Citizen Noir (Short Film)

19 May

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Some people say classic film noir is easy to parody, but to me, that’s like saying comedy is easy to write. That being said, I found Michael Ferrara’s 10-minute short film “Citizen Noir,” which is a noir film parody, to be well-written and very funny. This is a strange, offbeat short comedy with originality within the usual elements of what it’s parodying…for the most part. Instead of parodying the complexities of the stories within noir films, “Citizen Noir” decides to make fun of the obligatory basics of the usual formula. Yes, the film is in black-and-white (with color only at the beginning and end, as the B&W represent a flashback). Yes, there’s a whodunit. Yes, there’s a solemn hero/narrator. Yes, there’s a mysterious run of characters who are practically forced to wear black and act suspicious. But the narrator is purposefully comedic-deadpan, the characters are delightfully odd, the whodunit is quite unusual as we’re informed from the start, and the B&W…well, that just makes the film look better.

“Citizen Noir” begins as Mark Crane (Alex Huey, who delivers a great comic-deadpan personality), a downtrodden private eye, is given his next case to follow. What is it? A little girl’s (Kwynn McEntire) cat, Mayor McMeow, has been murdered and Crane has to find out who did it. (And yes, the little girl, when she goes to see Crane about the case, is dressed in black.) As he investigates, he encounters a series of weird characters, including an attractive, sultry artist (Sabrina Runge), a strange man (George Zumwalt) obsessed with small animals, and a wannabe gangster (Matt Martens) whose private hideout is his own personal toilet stall (take a guess as to how Crane is able to get answers from him).

“Citizen Noir” is strange but in a good, funny way. The characters are suitably weird for us to laugh at them and the lines of dialogue are even more hilarious. The best lines come during the voiceover narrations as Crane analyzes things in his own way. I won’t give away any of the best lines, but my favorite line came as a response to a certain 12-letter word.

I don’t really know what else to say about “Citizen Noir.” It’s just very funny, befittingly offbeat, fun to watch, and also smarter than I may have made it out to be. I can see that writer-director Ferrara went all out for this short film and thought about the story as well as the jokes, and so he tried to make it as original and weird as possible (again, while keeping certain film-noir standards). As a result, he’s crafted a well-made, well-thought-out, funny short.

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