Embraces its film noir influences comfortably and without pretension, accomplishing well what it set out to do.
Cut To Black
Cut to Black, Dan Eberle’s fourth feature length film, charts the well-travelled waters of a 1940’s film noir style with (despite a few divergences,) surprising freshness. Staring Eberle himself as the hard-boiled, hard-drinking ex-detective Bill Ivers, the story follows our protagonist as he’s hired by his former employer, John Lord, to track down a stalker bothering his estranged daughter Jessica (Jillaine Gill). As the job progresses, Ivers becomes increasingly involved in lives of Jessica and her boyfriend, till he suddenly finds himself in standing between them and a local loan shark.
It is hard to ignore some of the traditional (i.e. old fashioned) noir tropes at work here–a gold-hearted stripper in trouble with the wrong people, crooked cops, hitmen with girly names, a hardboiled narration fit for Humphrey Bogart, and our main character’s mysterious illness that has him coughing up blood for most of the movie. There’s also a number of other issues with the story, including the film’s numerous (and complicated) subplots, its habit of introducing new and arbitrary characters, and a bizarre sequence with a bombshell moneylender covered in pustules, more reminiscent of Fellini than film noir.
Yet despite this needlessly convoluted plotline and its other quirks, there’s plenty at work here to keep you watching. The entire cast performs solidly as a whole, with Ivers’ raspy voice and dependably bleak emotional state setting the film’s tone and pace. Eberle’s excellent performance and his positioning of Ivers at the story’s center keeps the flow steady as we watch our aging ex-cop navigate the turmoil of New York’s underbelly. The dialogue itself is generally straight-forward and unpretentious, keeping with the every-day tone of the story (though at times it suffers from the occasional bout of melodrama).
Aiding the actors is the beautiful cinematography of James Parsons. Shot in high-contrast black-and-white footage, the film is gorgeous to look at, and brings simultaneous elements of gritty realism and fantasy into the film. Steering clear of cliché, the imagery harkens back to the film’s hard-boiled origins, while at the same time lending it a degree of abstraction and artfulness one usually doesn’t expect out of the genre.
While the film may be anachronistic, Cut to Black embraces its influences in a comfortable and unpretentious manner, and accomplishes what it set out to do. Likely to please fans of the genre, as a whole it’s a film that’s enjoyable to watch.