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KISS KISS BANG BANG

The Simple Act Of Murder
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang writer-director Shane Black worked closely with director of photography Michael Barrett (CSI) and production designer Aaron Osborne (Without a Trace) to achieve the look and sensibility of a contemporary noir detective film. 

"Stylistically, we tried to do something that is prototypically L.A. but suggests in small ways the raw qualities of the detective novels and film noir I love so much,” says Black, who screened numerous 1960s noir classics for Barrett and Osborne, including the Paul Newman mystery drama Harper and the Los Angeles-based Lee Marvin crime thriller Point Blank. 

"Shane is an incredibly visual writer who knew exactly what he wanted in terms of the look and style of the film,” Osborne attests. "He didn't want a romanticized version of Los Angeles. He wanted the setting to feel as real as the characters and the story.” 

Like Black, Osborne is a huge fan of pulp fiction imagery, and the two drew inspiration for the look of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang from the artwork of famed illustrator Robert McGuinness, known for his iconic cover illustrations of 1960s detective novels. At the behest of Black and Osborne, McGuinness illustrated the covers of all of the Johnny Gossamer novels featured in the film. (Black came up with the book titles –Straighten Up and Die Right, Small Town Boy Makes Dead and Die Job among them – and wrote the descriptive copy for the back covers.) 

"McGuinness' work really became the lynch pin of the look of the movie,” says Osborne, who incorporated McGuinness' imagery into sets like protagonist Harry Lockhart's hotel room, where the art department hung framed reproductions and giant Optical-Art graphics on the walls to underscore the film's noir themes.

McGuinness' artwork also provided inspiration for the way in which Black and Barrett shot the film. As Black explains, "We used a lot of noir shot framings that were inspired by the artwork from old pulp paperbacks, where you're looking through someone's bent arm as they're smoking a cigarette, or looking past a lamp where a character is lurking in shadow in the corner.”

Further to Black's goal of infusing his film with the feel of a contemporary noir, he and Barrett endeavored to "shoot black and white in color.”

"The idea is to create a landscape that's noir-looking even though you're working in a medium of vibrant color,” he elaborates. "We put color in every shot and then de-saturated the colors in post-production. The result is a movie that is very colorful but not bright in the way you associate with a comedy. It feels rough. There's a crude masculinity to it.”

Black credits Barrett for their seamless collaboration. "Michael is amazing,” he says. "I showed him my influences and the films I like, and he got it immediately. He knew exactly what was in my head and he made it happen even bigger and better than I could've possibly imagined.”

"I have to hand it Michael,” adds Robert Downey Jr. "He managed not to sacrifice our spontaneity in getting us where we had to go to achieve the look Shane wanted for the film.”

"Noir is all about the manipulation of shadows and light to create a certain mood and tone and texture,” producer Joel Silver says. "With this film, Shane and Michael have added a new chapter to the detective genre, proving that a contemporary film shot in color can be as classically noir as it is fresh and original.”

Adding to the film's originality is the jazz-flavored score by composer John Ottman. Known in the industry as a unique hyphenate who scores movies and is also a renowned film editor, Ottman composed and edited The Usual Suspects and X-Men 2: X-Men United. His numerous composing credits also include Silver's productions Gothika and House of Wax. "John's score for Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang perfectly captures the skillful blend of genres that give the f

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