The Naked Kiss (Samuel Fuller, 1964)
Directed by Samuel Fuller, The Naked Kiss is an amazing film for its time and its modernity. The themes treated are serious and mature. They surprised me like some elements of the plot of Anatomy of a Murder's sexual references and subjects.
The films begins with Kelly (Constance Towers) giving a series of hits towards the moving and shaking camera. We understand that she is assulting a man but for which reason? She only is in her bra and she losses her wig and we see that she is completely bald. With these first minutes and with even the first image of the film the viewer is involved in the story. The scene tells us that she is a prostitute and the man being savagely hit is her "pimp". Tired of this life of degradation and abnormality, Kelly moves to Grantville or if you prefer Anytown USA*. After one last job as "selling champagne", she decides to start a new life. Kelly becomes a nurse at the well-known hospital for handicaped children of Grantville. Her devotion to the children and her love for them is very maternal. All along the movie this is the feeling that Kelly needs to fulfill a void of being childless. Kelly's deiser is to get a "normal" life and be a better person. At the hospital she gets involved with Dr. Grant and they planned to get married, but a tragic event will force Kelly to change her plans and learned another lesson on maternal instinct.
Samuel Fuller has been knowed for his style categorized has "Cinema fist", it came from a shot in one of his films where the actor punches directly into the camera and breaks it. He makes tough movies and looking at The Steel Helmet or The Big Red One we feel that Fuller is a real man with raw shots and sometimes weirdly framed images that fit surprisingly well together. Anyhow, he can direct some very sentimental scenes, especially in The Naked Kiss when all the children are singing together with Kelly. This scene is very efficient and the children loooked straight into the camera in plain shot. A moment after the tape of the song is used again in a whole other situation and the song has a whole other dramatic effect on the audience. Fuller demonstrate a strong use of music and he is not afraid to put more than once the same song in the movie and transpose it in another context to suggest different emotions with the same tune.
This is no surprise that the French New Wave love his films; they are true and they represent filmmaking like it should be; propose multiple emotions and feelings to the public. The Naked Kiss is a little American Film Noir gem that deserves way more recognition that it actually has. I hope that it's reedition by Criterion (18 January 2011) will get him a wider audience.