Private (2022) Review
Private, a twenty-minute short from writer/director/actor Steve Blackwood (Stuck, Meet the Author) is an interesting take on classic film noir. Based on a one-act play, which Blackwood also filmed, it’s what would be the final act of a feature and concentrates on the implications of the investigation rather than the investigation itself.
Jim Calloway (Steve Blackwood) is the kind of private eye you would expect to find in a film like this. Ex-cop, down on his luck and his only friend comes in a bottle. Sally Danforth (Sandy Bainum, There’s a Special Place in Hell For Fashion Bloggers, Friendly Neighborhood Coven) a chorus girl who married money hired him to find her missing husband. He’s at the point where he has to tell her he’s out of leads. But is he really?
Two things quickly become clear, Calloway does indeed know more than he’s letting on, and Danforth hired him because she didn’t think he could find out the truth. The verbal sparring between the two fills in the rest of the story. It also fills in the character’s personalities as we see that the facts don’t tell the whole story, and things aren’t as cut and dried as they might appear.
Moral ambiguity is a central point in many noir stories, so that’s not exactly unexpected. But the way Private’s two-person cast deals with it, and a topic that would have been danced around in the genre’s heyday makes this something different from the typical noir.
Private is anchored by two excellent performances that help make their characters more than a stereotypical femme fatal and boozy gumshoe. They’re aided by Jeffrey Buchbinder’s (The Trespasser, The Girl in the Attic) black and white cinematography and an original score by Charlie Barnett (Headless Body in Topless Bar, Killer Aliens) who give the film an atmosphere that fits its story.
The film’s ambiguous ending tempts the viewer to put themselves into the situation, which is always a good thing. Even more so if they can do it with an understanding of the attitudes that would shape their reaction in the film’s 1940s setting, and how they’ve changed or not since then.
Private is currently playing festivals.