Bad Day at Black Rock directed by John Struges
The prospect of a Noir Western is an odd one, I think. Well, at first glance it is. They seem so opposed, one is the essence of the urban, focusing on the grime and underbelly of the city as a means of expressing the painful realities of life. The other is set in the painfully bright and harsh natural setting of the desert (generally speaking) as means of showing the battle for progress and the eternal struggle of man and nature. However, step back and see that each genre uses their environments as the field for an examination of the inner turmoil of man. Ford used the expanse Monument Valley to show the emptiness and sadness of his characters at the same time showing their strength and personal integrity. Huston or Tourneur or Wilder use their urban landscapes to create a sense of claustrophobia and fear and oppression in their main characters, to alienate them from society. In both genres the characters are isolated, battered by their surroundings, fearful of the outside world, nervous of change, and function in close knit societies of silence.
This amazing film takes these two aesthetics and merges them to make a slowly evolving film that builds tension through small, innocuous conversations and detailed and flawless framing and design by Struges. The story is half baked and bit too much of the liberal racism (you know how white people will always save minorities). However, it does not matter too much because the film is so expertly constructed, acted, and detailed. The CinemaScope might be a bit much, but it still looks stunning.