Cinema, as many have remarked, was the art form of the twentieth century, and, unsurprisingly, at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first, we still grapple with cinematic modes of vision and narrative.  In his new suite of paintings, pastels, and collages, Pietro Finelli takes the cinematic as his subject, rendering as handmade images a small group of scenes, based on those in movies he obviously adores.  Finelli’s choice of sources gravitates often towards the genre of American film noir of the 1940s and ‘50s.  Spari (2010), for example, rather literally reproduces an opening scene from Edward Dmytryk’s 1944 Murder, My Sweet, in which Dick Powell as the private detective Philip Marlowe, suspected of murder and temporarily blinded by a gunshot witnessed up close, is interrogated by the police.  Blindfolded and enveloped by a dramatic darkness of which he cannot even be aware—although we, as the audience, most emphatically are—Marlowe sits in the circle of light cast by a desk lamp’s single bulb, a hardboiled plainclothes cop at either side.  The artist has translated the high-contrast black-and-white cinematography into an idiosyncratic vision in subtle hues, half incisive characterization, half cartoon caricature.  The officer on the right, for instance, has a cramped, small-featured face reminiscent of a Paul Klee personage, while Powell/Marlowe’s hair sticks up in rows of wiry scribbles.  Yet, just as in the movie, the figures emerge visually from a velvety blackness illuminated by a dusky glow, filmic effects readily transposed in the skilled medium of pastel on paper.  And, as if to emphasize his authorial appropriation of the image, Finelli signed and titled it in large capitals in a horizontal inscription at the bottom.
Similarly, the pastel Vision (2009), colorizes a moment from a black-and-white film, in this instance, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Paradine Case of 1947.  Here, Finelli has depicted the scene in which Judy Flaquer (Joan Tetzel) accompanies Gay Keane (Ann Todd) into the balcony of a courtroom to watch her husband, Anthony Keane (Gregory Peck), defend the beautiful and mysterious Maddalena Paradine (Alida Valli) on a charge of murder.  While the scene captured in Spari epitomizes the milieu of criminality, psychological tension, and themes of blindness and vision of the movie on which it is based, as well as of the genre of film noir in general, Vision seems to picture an incidental scene in The Paradine Case, almost superfluous to its plot.  The two women might as well be entering a train compartment or, more likely, a movie theater, and this latter association might prove the key to the image’s inclusion in Finelli’s series “Noir.”  For film noir was a highly stylized and recognizable mode of movie making, replete with tropes of mistaken identity, visual confusion, twisting contortions of plot embodied both by long takes and cuts back and forth in narrative temporality, and a full exploitation of the moody potential of glorious black-and-white.  As such, it was parodied in its own era and revived as a subject of study and homage almost immediately afterwards—in France in the 1960s and in the United States in the 1970s.  We might say, indeed, that film noir constitutes a nearly paradigmatic instantiation of the cinematic itself, an endlessly examined, self-reflexive, self-perpetuating means of investigation into the very nature of cinematic modes.  We can see the two women’s entrance into the courtroom, then, not only as an entry into the theater of the juridical—the play within a play, as it were—but also as a stand-in for our own admission into the movies from which they derive, into the cinematic.