Bronxgirl48

EDDIE MULLER, THE CZAR OF NOIR???

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William Wyler's "The Letter"???

A great William Wyler film and one of Bette Davis' best roles, but.....noir??

I was appalled when Eddie spent time in the intro defending it as worthy of inclusion.

Who hired this guy?  Does he even choose the movies in this genre?  He seems to love playing the noir "expert" but I think Eddie is just overrated, arrogant, and frankly not even that knowledgeable or intelligent.

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cigarjoe, you might be right about this.   These interpretations are fascinating to me -- in fact, I would argue that 1941's "The Wolf Man" with Lon Chaney, Jr. could be considered noir!

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On 6/5/2018 at 10:00 PM, Bronxgirl48 said:

William Wyler's "The Letter"???

A great William Wyler film and one of Bette Davis' best roles, but.....noir??

I was appalled when Eddie spent time in the intro defending it as worthy of inclusion.

Who hired this guy?  Does he even choose the movies in this genre?  He seems to love playing the noir "expert" but I think Eddie is just overrated, arrogant, and frankly not even that knowledgeable or intelligent.

Note that the book Film Noir (Ward \ Silver),  also includes The Letter as a 'noir'.    Now the book makes it clear the film isn't a 'true' noir but instead has enough noir elements and like Stranger on the Third Floor represents very early examples of where this style was headed.     

I point this out because,  yea,  if one compares The Letter to classic noirs like Laura,  Out of the Past,  The Killers, etc...  then it is logical to say 'The Letter isn't like those films',   but when viewed to films that were made BEFORE The Letter,   one can see that Wyler was taking the film in a direction that wasn't common at the time.

As for Eddie;  note that he come here and chats with us.   To me he is friendly and knowledgeable and a welcomed addition to TCM's staff.  

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Distilled from William Ahearn The Death Of Film Noir

Charles O’Brien researched the use of “film noir” before the war in Film Noir In France: Before The Liberation

In its original coinage in the 1930s term was used in the newspapers and magazines of Paris.  It was coined by the political rightwing and that may be because many – but not all – of the film noirs were from the poetic realist movement that was closely associated with the leftist Popular Front. 

O’Brien writes, “references to film noir during the [pre-war years] often entailed denunciations of the moral condition of the cinema in France. Although critics during the late 1930s discussed film noir in terms of major developments in film history – tracing it to antecedents in German Expressionism and to French films such as ‘Sous les toits de Paris’ [Rene Clair’s ‘Under The Roofs of Paris’ 1930] – they typically attributed to film noir cultural connotations that were unambiguously negative.”

There are nine film noirs identified in O’Briens essay: Pierre Chenal’s “Crime and Punishment” (1935), Jean Renoir’s “The Lower Depths” (Les Bas-fonds) (1936), Julien Duvivier’s “Pépé le Moko” (1937), Jeff Musso’s “The Puritan” (1938), Marcel Carné’s “Port of Shadows” (Le Quai des brumes) (1938), Jean Renoir’s “La Bête Humaine” (1938), Marcel Carné’s “Hôtel du Nord” (1938), Marcel Carné’s “Le Jour se lève” (Daybreak) 1939, and Pierre Chenal’s “Le Dernier Tournant” (1939).

Five of the films are of the poetic realism movement (although as with anything else that could be debated): “The Lower Depths,” “Pépé le Moko,” Port of Shadows,” “La Bête Humaine” and “Le Jour se lève.” The other four films contain similar themes. In three of the films the protagonist commits suicide and suicide plays a role in two other films. In three of the films the protagonist is incarcerated or executed by the state. In one film the protagonist is killed senselessly. Three films have wives conspiring with lovers to kill husbands. In two films the protagonist survives with a lover although what follows that survival isn’t clear and in one film one lover is shot in a botched suicide pact. What also isn’t clear is whether there are more films called “noirs” that will show up with subsequent research and whether similar and earlier films made before the term “film noir” first hit ink are also film noirs.

The film noirs considered part of the poetic realism movement have a visual style that would influence the American crime film made both during and after the war with “Port of Shadows” being the most obvious example, the other films are made in different styles. The remaining films – “Hôtel du Nord” and “Le Dernier Tournant” – are filmed in a more conventional style although the content contains murder or suicide and the other social taboos that are a mainstay of the film noirs.

None of these films are about private detectives hard-boiled or otherwise and none of them are police procedurals or stories where the police – or any member of governmental society – are seen as heroic. The films are about the working class and those below the working class or, in a few films, what was once referred to as the Lumpenproletariat. In fact, there isn’t a single crime film – as that term is conventionally used – in the list. “Pépé Le Moko,” a film that centers on a fugitive criminal hiding in the Casbah of Algiers, is a film about memory and desire more than anything else and its suicide ending has to do with facing what the character believes he has lost and not the possibility of incarceration.

While I haven’t yet managed to find a copy of “Le Puritan,” IMBd.com contains this – in part – as a plot synopsis: “A religious fanatic finds his entire life and philosophy turned upside-down as he falls in love with a girl and kills her in a jealous rage. His search is for peace of mind and a desire to justify the murder of the girl to himself. His mind becomes distraught as he gropes trying to rationalize his deed and his world falls apart around him.”

Pauline Kael remarked in her review:

“Jean-Louis Barrault was [. . .] perfect for Liam O'Flaherty's psychological study of the murderer Ferriter,” wrote Kael, “a righteous reformer and sexually obsessed religious fanatic. Barrault's acting was so unusually objective that one respected this poor devil even at his most hopelessly self-deceived. [“Le Puritan”], condemned by New York's State Board of Censors in toto as ‘indecent, immoral, sacrilegious, tending to incite to crime and corrupt morals,’ is in perfectly good taste, but the censors had a reason for their stand: Ferriter is not only conceived as a censor type, he's actually engaged in this work in the film.”

The New York State Board of Censors would feel right at home reading the film criticism in some of the Paris newspapers. Writing in Action française in January 1938, the critic Francois Vinneuil called “Le Puritan” “a classic subject: the film noir, plunging into debauchery and crime.”

O’Brien notes that “It is appropriate that Vinneuil should refer to Le Puritain as a film noir because the film’s protagonist, played with theatricality by Barrault, is a young editorialist for the daily L’Etoile du matin whose denunciations of ‘foreign filth and atheist propaganda’ are so excessive that the paper’s editor fires him. Among the most prominent film critics of the [pre-war era], Vinneuil employed the term film noir in reviews that contributed to an evolving debate on the issues of film realism.”

As noted above, state censors in the US and the Motion Picture Production Code – commonly known as the Hays Office – in Hollywood were banning or refusing to give a seal – the only way a film could be shown in the major theatre chains – to movies considered unfit for audiences. In these cases, morality played a major role in the decision to ban or not to ban. “Hence,” the Production Code reads, “the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.” Although France had censors – Jean Vigo’s “Zéro de conduite” was banned in 1933 and Jean Renoir’s “The Rules of the Game” was banned in 1939 – none of the so-called “film noirs” were banned.

 

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On 6/5/2018 at 10:00 PM, Bronxgirl48 said:

William Wyler's "The Letter"???

A great William Wyler film and one of Bette Davis' best roles, but.....noir??

I was appalled when Eddie spent time in the intro defending it as worthy of inclusion.

Who hired this guy?  Does he even choose the movies in this genre?  He seems to love playing the noir "expert" but I think Eddie is just overrated, arrogant, and frankly not even that knowledgeable or intelligent.

I loved The Letter. It LITERALLY opened with a bang... I remember thinking " Did you have to empty the WHOLE clip into him Bette? " lmaoo... Definitely one of her best roles...

 

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On ‎6‎/‎19‎/‎2018 at 9:25 PM, jamesjazzguitar said:

Note that the book Film Noir (Ward \ Silver),  also includes The Letter as a 'noir'.    Now the book makes it clear the film isn't a 'true' noir but instead has enough noir elements and like Stranger on the Third Floor represents very early examples of where this style was headed.     

I point this out because,  yea,  if one compares The Letter to classic noirs like Laura,  Out of the Past,  The Killers, etc...  then it is logical to say 'The Letter isn't like those films',   but when viewed to films that were made BEFORE The Letter,   one can see that Wyler was taking the film in a direction that wasn't common at the time.

As for Eddie;  note that he come here and chats with us.   To me he is friendly and knowledgeable and a welcomed addition to TCM's staff.  

 All the great posts about this subject are welcome by me!

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On ‎6‎/‎21‎/‎2018 at 2:09 PM, Moorman said:

I loved The Letter. It LITERALLY opened with a bang... I remember thinking " Did you have to empty the WHOLE clip into him Bette? " lmaoo... Definitely one of her best roles...

 

25zjqkz.gif

 

11ttvvc.jpg

Bette never does anything half-way!

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I don't at all agree with BronxGirl, I very much like Noir Alley and Eddie Muller's comments both before and after.  Though the films are inevitably uneven, my main complaint is that Saturday midnight and Sunday 10 am are not convenient times.  Why not Saturday or Sunday 10pm for a Noir Alley regular schedule.

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2 hours ago, Barry S said:

I don't at all agree with BronxGirl, I very much like Noir Alley and Eddie Muller's comments both before and after.  Though the films are inevitably uneven, my main complaint is that Saturday midnight and Sunday 10 am are not convenient times.  Why not Saturday or Sunday 10pm for a Noir Alley regular schedule.

Since I'm on the West Coast,  I typically watch Noir Alley on Saturday at 9:00 (but since This-TV runs The Saint, from 9:00 to midnight,  I'm watching more of The Saint, since I have seen most noir films).    7:00 AM is too early for me on Sunday! 

Anyhow the issue is that TCM doesn't have both a west coast and east coast time zone broadcast.   But generally TCM favors those on the east coast;  e.g. 'prime time' is defined by EST. 

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5 hours ago, cigarjoe said:

Agree 12 midnight is too late, 10 PM EST would be better.

Again,   for 60% of the country.    What would be best is west and east coast feeds. 

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Bronxie, I have to agree with jamesjazzguitar. I'd like to add that Eddie Muller is a very personable, easygoing, audience-friendly host. I've known him for several years and visited with him during many of the TCM Film Festivals. He would be the first to discuss openly with you any of your concerns about his comments, films of any genre, and even the weather. 

I especially enjoyed many of his interviews with historians, children of major stars of noir, and authors. His visit with Chris Mitchum, for instance, revealed that he isn't afraid to ask the tough questions, or find guests relevant to Noir Alley screenings. I just hope they continue with his wonderful interviews. He also co-authored Tab Hunter's book, Tab Hunter Confidential, and helms all the Noir City fesstivals as well as many other projects. 

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On 6/19/2018 at 9:25 PM, jamesjazzguitar said:

...As for Eddie;  note that he come here and chats with us.   To me he is friendly and knowledgeable and a welcomed addition to TCM's staff.  

I fully agree that Eddie Muller is a major asset for TCM and its viewers.  TCM made a great decision in giving him two regular time slots.

I've seen posts elsewhere complaining about other TCM hosts just reading introductions that they allegedly haven't written, supposedly showing little personal knowledge about the films they're introducing.  I don't necessarily agree with those views about other hosts, but in any event, I don't think the criticism applies at all to Eddie Muller.  He obviously knows a great deal about noir from what he says during his intros and outros, and when I hear him, it sounds like he's speaking his own words, not someone else's.

For me, Eddie is exactly the kind of knowledgeable, engaging host that film buffs usually seem to be looking for.  I often watch his intros and outros even when I don't have time to watch the movie itself because I feel like I learn something from hearing Eddie talk about the subject.  He goes well beyond other intros on TCM by giving us a lot of detailed background on the films and their makers, even including pertinent film clips.   I can truthfully say that I've become more of a noir fan because of what I've learned from Muller's TCM appearances (as well as from his Dark City book).  (I've always liked film noir, but only recently have I made a point of learning more about it.)

I know there's a lot of lively debate in the noir world about what constitutes a film noir and related issues.  I don't know enough about those debates (yet) and how Eddie Muller figures in them to understand whether the underlying substantive arguments might affect how someone views Muller.   That's one of the things about the noir world that seems so distinctive to me, though -- that so many fans are knowledgeable about the films and have strong opinions.  I don't sense that kind of following for other film genres or styles.

As for The Letter, I had seen the Bette Davis version many times without ever thinking of it as a noir.  Yet, when I heard Muller's introduction, I thought, "Of course it's related to noir -- the visual style, the murder and betrayal at the heart of the story -- those are definitely noir elements."  It may not be the classic crime or detective story, usually (but not always) set in a dreary mid-century American city, that everyone would agree constitutes a "classic" film noir.  But I like the apparently expansive view that Muller brings to the question of what noir is.  I don't think he goes too far, though -- to me, he certainly doesn't undermine the whole idea of noir by finding it where it doesn't exist.  From my admittedly limited perspective, he seems to be showing us how influential the noir style/genre has been.

Keep up the great work, Eddie!

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