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Posted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:42 pm Reply with quote
Site Admin Joined: 12 May 2004 Posts: 4246 Location: Montreal
All those cigarettes yet nobody's teeth are yellow because it's filmed in black & white.
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Posted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:46 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 19 May 2004 Posts: 8424
Thanks Lorne.
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Posted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:50 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 19 May 2004 Posts: 8424
Film Noir (literally 'black film or cinema') was coined by French film critics who noticed the trend of how 'dark' and black the looks and themes were of many American crime and detective films released in France following the war. It was a style of black and white American films that first evolved in the 1940s, became prominent in the post-war era, and lasted in a classic "Golden Age" period until about 1960. Strictly speaking, however, film noir is not a genre, but rather the mood, style, point-of-view, or tone of a film.

Classic film noir developed during and after World War II, taking advantage of the post-war ambience of anxiety, pessimism, and suspicion. These films counter-balanced the optimism of Hollywood's musicals and comedies during this same time period. Fear, mistrust, bleakness and paranoia are readily evident in noir, reflecting the 'chilly' Cold War period when the threat of nuclear annihilation was ever-present. The criminal, violent, misogynistic or greedy perspectives of anti-heroes in film noir were a metaphoric symptom of society's evils, with a strong undercurrent of moral conflict.

The earliest film noirs were detective thrillers, with plots and themes often taken from adaptations of literary works - preferably from best-selling, hard-boiled, pulp novels and crime fiction by Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, or Cornell Woolrich. Very often, a film noir story was developed around a cynical, hard-hearted, disillusioned male character [e.g., Robert Mitchum, Fred MacMurray, or Humphrey Bogart] who encountered a beautiful but promiscuous, amoral, double-dealing and seductive femme fatale [e.g., Mary Astor, Veronica Lake, Jane Greer, Barbara Stanwyck, or Lana Turner] who used her feminine wiles and come-hither sexuality to manipulate him into becoming the fall guy - often following a murder. After a betrayal or double-cross, she was frequently destroyed as well, often at the cost of the hero's life.

Oftentimes, noir could also branch out into thrillers (i.e., Samuel Fuller's Pickup on South Street (1953)), horror, westerns (i.e. The Gunfighter (1950)), science-fiction (i.e., Kiss Me Deadly (1955)) and even film-noir tribute-parodies (i.e., Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)).

So-called post-noirs (modern tech-noirs, neo-noirs, or cyberpunk) appeared after the classic period with a revival of the themes of classic noir. Tech-noir (also known as 'cyberpunk') refers to a hybrid of high-tech sci-fi and film noirs portraying a decayed, grungy, unpromising, dark and dystopic future. 'Cyberpunk' was first popularized by William Gibson's book Neuromancer, and best exemplified in the late 70s-90s with the following films: Alien (1979), Outland (1981), Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) with Harrison Ford as a futuristic LA replicant-killer, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), The Terminator (1984), Robocop (1987), Total Recall (1990), Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days (1995) set on Millenium New Years Eve, New Zealand screenwriter Andrew Niccol's directorial debut film Gattaca (1997) about futuristic genetic engineering, Alex Proyas' visually stylistic sci-fi Dark City (1998), and David Cronenberg's twisting eXistenZ (1999).

The primary moods of classic film noir were melancholy, alienation, bleakness, disillusionment, disenchantment, pessimism, ambiguity, moral corruption, evil, guilt, desperation and paranoia. Heroes (or anti-heroes), corrupt characters and villains included down-and-out, conflicted hard-boiled detectives or private eyes, cops, gangsters, government agents, socio-paths, crooks, war veterans, petty criminals, and murderers. These protagonists were often morally-ambiguous low-lifes from the dark and gloomy underworld of violent crime and corruption. Distinctively, they were cynical, tarnished, obsessive (sexual or otherwise), brooding, menacing, sinister, sardonic, disillusioned, frightened and insecure loners (usually men), struggling to survive - and in the end, ultimately losing.

The females in film noir were either of two types - dutiful, reliable, trustworthy and loving women; or femme fatales - mysterious, duplicitous, double-crossing, gorgeous, unloving, predatory, tough-sweet, unreliable, irresponsible, manipulative and desperate women. Usually, the male protagonist in film noir wished to elude his mysterious past, and had to choose what path to take (or have the fateful choice made for him). Invariably, the choice would be an overly ambitious one. Often, it would be to follow the goadings of a traitorous femme fatale who destructively would lead the struggling hero into committing murder or some other crime of passion. When the major character was a detective or private eye, he would become embroiled and trapped in an increasingly-complex, convoluted case that would lead to fatalistic, suffocating evidences of corruption and death.

Film noir films (mostly shot in gloomy grays, blacks and whites) showed the dark and inhumane side of human nature with cynicism and doomed love, and they emphasized the brutal, unhealthy, seamy, shadowy, dark and sadistic sides of the human experience. An oppressive atmosphere of menace, pessimism, anxiety, suspicion that anything can go wrong, dingy realism, futility, fatalism, defeat and entrapment were stylized characteristics of film noir. The protagonists in film noir were normally driven by their past or by human weakness to repeat former mistakes.

Film noir was marked by expressionistic lighting, deep-focus camera work, disorienting visual schemes, jarring editing or juxtaposition of elements, skewed camera angles (usually vertical or diagonal rather than horizontal), circling cigarette smoke, existential sensibilities, and unbalanced compositions. Settings were often interiors with low-key lighting, venetian-blinded windows and rooms, and dark, claustrophobic, gloomy appearances. Exteriors were often urban night scenes with deep shadows, wet asphalt, dark alleyways, rain-slicked or mean streets, flashing neon lights, and low key lighting. Story locations were often in murky and dark streets, dimly-lit apartments and hotel rooms of big cities, or abandoned warehouses. [Often-times, war-time scarcities were the reason for the reduced budgets and shadowy, stark sets of B-pictures and film noirs.]

Narratives were frequently complex, maze-like and convoluted, and typically told with foreboding background music, flashbacks (or a series of flashbacks), witty and acerbic dialogue, and/or reflective and confessional voice-over narration. Amnesia suffered by the protagonist was a common plot device, as was the downfall of an innocent Everyman who fell victim to temptation or was framed. Revelations regarding the hero were made to explain/justify the hero's own cynical perspective on life. Some of the most prominent directors of film noir included Orson Welles, John Huston, Billy Wilder, Edgar Ulmer, Robert Siodmak, Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, and Howard Hawks.
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Posted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:56 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 19 May 2004 Posts: 8424
Double Indemnity (1944)

Night of the Hunter, The (1955)

The Killing (1956)

Out of the Past (1947)

Set-Up, The (1949)

Mildred Pierce (1945)

Pickup on South Street (1953)

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

This Gun for Hire (1942)

Murder, My Sweet (1944)

The Postman Always Rings Twice




The Maltese Falcon
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Posted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:57 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 19 May 2004 Posts: 8424

I'm done with your tutorial. Take it away!
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Joe Vitus
Posted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:59 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 14498 Location: Houston
Perfect introduction, Hippie.

I'm curious if you would consider Breathless film noir, or if you really think any post-studio era movie can genuinely be called noir (since the original entries weren't consciously "noir")? Plus, since one of the intentions of that movie is to mimic and subvert several film genres, whether to classify it as belonging to any genre other than "French New Wave" is appropriate either.
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Posted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 10:10 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 19 May 2004 Posts: 8424
BREATHLESS is an homage to noir, so perhaps its faux noir.

Marilyn suggested discussing some modern noirs, such as CHINATOWN and BODY HEAT. I had suggested BLOOD SIMPLE and L.A. CONFIDENTIAL.
What you all say?
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Posted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 10:45 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 2242 Location: TX
I like all of those modern noirs, and I would add John Dahl's Red Rock West and The Last Seduction to that list.

My heart told my head: This time, no.
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Posted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 10:49 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 02 Aug 2004 Posts: 1359 Location: Way Down Yonder.......
In the order Marc has them listed?? Question
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Posted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 11:16 pm Reply with quote
That's enough of the side issues and 'I can't see how we didn't include, blah blah blah..' enough of the 'is it or isn't it....' enough of the bullshit. It's time to discuss film noir and what the hell are we starting with. It seems that Double Indemnity is out and no one has commented on the alternatives I have suggested. So pick a fucking movie and let's get this show on the road.

Thanks Marc for the excellent introduction. Now does anyone think that it will get any farther than that. I'm having my doubts.
Posted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 11:21 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 19 May 2004 Posts: 8424

whats with the negative attitude? Ain't too inspiring.
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Posted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 11:23 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 19 May 2004 Posts: 8424
Maltese Falcon is readily available. Shall we start with that?
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Posted: Tue Nov 30, 2004 12:08 am Reply with quote
I'm just trying a negative approach to get people stirred up. I think Maltese is a great starting point. It's got all the elements of noir.

Is that OK with all you prevaricating numbskulls?

How's that for positive reinforcement?
Posted: Tue Nov 30, 2004 12:43 am Reply with quote
Noir has more than a look of darkness it has a feel of darkness. Peopled with men and women who live in the demi-monde. You don't find PTA meeting or lunches at an pleasant cafe or toddling off to bed in a comfy bungalow in the suburbs or golf out with your business buddies. You find lone characters hooking up with mysterious and possibly dangerous cohorts. Quick meals at greasy spoons or liquid lunches at local saloons. Grab and clutch trysts in livingrooms with intentions other than forthcoming. Business deals that are extra-legal if not illegal and nowhere near a golf course. It's the underbelly of society which include the lowest of the low and the smarmy elite who are even lower. And the poor saps that fate has trapped in their wretched circumstance. Nighttime prevails. Emotionally and physically. These, as the perceptive and artistically savy French have tagged them, are the 'black movies'. And we start with The Maltese Falcon, 'the black bird', 'what dreams are made of', what nightmares spring from.

Happy viewing.
Posted: Tue Nov 30, 2004 12:54 am Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan
Wonderful commentary, Gary. Very insightful. Now, you have me revved!
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