It would seem that the style of filmmaking known as film noir would be ideal for lower-budgeted filmmaking. After all, a true film noir is always in black-and-white and always possessing of the simplest of stories brought simply yet dramatically to life and centered around a mystery or a crime and a core of darkness that doesn't really seem that dark when you look at it.
K. Patrick Tutera's The Last Hurrah, an homage to film noir that had its premiere in December 2015 in Albert, France's Film Noir Festival, is a film noir in style and spirit and in its aching, slowly beating moments as Petra (Aleksandra Vujcic) and Samuel (Michael Bronte) gather for, indeed, one last hurrah, one last big deal as husband and wife and business partners in matters not quite legit yet prosperous enough to not quite worry about that whole legit thing.
Samuel, it would seem, believes this last big deal together is a gateway of sorts to a reunion. Petra believes otherwise.
I must admit that I find myself very hit-and-miss with indie film noir shorts, often enchanted by their devotion to style yet ultimately disappointed in what appears to be a style over substance project that thinks merely filming in black-and-white and managing to produce a few rhythmically delivered melodramatic lines of dialogue is sufficient.
I get the feeling that Tutera understands that there is, indeed, a soul to film noir that begs for consideration. There's an underlying depth that exists far beneath the sleek style and unforgettable melodrama.
Indeed, The Last Hurrah, at least for the most part gets it.
The black-and-white lensing by Philip Hurn is crisp and clear, though not so crisp and clear that you're sitting there thinking you're watching a 1950's film in 2016. There's nothing worse than watching a film designed in a retro genre that never lets you forget it's actually contemporary cinema. Hurn frames shots in such a way that each actor's physical turn is a shift of the camera and the occasional wide angle shot, though used sparsely, is a reminder that there's something bigger going on. It's melodramatic...as it should be.
Kudos must be given as well for Katherine Bulovic's perfectly attended to production design and T.J. Moore's simplistic yet lush art design. The film's production team was definitely on their A-game.
Of course, one mustn't fail to mention the cast. The Croatian born and now Australia settled Vujcic casts a mysterious figure as Petra, a woman with bigger plans and not afraid to make 'em happen. Vujcic makes Petra quietly come to life, a simmering presence impossibly seductive yet compelling even when we smell danger around the corner.
Bronte, on the other hand, casts an air of desperation, an impossible to satisfy desire for something, or someone, just beyond his reach. He'd do anything for it and that may be, that could be, his greatest weakness.
There are times, fleeting moments, when The Last Hurrah becomes a tad too wordy and the rhythm is momentarily lost but Tutera gets it back and draws us back in. It's a minor quibble in a fine example of film noir and compelling cinematic journey. For more information on the film, visit The Last Hurrah Facebook page linked to in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic