In Mike Falconi’s modern noir tale, the viewer immediately picks up on what the filmmaker is trying to do and, in many regards, succeeds in doing. Falconi’s film is a short and deeply nostalgic story of a lone detective caught up in a highly complicated case. Through clever editing – rapid shots from various angles- and other details, such as his use of music in the background and appropriate speech, he creates a nice tribute to a great many film noir classics which one can only imagine comprise the bulk of the film’s influence.
Some of the smaller details of the film are worth noting, like the way the camera focuses on trivial things but from interesting angles, drawing the viewers’ attention to the film’s style – an empty whisky glass on the counter of a bar, a ringing telephone, a packet of crumpled cigarettes (here, also pay attention to a clever reference concerning Marlboro advertising) while not distracting from the film’s substance, which is also confirmed as quite weighty, by the clever interaction between characters, natural and unrushed.
Read at Unsung Films: The Convict.
The general shape of the film is somewhat predictable for its genre. A musician goes missing, and a smooth-talking detective, Sam Sellars (Ephraim Davis) cigarette in mouth, is hired to find him. The film’s setting is difficult to pinpoint. The time period appears to be sometime in the thirties (this is what the dress, dialogue, and overall style would suggest) though there are certain details that give away its (purposeful?) modernity: a Marlboro cigarette packet from a couple of years ago, the modern cars in the background. This makes you wonder whether or not Falconi intended for this fusion of time periods to occur.
But the film’s strength is in the details and one shouldn’t go on about obscurities. Actually, there is a skilful exaggeration in regards to That Terrible Jazz and the feel it exudes. The opening and closing templates, the endless smoking, the dated slang – it all becomes a well-made pastiche of your favourite Humphrey Bogart film. As the case unravels, Falconi mounts to the tension with a good eye for what the viewer is looking for. The punctuated revisiting of Bethany (Ellay Watson), whose involvement in the case is slowly built upon – we learn of her involvement with the missing musician, or, in the opening scene, of a relationship that is bringing shame to her family. Various other shady characters are introduced as the short film runs through, and as Falconi leads us to his highly anticipated conclusion.
You can watch That Terrible Jazz here:
That Terrible Jazz at IMDb