Thrust a newspaper into the camera and you’ve got my attention. Or, if you like, include an insert shot where the front page is held taut by two disembodied hands. I’m a sucker for this kind of exposition, even if it is kind of cliché. I just love how much it implicitly teaches me about a film’s world. The whole story can take place in cramped rooms and be acted out by only a few principal characters, but toss in a newspaper and you’ve widened the film’s scope. Suddenly, I know that this world has mass media! Furthermore, I know that it has a reading public to buy and consume that media. And if the front page features photos of those principal characters, I know that the film’s story is diegetically big. I mean, obviously: it’s front page material.
I love this. How newspapers convey a sense of the broader world; how light and shadow bend across their textures onscreen. I love it so much that I collect screenshots of newspapers whenever I possibly can. And I figure that since I’ve collected so many by now, I might as well share some—10, to be specific, from three countries and across a span of 45 years. Look in the fine print and see if you can find 1) a very unlikely weather phenomenon and 2) what looks like a James Joyce reference.
The films, in order: Mario Monicelli’s Big Deal on Madonna Street, Jacques Becker’s Casque d’or, Max Ophüls’ Caught, Robert Bresson’s The Devil, Probably, John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate, William A. Wellman’s Nothing Sacred, Dario Argento’s Tenebrae, Josef von Sternberg’s Underworld, Wellman again with Wild Boys of the Road, and Vincente Minnelli’s Yolanda and the Thief