cigarjoe

The Noir Zone

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If French critics Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton hadn't come up with the concept of Film Noir in their 1955 book Panorama du film noir américain 1941–1953 (A Panorama of American Film Noir) we may have had an alternative catch-all name by 1959.

 

Think about it, what "Noir-ish" anthology TV series of unrelated stories containing drama, crime, psychological thriller, fantasy, science fiction, western, suspense, and horror, often concluded with a macabre or unexpected twist?

 

This is exactly the way Film Noirs played out with drama, crime, psychological thriller, fantasy, science fiction, western, suspense, and horror type films, though we may in these longer film length stories get more than one twist, no?

 

Answer: The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)

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I never really gave much thought to these two Frenchmen and their article before exploring this website.

Not sure why, except that I always look at noir from a structural perspective. Why is it different than other films? How is it able to achieve the effects that it does? Those are the questions to start with.

Whereas, this Gallic pair --and their rather fumbling first look at 'dark US films they hadn't seen thanks to WWII'-- is more of an 'aristocratic' argument for what is noir.

Incorrectly-defined noir thus comes down to us via 'lineage' and 'pedigree' as a result.

Its a taxonomic argument; one based on nomenclature and claddistics rather than analysis. "These gentlemen said what noir was and ...(even if they said it in error) ...therefore that must be what it is. They said so!".

But they get things off on completely the wrong foot, unfortunately. Might have done more harm than good!

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Groan 🙄

The term “film noir” seems to have been first coined by the political right-wing 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.

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.

In August 1946, L'Écran français published Nino Frank’s article A New Kind of Police Drama: the Criminal Adventure. He begins by citing “seven new American films that are particularly masterful: ‘Citizen Kane,’ ‘The Little Foxes,’ ‘How Green Was My Valley,’ plus, ‘Double Indemnity,’ ‘Laura,’ and, to a certain extent, ‘The Maltese Falcon’ and ‘Murder My Sweet.’” He then focuses only on the crime films.

“They belong,” Frank wrote of the crime films, “to a class that we used to call the crime film, but would best be described from this point on by a term such as criminal adventures, or better yet, such as criminal psychology.” He goes on to note the passing of the Golden Age of mysteries – as practiced by S. S. Van Dine – to the new writers such as Dashiell Hammett.

“Laura,” he notes, belongs to the “outdated genre” and it is “lacking in originality but perfectly distracting and, one can say, successful.” What saves “Laura” as a film for Frank is “a complicated narrative, a perverse writer who is prosaic but amusing, and foremost a detective with an emotional life.”

“For the other three, the method is different. They are,” Frank wrote, “as what one might call ‘true to life.’ The detective is not a mechanism but a protagonist.” He notes that the films end with scenes that “are harsh and misogynistic, as is most of contemporary American literature.” And he adds, “I would not go so far as to say these films are completely successful. While “The Maltese Falcon” is “quite exciting,” “Murder My Sweet” is “very uneven and at times vacuous.”

Jean-Pierre Chartier – the other French critic who used the term “film noir” – wrote Americans Also Make Noir Films for La Révue du Cinéma in November of 1946. In that article he discusses three films: “Murder My Sweet,” “Double Indemnity” and “The Lost Weekend.”

 

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Groan is kinda right. It's my reaction too. These Frenchies! My goodness!

You need to maybe relocate and reside in France, rather than just quoting Frenchmen to me. Yes, I'm aware of the dusty relationship to 'poetic realism'. Moot. Little in your above copy / paste tells me anything new; nor does it effectively further or progress the discussion on noir.

Look at where your quoted text wends its way back to: right back to the inadequate summary of noir as 'just a visual style'.

This notion is worse than 'quaint'. Its almost criminal. Its 'French film institute' foppery. I could poke holes in it for a year and not run out of staves.

But I digress. Let me point out that I am not the visitor to this forum, who is ever saying that it matters at all, when the term 'noir' was invented, where it was invented, why it was invented, or by whom it was invented.

The 'phrase' matters not in the slightest. For God's sake consider the source.

As I and others on this forum have oft-reminded you the term is too vague, too bandied-about, and too distant-in-time to be taken as a 'hard definition'. The only places you find it lauded in that sense, is in bad 'film lover' books.

Back on track. Let's use our own eyes and our own brains to assist us here rather than harkening back to dogma. The text supporting the sweeping, 'noir is a visual style' encomium is never adequate. How can I accuse this?

Well, just look at the above! I mean, what you pasted! The evidence is right there! You call that scholarship? I call it slovenly. Its merely a bloke tossing out adjectives, subjective reactions, personal impressions of films he happened to see. Superlatives upon superlatives. Its as if he's writing in a bubble or a vacuum.

If you want to talk about the 'difference' between Hammett and SS Van Dyne, I'll certainly oblige you sometime. In another spot in this thread, you observe this:

Quote

There is a difference between a detective story and a hard boiled detective story. In the the regular detective story a murder is committed and the detective goes meticulously about discovering/detecting clues and logically figures out who done it. This is Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Peter Whimsy.  

Something that --frankly--wouldn't take much to shoot the bottom out of and watch it sink to a watery death.

But I've probably been too lazy lately, to get around to it. I can't lounge around sipping Pernod, smoking Gallois from a cigarette holder, adjusting my beret, and listening to beatnik music.

I also prefer to respect my elders whenever possible, and libate my table with the milk of human kindness, and I don't want to spend my every evening abusing the heck out of fellow film buffs!

This remark of yours on the other hand,

Quote

And what does a film being a detective story have to do with Noir. There are hardly any detective stories compared to the bulk of Film Noir. I don't get your focusing on this one small aspect of Film Noir.

would likely be a fun, engaging, and informative chat. Glad to dip into it sometime.

Detective and mystery gets far too short a shrift around here compared to noir; when its arguably as massive a subject. Probably even more. Detective/mystery stories are the 'big brother' to noir and lend themselves to much finer, more granular dissection.

 

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Yawnnn.

The term “film noir” seems to have been first coined by the political right-wing 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.

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.

In August 1946, L'Écran français published Nino Frank’s article A New Kind of Police Drama: the Criminal Adventure. He begins by citing “seven new American films that are particularly masterful: ‘Citizen Kane,’ ‘The Little Foxes,’ ‘How Green Was My Valley,’ plus, ‘Double Indemnity,’ ‘Laura,’ and, to a certain extent, ‘The Maltese Falcon’ and ‘Murder My Sweet.’” He then focuses only on the crime films.

“They belong,” Frank wrote of the crime films, “to a class that we used to call the crime film, but would best be described from this point on by a term such as criminal adventures, or better yet, such as criminal psychology.” He goes on to note the passing of the Golden Age of mysteries – as practiced by S. S. Van Dine – to the new writers such as Dashiell Hammett.

“Laura,” he notes, belongs to the “outdated genre” and it is “lacking in originality but perfectly distracting and, one can say, successful.” What saves “Laura” as a film for Frank is “a complicated narrative, a perverse writer who is prosaic but amusing, and foremost a detective with an emotional life.”

“For the other three, the method is different. They are,” Frank wrote, “as what one might call ‘true to life.’ The detective is not a mechanism but a protagonist.” He notes that the films end with scenes that “are harsh and misogynistic, as is most of contemporary American literature.” And he adds, “I would not go so far as to say these films are completely successful. While “The Maltese Falcon” is “quite exciting,” “Murder My Sweet” is “very uneven and at times vacuous.”

Jean-Pierre Chartier – the other French critic who used the term “film noir” – wrote Americans Also Make Noir Films for La Révue du Cinéma in November of 1946. In that article he discusses three films: “Murder My Sweet,” “Double Indemnity” and “The Lost Weekend.”

Obviously our French allies had a gut reaction to the first handful of American films shown in Paris after WWII they reminded them of the original Noir films of the late thirties so they subjectively called them Film Noir, end of story.

 

 

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Joe Cool said:

Quote

 

If French critics Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton hadn't come up with the concept of Film Noir in their 1955 book Panorama du film noir américain 1941–1953 (A Panorama of American Film Noir) we may have had an alternative catch-all name by 1959.

Think about it, what "Noir-ish" anthology TV series of unrelated stories containing drama, crime, psychological thriller, fantasy, science fiction, western, suspense, and horror, often concluded with a macabre or unexpected twist?

This is exactly the way Film Noirs played out with drama, crime, psychological thriller, fantasy, science fiction, western, suspense, and horror type films, though we may in these longer film length stories get more than one twist, no?

Answer: The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)

 

Going back to the first post in this thread. This bit of 'wool-gathering aloud' gets stranger and stranger every time I run my eyes down it. You ask us to "think about it" ..."humor you", as it were. -_-

But "thinking about it" seriously--"entertaining" this notion--shows how awry and off-base it is. As if "macabre twists" found in unrelated stories..."makes them noir". As if studio-era movie productions depended on 'accidents'. Certainly not the case.

And remember, (as you point out in other messages), terms like 'noir' aka 'dark' were already being used in the 1930s for pulp literature.

So if these two dunces hadn't committed their grotesque error in 1955, film criticism would probably be a lot clearer and less muddled today. That's what would have happened. We wouldn't today be suffering meaningless phrases like "noir-ish". :(

But anyway, alright, you posed this one. I can pose one back a better one.

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What would have happened if all four of these French dunderheads had met in 1950 to watch a few more American movies and one of them happened to be a "BLACK" comedy?

Answer: I don't noir :lol:

-----------------------------------------------------------------

p.s. your other post asked "why noir is so rigidly defined by date?". Like I said, the answer is right there. Look at their book title: "Panorama du film noir américain 1941–1953". They're the guys responsible for putting films in brackets. French "critics". :huh:

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8 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

p.s. your other post asked "why noir is so rigidly defined by date?". Like I said, the answer is right there. Look at their book title: "Panorama du film noir américain 1941–1953". They're the guys responsible for putting films in brackets. French "critics". :huh:

Oh you are so clever, everybody come and read what Sgt_ writes......

It was a 

rhetorical question 

oh grandiose one.

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15 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

But anyway, alright, you posed this one. I can pose one back a better one.

Relax, it's not a contest.

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