Monday, February 07, 2011

The Naked City (1948)

This 1948 classic directed by Jules Dassin was the first motion picture filmed entirely on location in New York City. The city depicted is not the New York of yesterday, not even of yesteryear. New York is revealed in its full glory when it was the largest city in the world. This New York is far from the city of today. It's not the city of my childhood nor that of my parents. This is the city of my grand and great-grandparents. This is the city of Manhattan El's. A city when milk and ice was still delivered by horse and carriage. A city back when Frigidaire was a revolutionary household appliance still out of affordable reach for many working class New Yorkers. This was the city of Robert Moses at his peak of power.
The Naked City is more than a police crime drama about New York. It's a film about America. The America which was the envy of the world. The America which helped to save the world from Fascism. The country which set and led by example to the rest of the world. It's also a film revealing the "golden era" of industrial capitalism.
The Naked City is unlike the wretched police shows of today which pass for culture. Real police and detective work is displayed. There aren't any depictions of police brutality. No threats of torture. There aren't any computers or high tech crime labs with databases of fingerprints and DNA samples. These are tough and smart cops. This is a snapshot of a world which most of us have never experienced and one that none of us will see in the future.

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