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cigarjoe

A True Noir Genre

30 posts in this topic

Lets call ourselves Noir Gods

 

And we are now creating from scratch the perfect *NOIR GENRE*.

 

We all sort of have an idea what Noir Style films are from a sampling of the 500 or so films labeled Film Noirs that already exist. And we also all know how ridiculously varied and fuzz the label has become, noir means many different things to many people, some titles seem to just basically be called “Noir” just for an advertising gimmick.

 

 

So….

 

 

Just like the Western Genre there are certain conventions that Westerns have used that became visually generic. So in creating a true *NOIR GENRE* we can now come up with a list of conventions and archetypes that will fit it. I’m drawing these conventions from the darkest and most stylistic Noirs that I’ve seen to date.

 

 

*The Big Combo*

*Crime Wave*

*Raw Deal*

*The Asphalt Jungle*

*He Walked By Night*

*Criss Cross*

*The Narrow Margin*

*Night And The City*

*Crossfire*

 

 

So here is my list of must haves for a *Film Noir Genre* film from this point in time on out:

 

 

*Cinematography* - Noir Stylistics - no fill light, Dutch angles, high contrast, shadows, etc. a feeling of claustrophobia should permeate throughout.

 

 

*Time Period* roughly between 1934 to 1960 + or - coinciding with aerodynamic cars, boxy square-ish cars are OUT

 

 

*Time of Day* - basically perpetual NIGHT less than 5% of the film should be ever in daylight. Daylight can be indicated by patterend light (Venetian blinds, etc permeating darkness) Daylight Noirs can fall under the Film Soleil Genre.

 

 

*Location* - at least 95 % of the film should be filmed in The City and its industrial periphery or a small town, no farms, mountains, beaches, forests, wilderness, unless at night and only 5%.

 

 

*Music* mostly 95% Jazz and Blues, Dino, Sinatra, Bennett, Horne, Holliday, etc., some rock & roll but absolutely no Beatles

 

 

*Storyline* 95% *CRIME* related and its diegetic world of characters and their usually shady forms of employment.

 

 

*Characters* either obsessed or alienated and adrift in a world out of their control.

 

 

*Voice Over Narration* to advance the story is always acceptable.

 

 

*Flashbacks* can be used to also to advance the story.

 

 

*Costuming* fedora hats a must for men or whenever appropriate, Women in heels, seamed stockings and garters always, unless naked. Smoking & Drinking mandatory

 

 

*Weather* overcast 50% of the film and some rain to provide pavement reflections

 

 

*Graphic Novel Style* as used in the film Sin City is perfectly acceptable in the Noir Genre in fact it may be the least expensive way to create the Diegetic Noir World of the Genre time period.

 

 

*Archetypes* that must always appear, bare lightbulbs in ceiling fixtures or hanging from cords, neon signs, etc., etc. we can make a should use list of these.

;-)

 

 

So what we should do from here on out is examine each of the criteria debate them and go into them in depth, or add any if something is missing (as in the archetypes) list iconic characters that should be in these films. If you have a list of favorite Noir Style films examine the elements used in their creation and discuss the elements rather than just say a film title.

 

 

Remember that We are also creating the Film Soliel Genre so the sun baked desert and crossroad diners Noir stylistic films that have more day than night should go into that new Genre.

B-)

 

Edited by: cigarjoe on Dec 29, 2011 11:49 PM

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Don't forget *Night and the City*, and I agree with much of your post on this issue. There are way too many films that are listed as Noir that were simply crime dramas of their day. Some are great films but should not be listed as noir when they have little special lighting or attitude in them.

 

There are some films that are considered classic noirs that I don't see as noirs but don't wish to stir any pots, lol. I have already named a few and that is probably enough. I like those movies as they are, but that extra noir element is missing for me.

 

I really wish this noir element had been defined early on to show what it meant, instead of how it evolved into so many movies. If people love the loose definition of noir then that is fine, I think that is the definition that will prevail as you can't get the rabbit back in the hat at this point. I think though as you point out there is really a list of definitive noir films and that list should be done without reference to what has been created by the "industry".

 

 

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As I have stated before the general topic of defining noir with some type of formula is of little interest to me. But you did make a comment that was very interesting to me: There are some films that are considered classic noirs that I don't see as noirs.

 

To me a more fruitful discussion is for someone to mention a specific movie(s) that they feel are defined as classic noir (naming the source if possible), and explain in as much detail as possible why they don't view the film as noir (or noir enough).

 

Note: I ask that the source be named since I often see strawman arguements here. Comment like 'they all claim XYZ'. Most of the time there is NO 'they' and this is just a cheap device for creating a strawman agreement.

 

Sorry but your last sentence makes no sense to me; There is NO real, definitive list. That is the folly of the entire game here. There is no real, definitive definition of noir and thus no real definitive list can be created. WHO would one trust to create such a list? HUMANS??? Thus there would be NO definitive consensus. IF there was any consensus it would by definition be by the "industry".

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'OUT OF THE PAST is considered to be a quintessential, and one of the best known, noirs. Most of it does NOT take place in the city.'

 

Exactly and its not very dark either with the Mexican and small town and fishing segments. Its a classic Film Noir as Film Noir style is defined now. The Asphalt Jungle is another that is not very dark.

 

But I'm saying lets create a FIlM NOIR GENRE some classic Film Noirs can be backed into it as defined above but a lot of them will be not dark enough

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I'm not trying to define noir as they exist now, its just a real can of worms, obviously, its a very loosley defined style and everyone has their own opinion of what fits it.

 

I'm saying from here on out let US narrowly define a *Noir Genre* and back existing films that fit our criteria into it.

 

*Out Of The Past* can stay comfortably where it is in Film Noir stylistic films along with *The Naked City* and others that don't fit into a hard core *Noir Genre*.

 

I'll give you that example of a film that is not noir enough but is considered a Noir, *The Big Steal* its more of a Crime/Road picture.

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I have already stated a couple in other threads, *The Big Heat* comes to mind, I think that is one film that is considered a Noir classic but it has little noir in it for me. It is simply a great crime drama. Almost no noir lighting, not enough dark characters, etc. A very comparable film to this one is *The Big Combo* which is much darker and what I would say is a real noir.

 

Another classic noir I don't consider noir is *Brute Force*. It is a very good prison drama that happens to be in a dank, dark prison. That dank, dark prison by itself doesn't make a film a noir, or else many horror movies could be shifted as also being noir.

 

Another film I would question as noir is *Gun Crazy*. That seems to be a noir classic based on the references to it yet I don't see enough noir in that one. The ending is somewhat noir but nearly all of the scenes leading up to it aren't really (no noir lighting). It's a great movie but I think of it as more of a great crime drama, and I love that movie. The one thing it does have is a femme fatale, but that alone should not make a film a noir.

 

There are others that I don't think are noir as well but the point is noir should be able to be defined as cigarjoe has done here. I think noir is not simply a time-period crime drama but also has special lighting, storyline and characters that make it noir.

 

As another comparison, *Night and the City* happens nearly all at night with creepy people trying to get ahead by any means. You have the lighting and the characters that make a noir. And when the sun finally rises at the end he gets tossed in the river.

 

So I think the way to categorize noir is as cigarjoe is trying here. You set a definition and then go with the movies that fit the definition. If you go by noir lighting as a criteria then most movies, a lot of movies, get tossed out. That is better than what we have now where you have almost any movie with a gun in it called noir now from that era.

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I'll agree with that, *The Big Heat* is a a good Crime film with some attributes of Noirs but its not stylistically anywhere near as dark and that hard core list, *Brute Force* is a Prison pic they are all basically dark that is their nature. *Gun Crazy* also isn't very dark stylistically and neither is *The Postman Always Rings Twice* for that matter.

 

With out having a concrete definition (or Genre) going in these noir style films are going to range all over the map like they do now, because they were never thought of as a genre. lol

 

Think about the Western Genre. A studio or a producer decides to make a Western, so they automatically say to themselves what do we need/do. Well the film needs to take place out WEST, it needs horses, cattle, cowboys, indians and their accouterments and paraphernalia. Wagons, saloons, dust, etc., etc., every one of us can rattle off a list of archetypes. And on the flip side we also know what a Western shouldn't have in it.

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Since joe and you imply a true noir must have a certain percent of noir lighting, the examples you give a good ones (as NOT being true noirs), since they fail to meet that definition.

 

While noir lighting as settings are a noir factor for me they are only one factor. I also focus on the characters, and their relationships. The movies mentioned do have noir characters and relationships but I agree not much noir lighting.

 

To me noir lighting was 'cool' in the early noirs of 40s (while it was still somewhat new) but after this it became a cheap way to make a movie get a noir feel. Make a movie with a so-so plot and characters but ensure there are scenes where there is a flashing neon sign in a run down motel room; Oh, we have true noir now (NOT!).

 

I do agree The Big Heat is more of a crime drama than a noir, but in my world even if the director would of added in some additional noir lighting it would still be more of a crime drama. But there is a limited noir element in the film with the way Ford treats the women in the film.

 

Gun Crazy is a noir to me because of the relationship between the two main characters and how it revolves around guns. That relationship is very noir even without the noir lighting.

 

How about Out of the Past which was mentioned before; That is one of THE noirs because of its noir characters, relationship and plot but other than the San Francisco scenes there isn't a whole not of noir lighting.

 

 

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Since very few directors said before shooting a film, "I am going to make a film noir", it is not surprising that most noirs lack one or more noir elements. Noirs have generally been classified as noirs after the fact, not in the planning stages.

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Well joe does make the point you are making in his post below when he mentions the western genre. But to me directors or producers that set out to make a western often made a so-so film. Like any genre to me the best westerns are those with great characters and stories that just happen to be set in the west. Take The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; That is a great movie that just happens to be set in the west and about the west (western expansion and the taming of the west). In many ways the movie betrays the western genre; For example, take the killing of Valance. For that scene to be a "true" western it would have to be a fight at dawn between Wayne and Valance where Wayne draws faster than Valance and the hero wins. But instead we seen Wayne murder Valance. My point? Movies are often better (elevated), when they are NOT true to their genre.

 

Edited by: jamesjazzguitar on Dec 30, 2011 2:05 PM

 

Edited by: jamesjazzguitar on Dec 30, 2011 5:47 PM

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Thanks, but you all can add to the Hard Core Noir list and expand upon the the must haves in the Noir Genre criteria.

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But there is no real Genre for Films Noir at this point in time, but I do get your point.

 

Its sort of the way I feel about those films that in another thread I listed as Near Noir, for instance *The Pawnbroker*, *Mr. Budwing* and *Requiem For A Heavyweight* to name three are sort of what you would call off Genre if there was a *Noir Genre*

 

 

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Sorry I don't understand your point or what you are trying to communicate when you say that there is 'no real Genre for Film Noir'.

 

Are you saying there is a real genre for western, or comedy etc..? As soon as one uses the term 'real' I find folly.

 

Again, who defines what the real genres are and what the criteria is for these real gernes?

 

Noir is a genre just like westerns, drama, romantic comedy, etc in that a genre has certain characterizes, BUT, there is wiggle room related to these characterizes in any genre. There is also a degree of overlap. I saw this in the discussion about screwball comedies and romantic comedies.

 

I believe one can do what you are doing with Noir for any genre; Come up with specific criteria and then say these are movies are the true to this criteria and those that are not. I do find all of this interesting but it has noting to do with determining what is real or not unless a specific 3rd party source is named (e.g. AFI defines a western as ,,,,,,), and even then this is just the opinion of one group.

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Clam down you seem to thrive on being contentious ;-).

 

There is *no* current Film Noir Genre at this point in time, it is just a style of a loose assemblage of films that came to fruition during the early 40's and ran for roughly 20 years. These particular films were noticed after WWII when Hollywood films began to be shown in France after the drought of the war years. French critics noticed a trend in the dark expressionistic style of certain films as the flood of films entered France and dubbed them Films Noir.

 

 

It an interesting thought but if there had been no war and the films had been released in a normal time frame we may not be debating this at all, they may never have been noticed in amongst all the rest.

 

I just recently finished Eddie Muller's "Dark City Dames" the Wicked Women of Film Noir and in it he interviews Coleen Gray, Jane Greer, Evelyn Keyes, Ann Savage, Audrey Totter, and Marie Windsor. And it was either Keyes, Totter, or Windsor that remarked to Muller about the current popularity of Film Noir that when they were making the films they didn't think they were anything special "we just thought they were cheap" so if anything maybe we should refer to them as the *Cheap Genre*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by: cigarjoe on Dec 31, 2011 7:17 PM

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Here is a definition of genre I found on Google:

 

"a class or category of artistic endeavor having particular form, content, technique, or the like".

 

TCM clearly believes their is a "film noir - gangster" genre since we are posting in a forum called that. Yea, TCM had to add 'gangster' to cover their bets but that just makes my point about the overlap between various genres.

 

Look at all the categories under the Genre Forum list. There is a lot of overlap. i.e. one could classify a specific movie in more than one of the genre categories mentioned.

 

To classic movies fans (e.g. the people at CFU) the term 'noir' clearly communicates films that have 'a particular form, content, technique or the like'.

 

I do agree that when they were making these films they didn't make them as noir movies like they would make westerns or horror movies for example (especially cheap ones). So if the main point was that noir wasn't a genre when the movies we label today as noir where made, I agree 100%.

 

and yea, I can be somewhat contentious. But that is only because I'm a noir type guy. :)

 

Edited by: jamesjazzguitar on Dec 31, 2011 7:31 PM

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We are trying to eliminate the confusion with this thread

B-)

 

Back to the task at hand, we all know the current state of Films Noir, all over the map with some insisting it is a Genre (though no one ever started out making a film in a Noir Genre) others saying it is a Style. All the stylistically noir films can sit happily as they are. But a select few can back into the new hard core genre.

 

In our Noir God world since we have defined a narrow hard core visually recognizable Noir Genre we can fantasize that some entity will actually pay attention to us and start out making a film in the *True Noir Genre*

 

Edited by: cigarjoe on Jan 4, 2012 6:27 AM

 

Edited by: cigarjoe on Jan 4, 2012 6:38 AM

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Oh, I have understood for many months what the intent was here, but thanks for making it very clear.

 

I stand by my POV; It is complete folly.

 

I cannot think of anything that would stifle the creative process as much as someone trying to make a movie so that it fits the true criteria of a genre.

 

Man, that sounds like a made for TV movie!!!

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I don't agree, I in fact think it would be very cool and very creative to actually set out to make a new Noir Genre of Film that would be instantly recognizable by its archetypes just like Westerns are.

 

In fact Just like the Hayes Code enhanced the creative process in various ways of getting around certain taboos the constraints of a Noir Genre could do likewise.

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Updated Hard Core Noirs so far that would fit the true *Noir Genre* ;-)

 

*The Big Combo*

*Crime Wave*

*Raw Deal*

*The Asphalt Jungle*

*He Walked By Night*

*Criss Cross*

*The Narrow Margin*

*Night And The City*

*Crossfire*

*Red Light*

*They Live By Night*

*Where Danger Lives*

*The Set Up*

*The Phantom Lady*

*Scarlett Street*

*The Window*

*99 River Street*

*Double Indemnity*

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Updated Hard Core Noirs so far that would fit the true *Noir Genre* ;-)

 

*The Big Combo*

*Crime Wave*

*Raw Deal*

*The Asphalt Jungle*

*He Walked By Night*

*Criss Cross*

*The Narrow Margin*

*Night And The City*

*Crossfire*

*Red Light*

*They Live By Night*

*Where Danger Lives*

*The Set Up*

*The Phantom Lady*

*Scarlett Street*

*The Window*

*99 River Street*

*Killers Kiss*

*The Killers*

*Double Indemnity*

 

*Correction* Earlier up the thread I was giving examples of Films Noir that aren't very visually dark and I listed *The Asphalt Jungle* as such a Noir, I can't correct it now but I meant to write *The Naked City*, I keep mentally switching them, sorry

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