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Out of The Past (1947)

Hello everyone,

I realize a blog post like this is long overdue. With that in mind I want to start off saying I loved this movie, it had to be my favorite out of all the ones we have watched so far in this class. One line stuck with me throughout the movie. That would be the one in which Jeff tells Kathie, “You are like a leaf the wind blows from one gutter to another”. I found this quote to be highly intriguing because I see it as a double entendre. On one hand you have Jeff basically calling Kathie a tramp because after she left him, she went back to Whit. On the other hand, you have Jeff telling Kathie that she is two-faced and playing both sides because she tells Jeff what Whit is up to and then turns around and tells Whit what Jeff is up to. For this reason I think Kathie is the perfect “femme fatale”.

One thing I did not quite understand was the constant reference to fishing throughout the movie. Is fishing supposed to be a symbol for something? My guess would be that fishing could symbolize Jeff’s escape when things get rough. I say this because when he runs away and is hiding with the deaf kid, for example, he goes fishing and I can see how fishing would calm somebody down. In that scene he looks at peace. Or maybe this is how he copes with his arguments with Kathie. In one scene he is seen fishing as soon as he finishes talking to Kathie. I believe it depends on the viewpoint, because this is one of those things that can be interpreted in about a hundred different ways, just depends on the person who is analyzing it.

I also noticed the significance lighting plays throughout the whole film. For example, during the flashback, the lighting became brighter. This could have been done in order to portray the “realism” of the scene. Usually when you backtrack into your thoughts, your memory is hazy, but by making the lighting brighter, it looks more surreal and less like it is a recollection of your memories. Another scene where this change in lighting can bee seen is the scene that the camera closes up on Jeff’s face. In this scene, the lighting fades off toward Jeff’s eyes. This is done to portray mystery, and shadiness. I believe this was an important lighting change to make because in the beginning of the movie we don’t really know much about him or his character.

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~ by Beatrice Pana on October 15, 2010.

7 Responses to “Out of The Past (1947)”

  1. You said about the lighting, I also noticed that where Ann is is usually full of brightness and mostly she is in natural enviornment. Do you agree?

  2. Great observations– I think the point about lighting might be linked to the question about fishing, too. It’s hard to say for certain, but the fishing scenes take place outside, in the gorgeous, brightly lit natural settings. These are a stark contrast to the darker shots indoors or in the city. Tourneur seems to be making some kind of symbolic statement here (which supports your theory about the significance of fishing).

  3. the quote you mentioned is the quote that stuck out to me the most through this film also. i heard it and thought it was just one of the many witty or clever one liners that was said but it actually is a much deeper line than it seems at first. whenever you see kathy on screen afterwards you have that line in the back of your head and you gradually realize just how true it is in describing kathy’s character.

  4. Beatrice, I like how you found the idea of fishing to be a repetitive pattern throughout the film. I didn’t really pay much attention to that aspect, but now that I think about it you’re right. I think fishing did give Jeff a sense of escape and relief from the struggles he was facing in his life (living a double identity).

  5. Bonjour! It’s kevin from french. well written first off and cudos on the fishing thing. It reminds me of a movie I had to watch back in high school. It was called “a river runs through it” and it was a story about two brothers. In it they would go fishing and it would kinda be like their Sanctuary where they could be in peace. I didn’t notice it while watching it but it is indeed strikingly similar to how Jeff used it.

  6. I was going to say the same thing about the fishing symbolism. When I started to read that paragraph, I said to myself: “I’ll have to reply and write this.” But, as I continued reading, I saw you wrote what I was going to say. To support the theories, however, I know a lot of people use fishing as an escape and as a way to relax. It is very possible that’s what all the scenes with Jeff were about. It could also be a time for him to reflect on all of the things going on in his two lives.

    I agree with you on the lighting. I think with the flashbacks, it gets brighter to convey a sense of the characters reflecting back on something. Typically, in a few dream sequences and flashbacks I’ve seen, the lighting is brighter to imply that it’s in the mind of the character and not in the reality of the film.

  7. I wish I was able to attend the class that you watched this film in. Unfortunately I was unable to make it but it seems to me that it is a movie that I would want to watch on my own time. The things you bring up in this post makes me want to watch the movie and figure them out for myself like the fishing references. I also would like to watch it and see what you were saying when you brought up the lighting used in the movie.

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