props, the sets, the multiple cameras, the extras, for that era, It was a big production and at that time the amount of money spend was a WHOLE LOT of money.

In Conclusion, The Public Enemy wasnt my favorite movie and in my opinion wasnt nearly as good as M.. but the production value was very good and I was introduced to a remarkable actor of his time.. James Cagney.

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One Response to ' “With No Heart and No Brain.. Your Gonna Need it” '

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  1.    Amy Herzog said,

    on October 13th, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Sorry to be so late with my response here, but just wanted to say that your observations are really insightful!

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