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cinemaspeak59

Life Magazine Listing of Noir

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4 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Next proposition: you could also re-frame the entire thing this way: ask, would any researcher who has written about the history of the detective novel (such as T.J. Binyon  or Charles Brownson) agree that the great pulp detective authors were writing noir--15 yrs before film noir appeared?

I can answer that two ways.

1. No, Nobody was writing "Noir" they were writing from, say Hammett, on either hard boiled detective fiction or the traditional detective fiction. 

2. Yes, because the French 1930s definition of Noir was stories and subsequently films that depicted "dark subject matter"

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Will do. But here's a very plain reminder why its always been important to keep fiction genres, clear, distinct, and firmly separate from one another.

If there was no other reason to separate Hammett from noir (other than what I am about to show you), there'd be this famous debacle to stand as a cautionary example for all time.

Overview:

https://tinyurl.com/m5yhfbo

See below for detail.

Basically, this is what happened when science fiction was growing up. Hack SF authors cranked out space-oaters which were thinly disguised westerns and the genre was subsequently floundering.

It was so bad that the publisher of Galaxy magazine had to use the back cover of his first issue as a 'manifesto' against space-operas.

Here it is:

GalaxyOct50rearcover.jpg

If you don't keep genres clearly distinguished from one another (whether its 'SF' vs 'western' or 'detective' vs 'noir') all genres accordingly suffer. Lumping noir and detective together should make your flesh creep! Its just wrong on the face of it to ever mislabel one for another.

And its even worse when they are structurally nothing like one another. They're not even the same media.

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1. No, Nobody was writing "Noir" they were writing from, say Hammett, on either hard boiled detective fiction or the traditional detective fiction. 

2. Yes, because the French 1930s definition of Noir was stories and subsequently films that depicted "dark subject matter"

 

 

Groan-n-n-n. There's really no such thing as 'noir' writing, Film noir is a cinema trend. You can't write any prose that generates a true noir effect. This is part of the well-known distinction between books vs film; long established and well nigh bulletproof.

(Its one reason why I dislike even arguing about Hammett vs Cain and McCoy; because fundamentally none of them are 'writing' noir.)

Anyway, forget whatever French articles you've clinging to: its all erroneous. Its either been misunderstood or misinterpreted; or they actually got it wrong at the time. At that early date, very easy to levy an overly-broad definition for the new phenomenon they were encountering; it was too early for them to know what they were talking about.

p.s. 'Hard-boiled' detective fiction 'different' than 'traditional detective' fiction? This itself is a deep question which might take a whole weekend to pore over. The differences you're probably talking about are not the ones which matter: the structural ones. That's where you'd have to make your analysis, are you ready to do that? Off the cuff? Let's plunge in sometime then. I predict that even at the end of such a debate, there's no difference that will assist what you're currently arguing. Detective is not noir; no matter the various "categories" of detective literature.

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Detectives: for instance if you were going to argue that detective literature equates to --or can be substituted for-- noir; you might start by listing (in Will Wright fashion) various detective models. This is just one way to do it. This is what I invited someone to attempt earlier, yesterday I think. But it still leads nowhere. Look:

  • detective as 'knight' (ably stated by Raymond Chandler)
  • detective as 'scientist' (supportable with examples, at first)
  • detective as 'gentleman' (Dorothy L. Sayers articulates this idea)
  • detective as 'thief' or 'gentleman thief' (can be supported by examples at first)
  • detective as professional / workman / operative
  • occult detectives
  • others

...if you see what I mean. None of these equate to the prototypical 'noir' hero; who is first and foremost an 'everyman'. 'Detective' is rarely 'everyman'.

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To tell you the honest truth I don't know W*T*F you are trying to prove. 

I think you are saying that a hard boiled detective story even if filmed in a very stylistic Noir fashion is still just a detective film to your own way of thinking?

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4 hours ago, cigarjoe said:

To tell you the honest truth I don't know W*T*F you are trying to prove. 

I think you are saying that a hard boiled detective story even if filmed in a very stylistic Noir fashion is still just a detective film to your own way of thinking?

What I'm still seeing from the Sgt are many very narrowly defined genres verses very wide ones with instead multiple sub-genres; e.g.  detective stories are a separate genre from noir verses a more general crime\noir\gangster genre.   

I don't think either way of looking at this is 'right' (or wrong),  but instead just a different way of looking at it,  but this type of discussion does get frustrating to me when one is trying to prove they are right (not saying Sgt is doing this).

Anyhow,  a film like Laura isn't classic noir but instead a detective story using the many-narrowly-defined-genres POV.    

I prefer a more fluid POV since it make it easier to classify films like Blood on the Moon,  Bad Day at Black Rock etc...  (films with styles,  themes,  plot lines,  characters borrowed from multiple 'narrowly defined' genres.  

 

 

 

   

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Anything that happened before the end of WWII whether in print or in film--anything 'proto-noir' --whether remarked on or not by writers in America or France--dismiss it. It all has the character of happenstance, chance, randomness, fluke, quirk, and coincidence.

When you have a bunch of products all with similar degrees of darkness, grimness, and gloom--naturally the word 'black' or 'noir' is going to deployed on multiple occasions to describe them.

The fact remains that 'hard-boiled' has nothing to do with noir. Its from an utterly different family lineage of literature; besides one predating the other. 'Hard-boiled' was born from other progenitors; and written with other goals in mind; not to mention coming from a completely different medium.

If this is glaring obvious situation really remains occluded in doubt in anyone's mind; I can painstaking go over in detail, the origins of 'hard-boiled' to make my case. To my way of thinking, of all detective-types, 'hard-boiled' may even be the detective-style least similar to noir!

Effective noir doesn't have society's 'professional troubleshooters' in the forefront, it always has amateur citizens. Yes, even if this discounts 'From Out of the Past' as a noir, so be it. Face up to it! Don't be a-skeered to challenge dogma!

With regard to early precedents and proto-noir, think of it this way: if Henry Ford ever had the whim to label his famously all-black, early assembly-line Model-T Ford cars with a much sexier, snazzier label like 'Stingray'...would we today consider the clunker from that era, the definitive 'Stingray'? Nope. No way at all. The later model is the more advanced and it would be that model which deserves the name.

Get on the right side of all this. Dusty, misbegotten, groping-in-the-dark articles from '30s France do not trump the power of what we can see with our own eyes using our powers of observation today. If someone slipped up way back then, don't simply repeat and compound their error for all-time to come. We can use our own faculties to determine the facts better, at this later date. (This is not always so in history; but in cinema it sure is).

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1 hour ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Anything that happened before the end of WWII whether in print or in film--anything 'proto-noir' --whether remarked on or not by writers in America or France--dismiss it. It all has the character of happenstance, chance, randomness, fluke, quirk, and coincidence.

When you have a bunch of products all with similar degrees of darkness, grimness, and gloom--naturally the word 'black' or 'noir' is going to deployed on multiple occasions to describe them.

The fact remains that 'hard-boiled' has nothing to do with noir. Its from an utterly different family lineage of literature; besides one predating the other. 'Hard-boiled' was born from other progenitors; and written with other goals in mind; not to mention coming from a completely different medium.

If this is glaring obvious situation really remains occluded in doubt in anyone's mind; I can painstaking go over in detail, the origins of 'hard-boiled' to make my case. To my way of thinking, of all detective-types, 'hard-boiled' may even be the detective-style least similar to noir!

Effective noir doesn't have society's 'professional troubleshooters' in the forefront, it always has amateur citizens. Yes, even if this discounts 'From Out of the Past' as a noir, so be it. Face up to it! Don't be a-skeered to challenge dogma!

With regard to early precedents and proto-noir, think of it this way: if Henry Ford ever had the whim to label his famously all-black, early assembly-line Model-T Ford cars with a much sexier, snazzier label like 'Stingray'...would we today consider the clunker from that era, the definitive 'Stingray'? Nope. No way at all. The later model is the more advanced and it would be that model which deserves the name.

Get on the right side of all this. Dusty, misbegotten, groping-in-the-dark articles from '30s France do not trump the power of what we can see with our own eyes using our powers of observation today. If someone slipped up way back then, don't simply repeat and compound their error for all-time to come. We can use our own faculties to determine the facts better, at this later date. (This is not always so in history; but in cinema it sure is).

I agree to disagree. 

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Nobody ever started out to make a noir.

Exactly the opposite! They all did. Every true noir was deliberately set out upon. Deliberate in the sense that the teams were always given a low budget; deliberate in the sense that teams were always given minimal resources and deliberate in the sense that teams were always bound to make a strong story.

Deliberate in the sense too, that they couldn't be overtly salacious or graphic.

Ultimately, what unites all *true* noirs is that the production teams had no choice. They had to find a new narrative style to meet all these requirements.

:ph34r:

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It kind of happens mix the right director,with  story, cinematographer, the right actors and music.

But this very notion, flies-in-the-face of the studio reality of making B-pictures. The basis from which noirs sprung. Teams which made B-pictures were typically kept together. See Don Miller's book on B-Movie making (if you haven't already).

 

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It's subjective, it either happens for you or not.

The most powerful noirs give audiences a 'visceral' reaction; a 'churning in the gut'; a 'sinking' feeling. It is specifically noir which delivers this involuntary sensation; no other form of storytelling does it. It's not something you can "choose" or "decide upon". Its not a style you can idly, individually, mull over and 'agree with' or not.

Thus: how is it "subjective" (your phrase) when so many viewers report on it so uniformly?

How can noir be claimed to be present in a variety of random, widely-dissimilar other movies which don't invoke this feeling at all?

:wacko:

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Noir is a sort of pan-genre phenomena. 

Absolutely not. This is almost the worst thing you could say about it. This statement renders noir into something trite or ornamental, silly, or ineffectual. When it is none of these things.

Film noir is distinct from all other genres; and is one of the reasons its discovery is so important and singular.

A "noirish tint" ...accidentally surfacing ...in an A-list crime-drama is not noir.

Noir did not spring up by 'accident' or as a luxury--but rather, from cold dire necessity and hardship.

:o

 

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Hypothetical question: can you take something like 'graphic horror' and characterize that as a style which can be lent to any other genre or sub-genre of film? No, right?

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Not sure I understand your question. You can take a graphic horror ingredient, say a graphic disembowelment etc., and add it to a Crime film and get Silence of the Lambs, (which IMDb lists as a  Crime, Drama, Thriller) so I guess yes.

Ehh. I'm not including whatever BS they pull in modern filmmaking. I'm referring to classic movies.

Sure it was, that in the studio era you could contrive 'hybrids' of many kinds. Haunted house comedies, musical numbers in sci-fi, or comedians in space-westerns, but arguably two things you never saw were graphic sex or bloody physical violence.

These visceral, primitive, 'adult' elements do not easily cross genre boundaries back then. They're too powerful; too shocking. You couldn't ever consciously set out to combine or infuse these "no-no" sensations into some other formula. Nor could they get there by random chance. The film would be flagged.

The same rules applied to noir. The timeperiod and the system itself forbid mixing-and-matching; and moreover: the working method for noir doesnt lend itself to anything else but noir.

You just can't set out to do some kind of half-hearted or hybrid film and wind up accidentally with noir. The storytelling structure for it is all wrong; the goal and purpose of noir lead viewers down a specific road which you cant return from.

And the storytelling structure of noir simply matches nothing else in its neighbors.

:unsure:

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If you are going to make a Western you pretty much have a check list you need six shooters, horses, cattle,  wagons, Indians, cavalry, false front towns, steam engines, gunfighters, saloon girls, sheriffs, etc., etc. Noir didn't have a genre check list. 

Noir definitely did have set of traits which were identified and discovered ...after-the-fact.

Look at it this way: we know that film noir is famous for its gut-wrenching narratives that make you almost physically nauseous. "Low-budget" was also present in most productions.

So: does that means you can simply wander on to some other low-budget set and find anyone else maybe ...making noir? Just because they have that hallmark? No!

It just doesn't work that way. A=B does not mean B=A.

Even asking "what makes noir?" is not the right question because you can't remake it by following in anyone else's footsteps.

:huh:

Its different than when someone asks you "hey, what kinds of horror scare you?" since we are all terrified by a variety (bugs, sharks, fire, flood, ghosts, etc). Lots of horror plots can scare us.

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Noir didn't have a genre check list. 

The noir checklist exists,  but has just one item on it; and that is the physical feeling of dread or impending doom. So powerful it makes you shrink down in your seat.

The remainder of any such checklist is immaterial since you can't recreate noir using checklists (and you certainly can't create it 'by accident').

Whew! Long post! I feel better now getting all that off my chest! :lol:

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Sorry, disagree. I see the visual Noir stylistics, the Dutch angles, low key lighting, depth of field, etc, etc. as the DNA of Noir.

No need for apologies; I don't mind your disagreement. You're an experienced movie-goer and naturally have well-formed views of your own.

We're having a grand discussion here. Fruitful and rewarding (and good exercise for the little grey cells).

To extend your metaphor here: it seems as if you're just not ready to align with me on the notion that different genres have different structures.

The way different kinds of animals have different DNA; (but sometimes different animals share some DNA).

For support in this area I nominate famed literary critic Northrop Frye. He settles that question in the affirmative, if no one else ever did. But he's just one among many who do so.

 

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To tell you the honest truth I don't know W*T*F you are trying to prove. 

I think you are saying that a hard boiled detective story even if filmed in a very stylistic Noir fashion is still just a detective film to your own way of thinking? 

 

Yes; that's a fair and apt statement. The filming style for a particular flick, (hard-boiled, etc) might look like noir ...but the narrative may not be noir in the slightest.

Conceivably, you might even wind up with a happy ending at the finale of a hard-boiled story. That just wouldn't fly (in noir). Right?

And then with regard specifically to a hard-boiled detective story,  my disagreement doesn't rest purely on my own opinion at all. Tons of research has been done to attest to the various storytelling "structures" of the detective realm. None of them --so far as I know-- match the typical noir narrative. This is an interesting topic if you want to kick it around sometime.

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Previously, Markoff (that's me!) stated:

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Next proposition: you could also re-frame the entire thing this way: ask, would any researcher who has written about the history of the detective novel (such as T.J. Binyon  or Charles Brownson) agree that the great pulp detective authors were writing noir--15 yrs before film noir appeared?

I can answer that two ways.

Quote

 

1. No, Nobody was writing "Noir" they were writing from, say Hammett, on either hard boiled detective fiction or the traditional detective fiction. 

2. Yes, because the French 1930s definition of Noir was stories and subsequently films that depicted "dark subject matter"

 

Good, so with point #1 you concede to me that mystery & detective literature had fully their own integrity years before film noir was even thought of. They deserve their own provenance and their own respect and I'm glad you agree with me on this because sublimating those artists and those audiences, is fairly heinous and extremely poor academia.

In point #2, you're misfiring on that one. Essentially: no, fixating again on the loose use of the wrong term by Frenchies doesn't stand up in this case. Its really stretched thin to claim that when any Frenchman merely observed a shadow on a wall, that this covers and excuses everything. Absurd!

Your fascination with the French opinion is really something to marvel at. The literature utterly doesn't support it.

Some specific rejoinders in passing, to point #2:

  • The French 1930s definition of noir is no more than a 'label' --rather than a 'definition'.
  • The French 1930s definition uses the waggle-word 'noir' which is simply their word for 'dark'.
  • They could have said detective fiction was pitch black and it wouldn't have meant it had anything to do with film noir.
  • Their 'Grand Gaugnoil' was also very dark, remember? They over-use the term; they apply it to all and sundry.
  • Stories do not just 'subsequently become' movies, without any distinction between the two mediums, despite the French blandly using the same phrase to denote the vaguely similar content. Different industries!
  • All forms of 1930s pulp can not be said to be 'left unchanged' by WWII. The French term 'noir' is clearly one thing prior to the war, and a different thing after.
  • Any pulp format which appears to 'stay the same' after such a momentous tumult as WWII is deceptive; its  due to the formulaic nature of pulp and genre. Works of popular genre are notoriously poor for analysis; precisely because the authors are do derivative and rigid. Does their lagging behind culture mean that growth and development of storytelling stayed the same?
  • From the above point: whatever anyone observed about 1930s pulp should rightfully be set aside after just a few years. Culture didn't stand still just because genre fiction appeared to.

 

  • Bottom line: here again, as in so many other instances, you show yourself the slave of this absurd precedent that comes from France. Its as if in this topic, you (like so many Americans) are over-wowed by the lofty-sounding French names. Ask yourself: what did the French know about English and American pulp literature? They viewed a bunch of our movies in rapid succession and drew some crude, flimsy conclusions. They weren't filmmakers themselves; they weren't bonafide historians, and they wrote from a distance of 11,000 miles away from Hollywood. Under such conditions, what any Frenchman might have said about cinema in '46 or '51, is not the word of Moses as you constantly make out. Film criticism was in its infancy (even today, it is a weak and feeble sister among the history fields).

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Bottom line we wouldn't even be talking about Noir if those two French critics didn't have a gut reaction and through pure subjectivity reacted to it. 

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Some more questions occur

  • What if a hypothetical moviegoer has never seen even a single noir film of any kind. Since he has none of the 'visual library' the Frenchies describe (Maltese Falcon, Lost Weekend, etc) does this mean he is unable to imagine what US soldiers experienced returning home after WWII? He can't treat that topic at all? He can't talk about the history of the 1950s or what the country was like?
  • Or, what if a moviegoer has seen only ONE true noir film. To him, that is 100% noir. Why would he then liken little bits-and-pieces of unrelated films --back to this prototype --based on 'percentage of' when he has already experienced the full 100%?
  • What if he has only seen 'hybrid'-noir and 'partial'-noir? Is he able to construct a sense of what noir is from these pieces if he's never experienced it in full?

 

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Bottom line we wouldn't even be talking about Noir if those two French critics didn't have a gut reaction and through pure subjectivity reacted to it. 

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How about this? What happens when you see a 'dark' crime film as a young adult, and it makes an impression on you as being 'gritty', 'icy', 'tense', etc.

So you go along with the idea that the flick is a 'noir' (even though you don't really know what that means).

Then, skip ahead to your later adulthood and you have a chance to re-attend the same film. Only, now it doesn't hardly look as dark as it did on the previous occasion. You don't know why you ever found it gritty, icy, or tense. It doesn't really faze you at all, this time around.

Same film, two different airings years apart, complete change-of-heart in the movie-goer. It happens in just this fashion all the time.

So, do films somehow change their "noir-level" from one viewing to the next? Or does only the first viewing ever count? 

Yet more reason why 'noir is a visual lexicon' is an inadequate model to describe the genre. Anything that shaky, shifting, and fluctuating is unsupportable. :(

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55 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Same film, two different airings years apart, complete change-of-heart in the movie-goer. It happens in just this fashion all the time.

I wouldn't say that happens all the time. There are many films I revisit years after the initial viewing, and I still have the same impressions. There's something in the film at its core, and in me at my core, which is unshakable and fundamental. So my responses to it do not ever change.

Now I do agree there may be other films where my impressions change, but then it becomes a question of why those impressions changed. And typically these are rare exceptions, certainly not the norm.

If our impressions fluctuated continually, then we wouldn't be stable or reliable.

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