Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fat Men Make Cry

Wakayama, the Lone Wolf

Tomisaburo Wakayama comes across as a complete slob - he drags his overweight frame across the ground with the alacrity of a metallic crane, his skin drapes over his cheekbones like an inflated raft, his lower lip dangles in listless isolation. His hairpiece is in a state of utter disarray, with strands scattered and astray, he sweats profusely on the face, his kimono has clumsy tears here/there and his eyes open at best to a sluggish slit – at best, he looks like a soup shop owner slapped awake. But this is his greatest strength too – much like Sammo Hung, who invented the ‘teapot-body as martial-arts star style’ (see: Winners as Sinners, where he makes a big deal of his body-shape), Wakayama’s success in ol’ fashioned dueling (and he always duels, even when against an army of hundred : fighters must wait for their turn) is because of the sheer surprise he springs – he wins, therefore, not despite his stoutness, but because of it. His opponents attach a certain (low) level of agility to his body-type, and are often disappointed when he, more supple than they thought, dances (Kenji Misumi knows it is dance, after all) across the floor and slits their head open into a blood-sprinkle more profound than their ill-informed prejudice against fat men. Wakayama is therefore the Efren Reyes of jidaegeki and indeed, all of martial-art cinema. 

Reyes moves around the table languidly, performing at best a formality – his shirt is untucked, he has a stupid smile on his face, and if there is ever a bow-tie, it is closer to the first button than to the collar-groove. Also, he is considered the best player to have ever played pool. Similarly, the gaucheness of Wakayama’s appearance is his greatest deception – where opponents accept a casual attitude, he goes in quick, sets up the deception, pots the balls and comes out.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Miller's Crossing (1990) / Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

At one level or the other, the garment of all Coen Bros. films is woven around a discussion of the sustainability of a spoken (and not documented) agreement: as such, the characters are supposed to honour an established regimen – a grand central unifying code-of-life. A Coen Bros. film, however, begins at the last straw: the characters are already paying remittances for their past follies and their past debts. When Miller’s Crossing begins, Leo and Tony have already been in legion with each other for years or H.I. is already in the penitentiary when Raising Arizona begins – the Coens are more interested in implications of a position instead of origin-stories and recollections. As such, the grand code between the characters has been set from before the film starts – what we are called onto witness is the different manners of its transgression.

In that, Miller’s Crossing is the prototypical Coen Bros. film, because it is at its most fundamental about one thing: loyalties among men. That sort of (simultaneously) schlock and hard-sell lends itself easily to the gangster-movie format, because the universe of such a film is full of individuals who make grand commitments, but never on paper (for all of The Godfather trilogy’s crime syndicate-corporate family insinuations and Goodfellas’ flaunting of a large ‘network’ of crime – no one ever signs a piece of paper). Instead, they are merely Jewish businessmen handshakes, gentlemen’s agreements, the law of the spoken word – where one must (and is expected to) stick to a commitment he made. 

Invariably, however, in each gangster film, someone will violate the terms of this harmonious accord: someone will rat, someone will want to usurp control, someone will generally be a dick – but while in a lot of gangster films, such violations act as narrative-triggers or plot-devices that can then justify the murder-mayhem that will follow; a Coen Bros. film will turn it into a solemn discussion of human virtues (or the lack of it). Therefore, when Tom Regan decides to play the grand-schemer-manipulator – setting one up with two, two with three, one with three – he enters into a network of double and triple crosses – a network of transgressions, thereby setting up multiple debates at the same time. One about ethics (Johnny Casper says: ‘It is now a matter of whether he is ethical or not’, about a trusted cohort), the other about morality (Verna says to Tom: ‘You always break…’ and lastly, humanity itself (Bernie to Tom: ‘Look inside your heart’. Reply: What heart?’). It is absolutely clear by the end, obviously, that he, the most disloyal of all, is the most loyal – he merely does not honor minor accords in the face of his devotion to a grander monolith. 

Eventually, it is wholly natural for the Coens to conduct, at a seething regularity such discussions – their collective identity as filmmakers being about projecting a small-town admiration for simple virtues into the big bad world of Hollywood. That the device they choose to set such a discussion up is invariably the tenacity of a male bond is interesting too – their own creative partnership, after all, functioned for the first half of their career based on the agreement that only one of them get the credit for direction.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Loves of a Blonde (1965) / Milos Forman

Italianamerican (1974) / Martin Scorsese

Monday, October 24, 2011

The First Half of a Song-Performance

From Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi (1966) / Shaheed Latif:

At the moment of the beginning of the song's performance, both the sisters are in love with the same man (he plays the piano like someone kneads the dough). In a manner that belongs very much to Bergman, both of them project their feeling of entitlement to such a luxury ( being the object of love of a man) very aggressively onto the whole situation. Neither is willing to concede any ground in this ménage à trois (more sexual than it is spiritual) - both demand their own respective close-ups, their private eyeline-matches with the actor and their very own, astutely choreographed, set of gestures (the first flutters an eyebrow, the second twitches a lip; the first betrays a cutesy grin, the second blushes a black-and-white blush etc.) 

What is interesting too, ofcourse, is how the scene is directed to play a willing audience to their wholly presumptuous universes of a privately blooming love (entirely hypothetical at this point too - what if he doesn't love either?) - the camera lingers on the first, and then on the second, with the meticulously created impartiality of a newly elected leader who wants to be 'there for everyone'. Both are permitted an audience, as also equally divided immutable time-slots reserved exclusively for an individual performance.

As it stands, the picturisation itself becomes almost entirely about the act of 'looking' - as such, the scene becomes an assortment of fleeting glances, moony-eyed glazes, and rather intrusively-affixed stares. The song itself becomes the permeating fiber that is the basic material for this network of 'looking' - as the actor begins to sing, the camera dollies out, his voice being projected into meaningless vacuum, until the members of his audience are revealed through a cut : the sister-duo, at which point the camera dollies-in; thereby forming a system of projection-absorption of the actor's song.

Ofcourse, it is also at another level about the confusion inherent in an eyeline-match : if used well, such as in this case, you may not know exactly what the actor is looking at - the sisters are confused themselves (or are, unarguably clear who the song is being sung for) and their confusion transmits to the audience as well (if you do not know any better). In that, the editing becomes particularly essential too - because the shot of the actor looking in the sisters' direction is never followed directly with the close-up of one of the sisters, since such a schema will annihilate the ambiguity and reveal to us the object of his affection; instead, the reverse-shot of the shot of him looking is always a long-shot of both of them, which may then dolly-in to one of them, depending on who summons the camera first.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On Posture

Drive (2011) / Nicolas Winding Refn

Like a lot of Gosling performances, the one in Drive is essentially a catalogue of various human postures. Much like Warren Oates, a similarly brave actor, who acted with the length of his beard (dense growth: disgruntled, maniac, psychotic; stubble: violent but tragic, clean-shaven: in love, optimistic but a tad cynical), Gosling acts with the angle at which he reclines his back. Therefore Half-Nelson is a perpetual slouch while Lars and the Real Girl is an overtly-perpendicular spine. Ofcourse, Drive is wholly about a character placed against/as an inextricable part of a milieu/setting (no film in recent times, not even quirky indies, have such elaborate wallpapering: the home has redder-warmer tones, the motel has greener, unwelcoming tones) – therefore, Gosling’s driver-character is often placed against a stark background – his silhouette is pasted upon wallpapered-backgrounds, his profile is often used against a flurry of Los Angeles-at-night lights while he drives the car. The much-discussed credit sequence plays like a clothing ad – Gosling does a lot of things but accomplishes very little – he sits in his car with a leg stretched out, walks with a jacket hung over one shoulder, walks even more – but he never really is getting anywhere in the fade-in, fade-out montage. It is because the credit sequence, emblematically of the whole film, is a simple-minded ode to posture (much like any advertisement for cosmetics or clothes). 

As a result, the film, much like any Melville, reveals its lead protagonist’s mental state through an external quality – when Gosling’s character is falling in love with a residential neighbour and reasonably satisfied with the quality of his life, he stands/walks/sits with an upright, perfectly vertical back with not a hint of a slouch – but when he goes about extracting revenge in the final half-an-hour of the film, his body contorts into weird awkward shapes. When the final mutual kniving-session does take place, director Refn decides to film the dueling parties in shadows, therefore, in strictly pictorial terms, Gosling’s body turns into a shape – one which struggles uncomfortably atop the boot of the car. When order is restored in the final shot (or is it?), Gosling’s profile, straight-as-an-arrow and immovable, once again fills the frame from its head to toe, while Los Angeles lights pass by in the background.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

Unseen Gods

Images from Arab Spring, 2011

Both a political revolution and pop-culture hysteria yield a number of images of people looking away from the axis of the camera at an undisclosed object. The subject of these images, often engrossed in hysterical (and when devoid of a context, seemingly unreasonable) gesticulation, seem to engage themselves in diverse sorts of relationships with the off-frame (or in the case of this blog post, off-screen) object: it is at times desperate, often Shamanistic appeasement of the off-screen deity; at times, a direct challenge to the spectral entity and some other times, casual frenzy at a single sight of the grand monolith. Regardless of the nature of this engagement with the off-frame (screen) object, the reaction documented in the images of both a political revolt and pop-hysteria is inevitably titling towards religious, hallucinatory and often times, absurd – it is as if the residents of the photograph (or screen grab) are a part of a giant energy-chain in  which they are passing on vast vigor to each other through Chinese Whispers. Ofcourse, it is not entirely unreasonable for a viewer of this image to find a moment of such agitation silly, or even baseless, because as they say, you would ‘have to be there’.

Screen-Grab(s) from Richard Lester's A Hard Day's Night (1964)

Increasingly, however, and interestingly too, as the role of global media in the broadcast of the events of a political revolution (and more seldom, its tenets too) to the world has increased in the past half a century – the images that yield from a political revolution have started resembling those from pop-culture hysteria even more starkly – especially because pop-culture subsumes all and reduces everything to a set of identifiable icons. So when rampant broadcast (increasingly an instance of pop-culture) ‘shows’ a political revolt ‘live’, the one image you are sure to see is that of a sea of people – and much like pop-culture fandom – the large collective is only a ‘mass’, or at best, a ‘statistic’ – it does not represent anything meaningful or even discernible, because while television always shows us the gathering, it is impossible to spot the single object they have deposited themselves around. As always, the mysterious object of a revolution (or pop-hysteria) only looms large over the scene through its absence, but is never quite ‘there’. As a result, more and more images from a political revolt will look like a pop concert, and those from a pop concert will be mistaken for a revolution. A classic example of such a faux-pas: Woodstock, 1969.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Death on a Slow-Burner

The Hit (1984) / Stephen Frears

The reason Stephen Frears’ The Hit is a unique film is because while it is clearly a crime-cum-assassination film, it functions with the laidback rhythm of some sorta holiday-family. A group comprised by two assassins, their victim and an unfortunate onlooker resembles a family on a road-trip. It travels through exotic lands and when faced with the diversion of overwhelming natural splendor is forced into personal introspections, discoveries of new-found affection, casual quibbles with other members, philosophy-sharing and petulant annoyance with a ‘slow’ member. Which is interesting too, because just like in a family-drama – there is a hierarchy intact -though different characters assume different familial roles throughout the film – Braddock the Hitman (John Hurt) is sometimes the patriarch of the pack, sometimes the younger brother, sometimes the lusty husband; Willie Parker the Victim (Terrence Stamp) is often times the calm matriarch, but a few times, the family deity itself. Others on the trip include the innocent bystander from an earlier murder, a Spanish femme-fatale Maggie, and Myron, the young assassin-apprentice of Braddock and his new partner. While Maggie is sometimes the rebellious young-daughter and sometimes the ‘other woman’, Myron is mostly the ‘black sheep’ of the family : the son who is a cause of incredible shame for the others in the family. 

Such a rhythm is wholly original, if only because Frears’ film takes the act of assassination – which in itself, is almost always assumed to be momentary and brief (so much so that the Zapruder film informs us of the exact frame which documents the impact. Other examples : the urgency of : shots through the sniper-Scope  in movies, the Lee Harry Oswald assassination, the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand) and spreads it across a duration of two-hours, for which, it becomes a political allegory, a road-movie, a power-struggle, a vacation film as well as a tourism-ad.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


A Better Tomorrow (1986) / John Woo

Both  Le Samourai (Melville, 1967) and A Better Tomorrow (Woo, 1986) begin with the image of a man (Delon and Lung Ti respectively) lying on his bed, his head firmly entrenched in the recess of his pillow, clearly bothered by a premonition of something terrible and overall, I presume, sweaty. Ofcourse, both movies are at some level, about a man’s ability (or an inability) to stick to the unspoken word, the Gentleman’s promise, or the Jewish businessman’s handshake – once a deal is done, it is done. But while Le Samourai’s idea of morality is transgressed in a single moment of implosive betrayal (gunshot, approaching train, grunt in an abrupt close-up); all of A Better Tomorrow’s transformation happens during a three-year long prison term. That is very interesting, because Woo uses this reasonably long ridge of time to appropriate the strength of purely human qualities: brotherly love, male honor, casual bromance and generally hokey lack of scruples - the film dictates that what remains unchanged over the duration is worth cheering for, and whatever changes, is an indication of absolute villainy or at the least, deserves our pity. 

Therefore, the two protagonists (Mark : Chow Yun-Fat, Tse-Ho : Lung Ti), counterfeiters, loan shark agents and casual in-tandem dressers, meet after Ho’s prison-term (of which we see very little) and are still the best of friends, Yun-fat still wants to shoot people up and return to the good ol’ life and Ho’s brother Kit’s still with the same girl – so while the film clearly proposes reform (or even revolution), the qualities it wants to endear us to are mostly the ones that remain unaltered in the before and after of the prison term. On the other hand, their crime-protégé from before the sentence becomes an evil crime boss, Ho’s policeman brother (Leslie Cheung) becomes a stone-cold, paranoid, loveless man (he also grows a thin moustache and a frown) whose relationship with his brother sours and in an incredible move of self-pity, Yun-Fat grows a limp – anything that changes over the three-year period must therefore be condemned or despised. Needless to say, the film’s final scene will have all order restored and the entire universe reset to point zero – that is almost ironical for a film titled A Better Tomorrow, because mostly, it looks at the ‘yesterday’ as its ideal – but atleast, unlike Le Samourai, the agent of bleak morality is still alive at the end of the film and thus, morality may still be salvaged eventually.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Sound Basilica

My Man Godfrey (1936) / Gregory La Cava

My Man Godfrey (1936) may very well be declared devoid of any particular ambition: the social satire is as soggy as a teenage political protestor’s manifesto; the performances range from absolute hysteria to calculated mystery, there is no soundtrack, there is no particular purposefulness with the camera (though, a lot, with the manner in which actors move in relation to it) – but it is still one of the most significant films ever – because it demonstrates properly, unlike a lot of other films from its era, the manner in which a soundstage may effectively be employed. The idea of a soundstage may be understood as a bank every inch of whose floor is wired with an alarm sensor – each inch of its area sensitive to a touch that may evoke a startle – similarly, a sound may be picked anywhere on a soundstage, even if one were to speak in the background, or better still, from outside the frame itself. This quality of sound is not used in cinema much even now – and it is most often the source-distance from the camera that determines the level of sound it may emanate – therefore, since the mainstream almost always films its characters in the foreground, the sound of the scene also belongs to only one plane-of-action. But what La Cava does with Godfrey, apart from choreographing some of the most elaborate background action in cinema (no one is irrelevant in the frame, no one is provisional, the actors even in the far-background are relevant contributors to the scene), is that he choreographs background-sound as well – therefore, the sound is not merely three-dimensional (which the speaker-system in a theatre ensures), but also three-planar i.e., emanating from three planes of action, and ofcourse, from the off-screen. Which is particularly relevant too in the case of this film, because if it were to be defined as such, it is a screwball comedy – and more than any other film, depends for its humour on dialogue exchanges, monologues, sighs, grunts, queer laughters, and in general, dialogue-mayhem – therefore, La Cava takes care to ‘record’ each sound on the stage and the put it in the film too. The players in the film are perpetually speaking (or affecting a sound) – one dialogue exchange happens in the foreground, yes, but at the same time, you can hear someone crying hysterically in the background, and in some other room altogether, someone else conducting yet another affair – in a rare case in cinema then, it is the sound that evokes the image, and not the other way round.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lee Marvin’s Face

The reason the blog has been on a week-long hiatus is because we (Broken Projector's Gautam Valluri and Floatin' Zoetropes' Me were compiling the fourth issue of our online journal Projectorhead (PH Wants You). You can read the entire issue here. As someone on Twitter said, some real nice goodies in there.

Point Blank(1967) / John Boorman

“None of them would look or sound or play the same way today if marijuana hadn’t seized and transformed the style of pop movies thirty years ago. This isn’t to say that the filmmakers in question are necessarily teaheads, or that the people in the audience have to be wigged- out in order to appreciate these efforts. Stoned consciousness by now is a historical fact, which means that the experiences of people high on grass have profoundly affected the aesthetics of movies for everyone: filmmakers and spectators, smokers and nonsmokers alike.”

                                                       Rosenbaum in ‘What Dope is Doing to Movies’
The notion of an action film is based on the idea of urgent causality: one act influences the other, the other impacts another – as such, each single choice the protagonist may make assumes utter significance and becomes capable of forever altering the universe. The narrative is reduced (or elevated, take your pick) to an elaborate series of codes that the protagonist must unlock one by one (the reason Die Hard: With a Vengeance is so goddamn great is because it literalizes this idea of an action film and completely breaks it down), and in that order, to fully comprehend eventually the villain’s grand nefarious design. Essentially, in an action film, everything is crucial, and if one lego-block is pulled out, the entire lego-network of choices and their outcomes will be rendered worthless. Point Blank is such an oddity precisely because it’s protagonist whims are particularly irrelevant, and while Walker’s physical demeanor (Lee Marvin, two-face performance: scare with one, get scared with another) is that of a perpetual badass, he is actually quite a nincompoop: confused, battered, vulnerable and at times, a real idiot; after 45 minutes into the film, he has actually exacted revenge already (even that, unintentionally), and isn’t even certain as to who he is pitted against. But such pointlessness is inherent in the very element of the film: it is emblematic, perhaps of the era of movie-making which Rosenbaum talks about in the passage above. Ofcourse, while The Trip (Corman, 1967) is deliberately pointless, made with the aim to mimic a LSD-trip; a film like Point Blank (as well as the best sequences from BlowUp and Bonnie and Clyde) just happens to be that way – the film of a man disenchanted with structures based in logic, rationale or causality – the most crucial accomplishment of Point Blank as an action film is that in its 91 real-time duration, and 2 years of filmic duration, nothing really happens, no choice is made, no decision affects the world, no action bears a real consequence – yes, a lot of people die, but when the film ends, the protagonist is exactly where he was at the start of the film, as poor, as lonely and as impotent.

Since the narrative itself is absent (nothing has an implicit meaning, nothing happens, no one comes, no one goes), it is what you can see that becomes particularly important – the ‘trippiness’ of the film, therefore, manifests itself in what is shown (instead of say,  Easy Rider, where the trippiness is all told or heard). Therefore, Point Blank’s exhibition of rambling meaningless includes angular pathways, skyscrapers jetting diagonally out from the corner of the frame, characters framed through latticed windows, hokey matte-effects of naked bodies floating like stray-scrap through 2D air, eternal corridors, color bursts, an action scene illuminated by disco-ball lights so that you can only see a punch land or a forehead turn to grimace – but the film is at the peak of its delirium when it shoots Lee Marvin’s face in a close-up. At best, his face is an accumulation of veins fitted into cloth-folds that sag over a gangling frame whose owner went to the wrong tailor.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


To Spot: Vadim

From Cahiers Du Cinema 73, 'Sufficient Evidence' on Roger Vadim's Sait-on jamais? :  Jean-Luc induces some common sense into the proceedings.

"Unlike so many beginners with five years of Cinematheque viewing behind them, Vadim does not say to himself, 'I'm going to move the camera thus, and frame the characters so. Now, what are they going to do and say?' Instead, more sensibly, he reasons this way: Michel pulls the curtain and hides Sophie as she lies on the bed, increasing his pleasure at knowing she is there by his displeasure at being unable to see her. How to film this scene? Nothing easier. A shot of Michel pulling the curtain: Sophie can no longer be seen. Change of shot with the camera now in Sophie's place, no longer able to  see Michel. Michel opens the curtain. They are together again. It is easy to see from this example that once the characters' motivations are clearly established, mise en scene becomes a simple matter of logic."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Modern Romance (1981) / Albert Brooks

The crucial distinction between Robert Cole of Modern Romance and Jake La Motta of Raging Bull, both jealous, perpetually paranoid men who are mistrustful of their respective women, is anthropological. Cole is an early 80s, latter-day Californian who works in a modern profession – film; La Motta is a early 40s, early-day New Yorker from Bronx who performs in a primitive profession – professional fighting. Of course, probed deeper, both filmmaking and boxing are essentially the same: thoroughly passionate systems of expression where the participants use automatic instinct that is informed by years of rigor (both physical and cerebral). Cole attempts to dilute jealousy-pangs by biting into a culture that claims be able to heal his heart by replacing love with a pair of sneakers; La Motta does it by pummeling other men. Cole is, however, a man of rationale, a film editor, one whose job is to locate reason in chaos – he can, at every step, justify his immense insecurity by announcing it as a feature of modern romance, thereby smudging an entire era with the misgivings of his psyche; La Motta, on the other hand, suffers from the simple-minded entitlement of a mid-20th century animal, he believes his wife is a territory no one trespasses. Ofcourse, they are similar men, and what would be hilarious is to replace one with another : Cole in the boxing ring, employing the sane forces of logic and rationale and  La Motta in the editing suite, smackin’ the foley-guys who mock his utter lack of talent. By the way of trivia, the director of Raging Bull directed the director of Modern Romance  in another film where Brooks plays the insecure, jealous aspiring lover: but there, he is always in the background, stealing furtive glances in the way of the girl as a crazy taxi-man in a red blazer takes her away from right under his nose.

Monday, August 15, 2011

This, that and then that.

The reason the sequence of the payroll robbery in Siodmak’s The Killers is one of the greatest in all of cinema is because it, at first, teeters succinctly between, and later, encompasses aesthetic approach(es) required to fulfill successfully: news reel reportage, crowd-direction, dirty action sequence, a thrilling getaway and finally, a moment of human compassion. Siodmak’s decision to shoot the entire bank-robbery in one single-take has major repercussions; it is definitely, and above all, a technical victory of the crane, but the variety of critical notions it invokes is staggering: simultaneously, the Bazinian notion of ‘realism’ without relinquishing ‘style’, the Cahiers notion of the film director as the controller, master, choreographer of the universe, the Penelope Houston notion of cinema being about ‘human emotions’ and most essentially, the Daney notion of the image being what ‘we see’, or what the director ‘shows’.

An insurance detective (O’Brien), to strengthen his belief that the murder of a two-bit Swedish hustler deserves more time because there ‘is more’, asks the boss of his insurance company to read a newspaper report from five years ago about a payroll-robbery in a hats factory – the boss, entirely unconvinced, begins reading. As soon as he does, the image eagerly fades into a flashback where we can see the events of the robbery first-hand. The narration of the boss reading the newspaper report (written, always, in simple past) in the movie-present is superimposed over the sequence of the robbery that takes place in the movie-past. The players perform within the image as and when the audio track provides them with a certain cue; if you were to watch the film with subtitles on, the subtitled text slowly becomes the caption of the image you ‘see’. As such, Siodmak lays bare the most essential function of modern-day, Jamesian notion of writing: invoking a series of visuals, or to assist the reader in ‘visualising’ what he reads.

Of course, as captions go, Siodmak shows only the fleeting moment in time that is most integral (or is the best visual representative of) to what line of text the ‘to-the-point’ newspaper report the insurance boss is reading.  

Such generous respect is extended to simple-minded causality throughout the film. It is like making a film in the short-hand : to show, what is ‘essential’ (Dassin), while pretending to possess a vantage-point that can see ‘everything’ (Ophuls). The story of the film begins, infact, with three shots that do not play in quick succession, but still, fulfill the most basic tenets of the Japanese woodblock paintings that form the basis of the Soviet Montage. The first shot is of two men driving, the second of a street-sign which reads ‘Brentwood’ and the third of the shadows of two men lurking on the streets of a foggy-old nondescript town. Once you take the first and the second together, it is easy to deduct that the two men have now reached Brentwood.

Other instances of meticulous causality, or relevance of the small-moment is strewn throughout the film. In this one, the insurance detective points his gun (those were simpler times, simple etiquette dictated that whoever had the gun would control the conversation) at one of the members of the payroll-robbery party, Dum-Dum. Dum-Dum answers his questions for a while and then asks for his permission to smoke. In a very careful and crucial moment, he decides to rest one of his leg onto the other – this small move will determine who will control the conversation next.

While on the topic, see also: this.