Marianne

Film Noir to Neo-Noir: Transitions and Modern Noir

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You make some good points, but I just want to repeat here that the lists weren't all my doing. The first post on this discussion thread actually repeats a lot of input from the discussion thread that I started about Woody Allen's latest movie Irrational Man, and a lot of that input came from me and HEYMOE and VanHazard):

 

This discussion thread is based on ideas taken from the Summer of Darkness, HEYMOE, VanHazard, and me (Marianne). We’re working on defining neo-noir and all its subcategories and on compiling a list of neo-noir movies. This first post is simply a way to continue the discussion, which got started under the discussion thread called “Irrational Man: Neo-Noir Masquerading as a Film About Philosophy?” I hope the discussion includes reactions to seeing some of the movies.

I'm just making contributions to the original discussion  :)

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I'm starting to believe that what makes Neo Noirs authentic Neo Noirs for me,  is not only a heavy dose of Noir stylistic cinematography along with a simple Noir storyline, but also a bit of cinematic memory, when you can picture the stars in these Neos as inheritors of Classic Noir star parts, or see a nod to Classic Noir type locations combined with an old school, without bells & whistles, low budget, "B" film artistry you reach the tipping point into full blown Noirsville. 

 

Another thought to throw into the equation of what makes a Neo Noir is an individual internal factor. It's subjectivity. Noir is in all of us. Think of us all as having an internal tuning fork these tuning forks are forged by our life experiences which are all unique. When we watch these films their Noir-ness resonates with us differently, so we either tune to them or we don't. The amount of "tuning" (lol, watch sifi Neo Noir Dark City (1998) will vary between us also. 

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Another thought to throw into the equation of what makes a Neo Noir is an individual internal factor. It's subjectivity. Noir is in all of us. Think of us all as having an internal tuning fork these tuning forks are forged by our life experiences which are all unique. When we watch these films their Noir-ness resonates with us differently, so we either tune to them or we don't. The amount of "tuning" (lol, watch sifi Neo Noir Dark City (1998) will vary between us also. 

 

I’ve been thinking about this “noir is in all of us” factor in relation to Memento. The main character, Leonard, suffers from anterograde amnesia (he can no long form short-term memories since an attack on himself and his wife), and the structure of the plot forces the audience to identify with him and to feel some of his confusion. The film is told almost entirely from his point of view. His condition makes him an unreliable narrator, and because the audience is along for the ride, audience members feel his confusion as he experiences it.

 

I’m not sure that I would call this a different category or characteristic as a way to define neo-noir. Confusion definitely comes under the category of general angst (number 7 in our list). But the way it is used in neo-noir could differentiate it from classic noir.

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Another thought to throw into the equation of what makes a Neo Noir is an individual internal factor. It's subjectivity. Noir is in all of us. Think of us all as having an internal tuning fork these tuning forks are forged by our life experiences which are all unique. When we watch these films their Noir-ness resonates with us differently, so we either tune to them or we don't. The amount of "tuning" (lol, watch sifi Neo Noir Dark City (1998) will vary between us also. 

 

 

I’ve been thinking about this “noir is in all of us” factor in relation to Memento. The main character, Leonard, suffers from anterograde amnesia (he can no long form short-term memories since an attack on himself and his wife), and the structure of the plot forces the audience to identify with him and to feel some of his confusion. The film is told almost entirely from his point of view. His condition makes him an unreliable narrator, and because the audience is along for the ride, audience members feel his confusion as he experiences it.

 

I’m not sure that I would call this a different category or characteristic as a way to define neo-noir. Confusion definitely comes under the category of general angst (number 7 in our list). But the way it is used in neo-noir could differentiate it from classic noir.

 

 

Some interesting thoughts in this thread.   I agree with CigarJoe that Noir (and Neo Noir) is in all of us, and think that connects directly to your comments above re confusion and angst, etc. because they, too, are in all of us.   The same is true to varying degrees re our sense of alienation and estrangement, of our fears, anxieties, awareness (or lack thereof) of our own personal fatal flaws, and of our own ambitions, dreams, fantasies and secrets.  

 

In a very Conradian way, we are the Darkness, so it's not surprising that we can tune it in, any more than we can also project it, or infect others with it, and that some 'tunes' strike closer to home than others, but that may run equally strong through both noir and neo noir, etc.      

 

Something tells me that confusion might be a better indicator of difference between them.    Not sure I'm right, but I have the impression that entrapment, forced/compelled action, by virtue of something in the past or present that precludes other options, is more common to classic noir.   (Jeff's ongoing involvement with Kathie and Whit in Out of the Past, or Steve's frantic effort to free himself and wife of Radak's threats and menace in Desperate, as examples.)  

 

As noir evolves, however, and the world becomes more jaded and corrupt, and our individual and collective capacity to commit crimes ever more bold, ambitious and unspeakable continues to escalate, we seem to be more confused, besieged and perhaps disgusted by the options (or better yet, the illusions of them) presented to us than we are entrapped by them.  

 

In classic noir the rightness and wrongness of the choices are usually clear, and it's the path to them that's crooked, as characters are often forced to do something wrong in the desperate struggle to do something else right.    In neo noir the choices seem less clear, right and wrong have ceased to have compelling meaning because the world is as inscrutable as it is corrupt.   And seldom can informed choices be made because we're always fumbling around in the dark, working with partial or fabricated facts at best.   Noah Cross, in Chinatown, may well pronounce the anthem of neo noir, when he tells Jake Gittes "You may think you know what you're dealing with --- but believe me, you don't."  

 

In a world of lies, without meaningful guideposts and road signs we can trust, each hero/heroine or anti-hero/heroine must improvise and create their own personal right and wrong on a momentary basis, then recalibrate and reset their geographic and moral compass over and over again as the sands literally shift beneath their feet and repeatedly try to suck them in.  

 

Victory in neo noir, therefore, must also be tallied in small, momentary triumphs, because nothing and no one endures.  There is no truth.   As Nietzsche tells us: "Facts are precisely what there are not, there are only interpretations."   It's a hopeless, Sisyphean quest, and triumph entails not setting up court as king/queen of the mountain but in reaching the top-most crest of the endlessly climbing wave before we're cruelly hurled back to shore.  

 

This also dovetails with the fractured, non-linear way stories are now told.   In classic noir's narrative and extensive use of flashbacks a linear progression was generally adhered to, but in neo noir stories are shattered into fragments and fed to us piecemeal, out of sequence, often jarringly so; forcing us to piece the puzzle together as best we can, Rashomon-like, and this is where CiagrJoe's 'tuning' really comes in; because each of us will end up with a slightly different end-product depending on how we interpreted the fragments and pieced them together.      

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Another thought to throw into the equation of what makes a Neo Noir is an individual internal factor. It's subjectivity. Noir is in all of us. Think of us all as having an internal tuning fork these tuning forks are forged by our life experiences which are all unique. When we watch these films their Noir-ness resonates with us differently, so we either tune to them or we don't. The amount of "tuning" (lol, watch sifi Neo Noir Dark City (1998) will vary between us also. 

A thought to ponder. The metaphor with the tuning forks works for me.

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I’ve been thinking about this “noir is in all of us” factor in relation to Memento. The main character, Leonard, suffers from anterograde amnesia (he can no long form short-term memories since an attack on himself and his wife), and the structure of the plot forces the audience to identify with him and to feel some of his confusion. The film is told almost entirely from his point of view. His condition makes him an unreliable narrator, and because the audience is along for the ride, audience members feel his confusion as he experiences it.

 

I’m not sure that I would call this a different category or characteristic as a way to define neo-noir. Confusion definitely comes under the category of general angst (number 7 in our list). But the way it is used in neo-noir could differentiate it from classic noir.

 

Trust your instincts. I say yes- you can call “this” a different category. Today you are working on the thread’s first film and who’s to say you, I, or others will not come across something similar. If we fail to identify that which may be new or different, we could possibly miss that theme down the line.

 

We can always adjust, add, delete, re-phrase, expand the list.

 

I’m currently going over my notes on a neo-noir film I watched today and face either adding a category to the Classic List or identifying a new theme to modern neo-noir. Your post has encouraged me to continue thinking through that thought process-that I may be on the right track. This is what we want everyone one to do.

 

I believe its too early, at this stage, to say right or wrong to new themes. If the themes or categories we add are “one time only” meaning no other films we see and write on share the same- then we will know it does not apply.

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Another point to ponder between Noir and Neo Noir is that we had a generational sea change in the mid 60's, the rise of the counter culture, flower power, free love, etc., etc. The definition of what was cool went over to what the older "Noir Generation" would call the Dark Side. Suddenly millions of young adults were engaging activities that were illegal. They were cool and everyone older than 30 was not to be trusted. We all grew up and that fundamental sea change was reflected back into the mix of Neo Noir. 

 

The Big Lebowski (1998) is a great example of this change to the extreme, its the classic Noir mistaken identity story line where the every-man protagonist takes on the unofficial "detective mantel" to try and solve the case..

 

Though this every-man is a surviving 60s era stoner and instead of a fedora and trench-coat he traipse around in long hair, and a bathrobe. Its hilarious but its also Noir

 

Rambling on, another break point between Noir and Neo Noir is obviously smoking the Noir world is populated by tobacco smokers it's the original drug of the Native Americans its got ancient cultural roots its a touchstone of Noir, you could probably say the same about coffee but it's not as obvious, while Neo is everything else but, in effect. Neo doesn't have a universal "drug", lol.

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Trust your instincts. I say yes- you can call “this” a different category. Today you are working on the thread’s first film and who’s to say you, I, or others will not come across something similar. If we fail to identify that which may be new or different, we could possibly miss that theme down the line.

 

We can always adjust, add, delete, re-phrase, expand the list.

 

I’m currently going over my notes on a neo-noir film I watched today and face either adding a category to the Classic List or identifying a new theme to modern neo-noir. Your post has encouraged me to continue thinking through that thought process-that I may be on the right track. This is what we want everyone one to do.

 

I believe its too early, at this stage, to say right or wrong to new themes. If the themes or categories we add are “one time only” meaning no other films we see and write on share the same- then we will know it does not apply.

 

Maybe a two-column approach would work better, with Column A being Classic Noir and Column B being Neo onwards Noir, and then try listing the differences within the same basic themes/characteristics for both; using some of the core themes we've already outlined.   

 

Example:

 

                                                        Classic Noir                                         Neo Noir

 

Palette                                        B&W                                                               Mostly Color

Chiaroscuro                              Accentuated play light and shadow          Mute color, color creates mood

Narrative & Flashbacks         Mostly Linear                                                Increasingly non-linear, fractured

Historical Context                    WWII                                                               Korea, Vietnam, etc

Political Context                       Cold War, Red Menace, McCarthyism     Conspiracy, War on Drugs & Terror

Philosophical Overtones         Existential Angst, Alienation                      Nihilistic void, no consensus values

'Subversive Character'           Femme Fatale                                              Femme Fatale & Homme Fatale

Depiction of Violence                Often implied, suggested                          Graphic, often gratuitous

Psychology                                 Estrangement, confusion, amnesia          Estrangement, Alienation, confusion                                                                                                  as conditions to be cured                        as norm beyond cure

Entrapment/Forced action       As product of characters & Fate               As product of fatalistic/cynical life                                             Burden of Past on Present       No escaping the past                                 No escaping the past

Chance/Fate                                Fickle and Capricious                                 Cruelly fatalistic

View of Crime                              Socially unacceptable and corrosive       Acceptable, even admirable

Character vs Expertise             More character driven & reliant                  Expertise and prowess as ultimate                                                                                                                                                                             values

Sex as Power                               Nuanced, stylized, suggested, playful       Graphic, steamy, often wanton &                                                                                                                                                                                  violent

Thematic Intent                           Tell single story, few dots to connect           Present fragmented puzzle for 

                                                                                                                                        viewer to assemble own way

Moral Compass                             Polar extremes (Good vs Evil) clear           Moral ambiguity and chaos, 

                                                            though perhaps unattainable                         imposition of temporal values 

View of 'Law, Gov't, the                Mostly positive, corrupted by a                     'The System' & 'Establishment',  

  'Authorities' etc.                              few bad apples                                             and those connected with it as  

                                                                                                                                        more corrupt, evil and  insidious

                                                                                                                                         than almost any  crime or criminal.

 

 

Hope my columns remain intact when this is posted.   I just took a stab at some of the above.   They probably need tweaking, and there are doubtless others to add or consider, but this sort of an approach might better serve our discussions in what's the same and what's changed in the noir universe over the last sixty years.  

                                                                      

Any thoughts?

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Memento: A Neo-Noir

 

Why not apply some of the original ideas in this thread to a particular movie? For me, this was part of the raison d’être for this discussion thread all along.

 

The DVD of Memento includes an interview with Christopher Nolan, and he states clearly that he’s very comfortable calling Memento a film noir. And so am I. It certainly meets many of the criteria for the list we developed for this discussion thread:

 

1. . . . intense or muted color in movies filmed in color (. . . used to enhance the mood and/or the emotional content.) I didn’t feel like the color was manipulated in any way. Not like the narrative sequence, that’s for sure. Although the plot is essentially two different strands, one in black and white, with forward linear momentum, and one in color, with a backward linear momentum. I think this setup defines both the narrative sequence and the mood/emotional content.

2. Flashbacks The film is unconventional in its use of two chronologies: one in black and white, which is the story Leonard tells going from past to present (a typical chronology) and one in color, which is a series of sequences that are told in linear chronology but are arranged so that the story unfolds from the present back to the past. The technique emphasizes Leonard’s condition and helps the viewer experience it the way he does. It creates confusion and dread—very noir.

3. Narration See above for flashbacks. The narrative technique is very unusual. In fact, even after seeing the movie twice, I’m still not sure if Leonard is a drug dealer whose wife was attacked for a deal gone horribly wrong. Both Jimmy and Teddy claim to know him, and both are involved in drugs, although Teddy is supposed to be an undercover cop. Leonard as a narrator is unreliable simply because of his anterograde amnesia, which adds yet another layer to the confusion of the story.

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) Leonard is creating elaborate plans to avenge his wife’s death. Teddy is a corrupt undercover cop who is trying to get his hands on Jimmy’s car and the money stashed in the trunk.

5. Femme fatale Natalie is the perfect femme fatale. She uses Leonard’s disability to get him to kill Dodd. (Is this because Jimmy, Dodd, and Leonard were drug dealers working together?) And at one point, she not only spits a long and slow one into Leonard’s drink, she get another bar patron and Leonard himself to hawk one in, too. (It made me gag just writing about it!)

6. The instrument of fate One could make the claim that the chances of suffering from anterograde amnesia are so small that Leonard is automatically suffering it at the whim of fate. If everything Teddy says to Leonard is true, then he seems to be a victim of fate, too: I bet he never imagined Leonard would turn on him!

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, and so on) Natalie tells Leonard that he doesn’t feel any fear because he can’t remember enough to feel fear. But self-doubt certainly creeps in for Leonard, even if it doesn’t last very long. The entire conversation between Leonard and Teddy at the end of the movie is designed to make Leonard doubt everything he is trying reconstruct about his life. And I’m not sure I agree with Natalie: I think Leonard is afraid, for example, when he realizes that Dodd is after him with a gun; the fear just doesn’t last that long.

8. Violence or the threat of violence The plot of Memento hinges on a violent act that injures (?) Leonard and kills (?) his wife. Jimmy and Teddy are also the victims of violence.

9. Urban and nighttime settings Not applicable (N/A)

10. Allusion to post–World War II themes (N/A)

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness The world in Memento is a small cramped one of only a few characters (much like many classic films noir). It’s just Leonard and his memories and a few people helping him or misleading him (mostly misleading him). Leonard spends a good deal of time alone with his thoughts and his plans. And he is alienated from other people because of his anterograde amnesia. He and Teddy debate the uses and manipulations of memory in their final conversation. In the final scene, with Leonard driving to the tattoo parlor, he muses on the meaning of memory to the meaning of one’s existence.

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Anterograde amnesia is the reason for the unusual chronology. Without it, the movie wouldn’t be what it is, so it’s a major characteristic.

13. Greed Not a huge factor but certainly Teddy’s wish to steal Jimmy’s drug money from Leonard is part of his reason for manipulating Leonard.

14. Betrayal Leonard is betrayed by his own memory. Everybody is using him to get what they want. See number 15.

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” Leonard’s anterograde amnesia means he can’t trust anyone, and no one seems immune from following their self-interests at his expense. Teddy uses Leonard to get rid of drug dealers by claiming they killed his wife. Natalie uses Leonard to track down Dodd. Leonard may or may not have been a drug dealer himself before the attack that caused his brain injury. He’s the one, not Dodd, who hurts Natalie.

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” (N/A)

 

Thirteen out of sixteen: That qualifies Memento as a film noir in my opinion.

 

Apart from the noir/neo-noir analysis, I enjoyed Memento, although the second viewing seemed to be even more unsettling than the first. I have some unanswered questions about the film. Was Leonard’s wife really a diabetic, as Teddy claims? I would say that she was not and that Teddy was trying to manipulate Leonard by saying this to him. I think Leonard would have remembered that kind of detail about his wife because he would have known it before he was hurt in the attack. It’s true that there’s a quick shot of Leonard administering a shot in his wife’s thigh, but this is quickly replaced with him pinching her. And maybe it’s not insulin; maybe both of them were addicts and/or dealers. But I think it was a way to show the power of suggestion in forming and revising memories.

 

Was Leonard the one who was institutionalized? At the end, when Sammy is shown in the institution, there is one quick shot of Leonard sitting in the same chair, in the same spot.  Perhaps the black-and-white scenes, in a present-to-future chronology, are meant to show Leonard already institutionalized or imprisoned for the murders that he has committed. In other words, the first black-and-white scene actually occurs after Leonard has arrived at the tattoo parlor.

 

Was Leonard really an insurance investigator? I’m more inclined to believe that he was working with Jimmy and Dodd as a drug dealer and got himself into a bad deal. But the only proof I have is that both Jimmy and Dodd say that they know him. When Jimmy whispers a name to Leonard, it’s “Sammy,” not “Leonard.” And doesn’t Natalie know him, too?

 

Leonard seems to be living in a kind of limbo, but is that state caused by the anterograde amnesia, as he tells the audience? He’s an unreliable narrator, so can viewers believe him? Or was he killed in the attack, too? The film certainly seems otherworldly!

 

I guess a third viewing is in my future.

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Maybe a two-column approach would work better, with Column A being Classic Noir and Column B being Neo onwards Noir, and then try listing the differences within the same basic themes/characteristics for both; using some of the core themes we've already outlined.   

 

Example:

 

                                                        Classic Noir                                         Neo Noir

 

Palette                                        B&W                                                               Mostly Color

Chiaroscuro                              Accentuated play light and shadow          Mute color, color creates mood

Narrative & Flashbacks         Mostly Linear                                                Increasingly non-linear, fractured

Historical Context                    WWII                                                               Korea, Vietnam, etc

Political Context                       Cold War, Red Menace, McCarthyism     Conspiracy, War on Drugs & Terror

Philosophical Overtones         Existential Angst, Alienation                      Nihilistic void, no consensus values

'Subversive Character'           Femme Fatale                                              Femme Fatale & Homme Fatale

Depiction of Violence                Often implied, suggested                          Graphic, often gratuitous

Psychology                                 Estrangement, confusion, amnesia          Estrangement, Alienation, confusion                                                                                                  as conditions to be cured                        as norm beyond cure

Entrapment/Forced action       As product of characters & Fate               As product of fatalistic/cynical life                                             Burden of Past on Present       No escaping the past                                 No escaping the past

Chance/Fate                                Fickle and Capricious                                 Cruelly fatalistic

View of Crime                              Socially unacceptable and corrosive       Acceptable, even admirable

Character vs Expertise             More character driven & reliant                  Expertise and prowess as ultimate                                                                                                                                                                             values

Sex as Power                               Nuanced, stylized, suggested, playful       Graphic, steamy, often wanton &                                                                                                                                                                                  violent

Thematic Intent                           Tell single story, few dots to connect           Present fragmented puzzle for 

                                                                                                                                        viewer to assemble own way

Moral Compass                             Polar extremes (Good vs Evil) clear           Moral ambiguity and chaos, 

                                                            though perhaps unattainable                         imposition of temporal values 

View of 'Law, Gov't, the                Mostly positive, corrupted by a                     'The System' & 'Establishment',  

  'Authorities' etc.                              few bad apples                                             and those connected with it as  

                                                                                                                                        more corrupt, evil and  insidious

                                                                                                                                         than almost any  crime or criminal.

 

 

Hope my columns remain intact when this is posted.   I just took a stab at some of the above.   They probably need tweaking, and there are doubtless others to add or consider, but this sort of an approach might better serve our discussions in what's the same and what's changed in the noir universe over the last sixty years.  

                                                                      

Any thoughts?

I certainly appreciate the effort you put forth here. It presents another way to organize the huge amount of data we are collecting. This all started with a thread created by Marianne on August 10th "Irrational Man: Neo-noir Masquerading as a Film about Philosophy?" and it has led us here. Hoping others join the four of us in our quest to study modern neo-noir.

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I don't think Pallet and Chiaroscuro considered separately are enough, you have to have to consider them as part of the Cinematography as a whole, I've seen plenty of so called Neo Noir that don't have any, zip, zero, noir-ish camera angles, they just don't convey enough Noirness for me, they end up being just Crime Genre.

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I don't think Pallet and Chiaroscuro considered separately are enough, you have to have to consider them as part of the Cinematography as a whole, I've seen plenty of so called Neo Noir that don't have any, zip, zero, noir-ish camera angles, they just don't convey enough Noirness for me, they end up being just Crime Genre.

 

Agree.   Chart is intended as a work-in-progress we can tweak as we go along.  

 

Deciding what's noir/neo noir and not noir/neo noir is a separate issue.   I think once we get things further defined/refined we might consider some sort of basic formula to decide such issues...like...if we have 'X' number of core elements/categories that constitute noir and neo noir then perhaps a film needs to have 'X' number of those qualities to qualify...but it's always going to be subjective and too rigid/restrictive a set of criteria might be counter-productive in the end.  

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Memento: A Neo-Noir

 

Why not apply some of the original ideas in this thread to a particular movie? For me, this was part of the raison d’être for this discussion thread all along.

 

The DVD of Memento includes an interview with Christopher Nolan, and he states clearly that he’s very comfortable calling Memento a film noir. And so am I. It certainly meets many of the criteria for the list we developed for this discussion thread:

 

1. . . . intense or muted color in movies filmed in color (. . . used to enhance the mood and/or the emotional content.) I didn’t feel like the color was manipulated in any way. Not like the narrative sequence, that’s for sure. Although the plot is essentially two different strands, one in black and white, with forward linear momentum, and one in color, with a backward linear momentum. I think this setup defines both the narrative sequence and the mood/emotional content.

2. Flashbacks The film is unconventional in its use of two chronologies: one in black and white, which is the story Leonard tells going from past to present (a typical chronology) and one in color, which is a series of sequences that are told in linear chronology but are arranged so that the story unfolds from the present back to the past. The technique emphasizes Leonard’s condition and helps the viewer experience it the way he does. It creates confusion and dread—very noir.

3. Narration See above for flashbacks. The narrative technique is very unusual. In fact, even after seeing the movie twice, I’m still not sure if Leonard is a drug dealer whose wife was attacked for a deal gone horribly wrong. Both Jimmy and Teddy claim to know him, and both are involved in drugs, although Teddy is supposed to be an undercover cop. Leonard as a narrator is unreliable simply because of his anterograde amnesia, which adds yet another layer to the confusion of the story.

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) Leonard is creating elaborate plans to avenge his wife’s death. Teddy is a corrupt undercover cop who is trying to get his hands on Jimmy’s car and the money stashed in the trunk.

5. Femme fatale Natalie is the perfect femme fatale. She uses Leonard’s disability to get him to kill Dodd. (Is this because Jimmy, Dodd, and Leonard were drug dealers working together?) And at one point, she not only spits a long and slow one into Leonard’s drink, she get another bar patron and Leonard himself to hawk one in, too. (It made me gag just writing about it!)

6. The instrument of fate One could make the claim that the chances of suffering from anterograde amnesia are so small that Leonard is automatically suffering it at the whim of fate. If everything Teddy says to Leonard is true, then he seems to be a victim of fate, too: I bet he never imagined Leonard would turn on him!

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, and so on) Natalie tells Leonard that he doesn’t feel any fear because he can’t remember enough to feel fear. But self-doubt certainly creeps in for Leonard, even if it doesn’t last very long. The entire conversation between Leonard and Teddy at the end of the movie is designed to make Leonard doubt everything he is trying reconstruct about his life. And I’m not sure I agree with Natalie: I think Leonard is afraid, for example, when he realizes that Dodd is after him with a gun; the fear just doesn’t last that long.

8. Violence or the threat of violence The plot of Memento hinges on a violent act that injures (?) Leonard and kills (?) his wife. Jimmy and Teddy are also the victims of violence.

9. Urban and nighttime settings Not applicable (N/A)

10. Allusion to post–World War II themes (N/A)

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness The world in Memento is a small cramped one of only a few characters (much like many classic films noir). It’s just Leonard and his memories and a few people helping him or misleading him (mostly misleading him). Leonard spends a good deal of time alone with his thoughts and his plans. And he is alienated from other people because of his anterograde amnesia. He and Teddy debate the uses and manipulations of memory in their final conversation. In the final scene, with Leonard driving to the tattoo parlor, he muses on the meaning of memory to the meaning of one’s existence.

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Anterograde amnesia is the reason for the unusual chronology. Without it, the movie wouldn’t be what it is, so it’s a major characteristic.

13. Greed Not a huge factor but certainly Teddy’s wish to steal Jimmy’s drug money from Leonard is part of his reason for manipulating Leonard.

14. Betrayal Leonard is betrayed by his own memory. Everybody is using him to get what they want. See number 15.

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” Leonard’s anterograde amnesia means he can’t trust anyone, and no one seems immune from following their self-interests at his expense. Teddy uses Leonard to get rid of drug dealers by claiming they killed his wife. Natalie uses Leonard to track down Dodd. Leonard may or may not have been a drug dealer himself before the attack that caused his brain injury. He’s the one, not Dodd, who hurts Natalie.

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” (N/A)

 

Thirteen out of sixteen: That qualifies Memento as a film noir in my opinion.

 

Apart from the noir/neo-noir analysis, I enjoyed Memento, although the second viewing seemed to be even more unsettling than the first. I have some unanswered questions about the film. Was Leonard’s wife really a diabetic, as Teddy claims? I would say that she was not and that Teddy was trying to manipulate Leonard by saying this to him. I think Leonard would have remembered that kind of detail about his wife because he would have known it before he was hurt in the attack. It’s true that there’s a quick shot of Leonard administering a shot in his wife’s thigh, but this is quickly replaced with him pinching her. And maybe it’s not insulin; maybe both of them were addicts and/or dealers. But I think it was a way to show the power of suggestion in forming and revising memories.

 

Was Leonard the one who was institutionalized? At the end, when Sammy is shown in the institution, there is one quick shot of Leonard sitting in the same chair, in the same spot.  Perhaps the black-and-white scenes, in a present-to-future chronology, are meant to show Leonard already institutionalized or imprisoned for the murders that he has committed. In other words, the first black-and-white scene actually occurs after Leonard has arrived at the tattoo parlor.

 

Was Leonard really an insurance investigator? I’m more inclined to believe that he was working with Jimmy and Dodd as a drug dealer and got himself into a bad deal. But the only proof I have is that both Jimmy and Dodd say that they know him. When Jimmy whispers a name to Leonard, it’s “Sammy,” not “Leonard.” And doesn’t Natalie know him, too?

 

Leonard seems to be living in a kind of limbo, but is that state caused by the anterograde amnesia, as he tells the audience? He’s an unreliable narrator, so can viewers believe him? Or was he killed in the attack, too? The film certainly seems otherworldly!

 

I guess a third viewing is in my future.

 

 

Like your analysis and approach.   Unfortunately, Memento is one of only a handful of films on our neo noir list I haven't seen, so cannot comment further until after I've seen it.  

 

Several of your comments, however, reminded me of another recurring element in neo noir and other contemporary films in general, that I'll refer to as an extended and deliberate disorientation, even displacement, on the part of either a character, the viewer or both.   

 

I'll use two recent films as examples, both, curiously, including Ben Kingsley in the cast:  Scorsese's Shutter Island (2010) and Brad Anderson's Stonehearst Asylum (2014)...both of which take my quote from Noah Cross, "You may think you know what you're dealing with --- but believe me, you don't" to new heights.

 

Viewers are deliberately deceived in both films, hijacked, along with some of the characters, into embracing a reality that's false.  The story narrative and structure aim to deceive us, and we share the growing disorientation of one or more of the characters as doubts are raised about the validity of one world while our suspicions that other realities are increasingly stoked.   

 

Some of that same disorientation seems to be at play in Memento.   It's just another device in the arsenal of noir/neo noir. especially as our ability, as viewers, to piece fragmented, non-linear storylines together has become more sophisticated.  

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Memento: A Neo-Noir

 

Why not apply some of the original ideas in this thread to a particular movie? For me, this was part of the raison d’être for this discussion thread all along.

 

The DVD of Memento includes an interview with Christopher Nolan, and he states clearly that he’s very comfortable calling Memento a film noir. And so am I. It certainly meets many of the criteria for the list we developed for this discussion thread:

 

1. . . . intense or muted color in movies filmed in color (. . . used to enhance the mood and/or the emotional content.) I didn’t feel like the color was manipulated in any way. Not like the narrative sequence, that’s for sure. Although the plot is essentially two different strands, one in black and white, with forward linear momentum, and one in color, with a backward linear momentum. I think this setup defines both the narrative sequence and the mood/emotional content.

2. Flashbacks The film is unconventional in its use of two chronologies: one in black and white, which is the story Leonard tells going from past to present (a typical chronology) and one in color, which is a series of sequences that are told in linear chronology but are arranged so that the story unfolds from the present back to the past. The technique emphasizes Leonard’s condition and helps the viewer experience it the way he does. It creates confusion and dread—very noir.

3. Narration See above for flashbacks. The narrative technique is very unusual. In fact, even after seeing the movie twice, I’m still not sure if Leonard is a drug dealer whose wife was attacked for a deal gone horribly wrong. Both Jimmy and Teddy claim to know him, and both are involved in drugs, although Teddy is supposed to be an undercover cop. Leonard as a narrator is unreliable simply because of his anterograde amnesia, which adds yet another layer to the confusion of the story.

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) Leonard is creating elaborate plans to avenge his wife’s death. Teddy is a corrupt undercover cop who is trying to get his hands on Jimmy’s car and the money stashed in the trunk.

5. Femme fatale Natalie is the perfect femme fatale. She uses Leonard’s disability to get him to kill Dodd. (Is this because Jimmy, Dodd, and Leonard were drug dealers working together?) And at one point, she not only spits a long and slow one into Leonard’s drink, she get another bar patron and Leonard himself to hawk one in, too. (It made me gag just writing about it!)

6. The instrument of fate One could make the claim that the chances of suffering from anterograde amnesia are so small that Leonard is automatically suffering it at the whim of fate. If everything Teddy says to Leonard is true, then he seems to be a victim of fate, too: I bet he never imagined Leonard would turn on him!

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, and so on) Natalie tells Leonard that he doesn’t feel any fear because he can’t remember enough to feel fear. But self-doubt certainly creeps in for Leonard, even if it doesn’t last very long. The entire conversation between Leonard and Teddy at the end of the movie is designed to make Leonard doubt everything he is trying reconstruct about his life. And I’m not sure I agree with Natalie: I think Leonard is afraid, for example, when he realizes that Dodd is after him with a gun; the fear just doesn’t last that long.

8. Violence or the threat of violence The plot of Memento hinges on a violent act that injures (?) Leonard and kills (?) his wife. Jimmy and Teddy are also the victims of violence.

9. Urban and nighttime settings Not applicable (N/A)

10. Allusion to post–World War II themes (N/A)

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness The world in Memento is a small cramped one of only a few characters (much like many classic films noir). It’s just Leonard and his memories and a few people helping him or misleading him (mostly misleading him). Leonard spends a good deal of time alone with his thoughts and his plans. And he is alienated from other people because of his anterograde amnesia. He and Teddy debate the uses and manipulations of memory in their final conversation. In the final scene, with Leonard driving to the tattoo parlor, he muses on the meaning of memory to the meaning of one’s existence.

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Anterograde amnesia is the reason for the unusual chronology. Without it, the movie wouldn’t be what it is, so it’s a major characteristic.

13. Greed Not a huge factor but certainly Teddy’s wish to steal Jimmy’s drug money from Leonard is part of his reason for manipulating Leonard.

14. Betrayal Leonard is betrayed by his own memory. Everybody is using him to get what they want. See number 15.

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” Leonard’s anterograde amnesia means he can’t trust anyone, and no one seems immune from following their self-interests at his expense. Teddy uses Leonard to get rid of drug dealers by claiming they killed his wife. Natalie uses Leonard to track down Dodd. Leonard may or may not have been a drug dealer himself before the attack that caused his brain injury. He’s the one, not Dodd, who hurts Natalie.

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” (N/A)

 

Thirteen out of sixteen: That qualifies Memento as a film noir in my opinion.

 

Apart from the noir/neo-noir analysis, I enjoyed Memento, although the second viewing seemed to be even more unsettling than the first. I have some unanswered questions about the film. Was Leonard’s wife really a diabetic, as Teddy claims? I would say that she was not and that Teddy was trying to manipulate Leonard by saying this to him. I think Leonard would have remembered that kind of detail about his wife because he would have known it before he was hurt in the attack. It’s true that there’s a quick shot of Leonard administering a shot in his wife’s thigh, but this is quickly replaced with him pinching her. And maybe it’s not insulin; maybe both of them were addicts and/or dealers. But I think it was a way to show the power of suggestion in forming and revising memories.

 

Was Leonard the one who was institutionalized? At the end, when Sammy is shown in the institution, there is one quick shot of Leonard sitting in the same chair, in the same spot.  Perhaps the black-and-white scenes, in a present-to-future chronology, are meant to show Leonard already institutionalized or imprisoned for the murders that he has committed. In other words, the first black-and-white scene actually occurs after Leonard has arrived at the tattoo parlor.

 

Was Leonard really an insurance investigator? I’m more inclined to believe that he was working with Jimmy and Dodd as a drug dealer and got himself into a bad deal. But the only proof I have is that both Jimmy and Dodd say that they know him. When Jimmy whispers a name to Leonard, it’s “Sammy,” not “Leonard.” And doesn’t Natalie know him, too?

 

Leonard seems to be living in a kind of limbo, but is that state caused by the anterograde amnesia, as he tells the audience? He’s an unreliable narrator, so can viewers believe him? Or was he killed in the attack, too? The film certainly seems otherworldly!

 

I guess a third viewing is in my future.

 

 

Excellent write up as usual.

 

From your post:

2. Flashbacks The film is unconventional in its use of two chronologies: one in black and white, which is the story Leonard tells going from past to present (a typical chronology) and one in color, which is a series of sequences that are told in linear chronology but are arranged so that the story unfolds from the present back to the past. The technique emphasizes Leonard’s condition and helps the viewer experience it the way he does. It creates confusion and dread—very noir.

3. Narration See above for flashbacks. The narrative technique is very unusual. In fact, even after seeing the movie twice, I’m still not sure if Leonard is a drug dealer whose wife was attacked for a deal gone horribly wrong. Both Jimmy and Teddy claim to know him, and both are involved in drugs, although Teddy is supposed to be an undercover cop. Leonard as a narrator is unreliable simply because of his anterograde amnesia, which adds yet another layer to the confusion of the story.

 

Could the red highlights above be new themes applicable to modern neo-noir?

 

a) unconventional flashback chronology 

B) I have no idea how this popped in. I have tried to delete but it will not

B)

B) unusual narrative technique

 

If so, these would be the first two entries in our list of Modern neo-noir themes.

 

Modern neo-noir must have classic noir elements to start with- in this case you identified thirteen out of sixteen and I agree that Memento qualifies as a film noir.

 

Memento could be considered a modern-neo noir if a & b above are identified as new themes applying to modern neo-noir solely and if future films we see here share the same themes.

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A couple of weeks ago I watched Criss Cross (1949) today I watched The Underneath (1995) it's a good way to compare Noir with bad Neo Noir.  It's almost a shot by shot remake with the chronology shuffled about a bit but boy does the story suffer for the tweaks.. The Steve & Anna characters called Mike & Allison in The Underneath are given more of a backstory. In the post feminist world Anna/Allison is more sympathetic its Mike who has done her wrong in the past piling up gamboling debts and skipping in the night when his luck turns.

 

Steve/Mike's policeman friend is now also his brother. His mother is recently re-married to the armored car company employee who gets Mike the job. It really lacks from these changes and the uninteresting color cinematography. The only bright spot was the Dundee character who had a remarkable resemblance to Classic Noir actor Dane Clark. For me its a Crime film that's a NIPO, Noir In Plot Only. 

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The Usual Suspects (1995 )

5 production companies listed

 

Classic noir themes are evident very early in this story, about a heist or two, with sinister characters, mostly told in flashbacks and first-person narration.

 

The usual suspects (5) are rounded up and presented in a police lineup. Each is told to step forward and read a line handed to them. All seem a bit annoyed but unconcern as they read their line in comedic fashion. We then see each being interrogated by detectives in classic noir Chiaroscuro; the light so bright, that shadows are cast over the eyes by their brows in otherwise fully lilted face.

 

Most of our attention is focused on the interrogation of Verbal (Kevin Spacey) by Detective Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri). Verbal survives an explosion on a cargo ship where police find 27 bodies and $91 million and Kujan wants answers from him. He begins to tell his story beginning with events six weeks ago when he was 1 of 5 suspects in a police line up.

Director Bryan Singer does exceptional work filming the interrogation. I counted at least ten times where he returns to the room (after showing us visuals of Verbal’s story) and each time he shows us new angles, new positioning of the actors, different points of view, and various zoom-ins with panning or tracking around the actors.

 

Classic noir themes

1. Chiaroscuro (use of bright light)

2. Flashbacks (conventional)

3. Narration (standard use)

4. Crime/planning a crime (heist)

5. Greed (reason for the heist)

 

New themes observed

 

a. Narcotics (in this case cocaine)

b. Arson (to cover a crime)

c. Pool table or pool hall (as a meeting place)

d. Peripetia (sudden and unexpected reversal of circumstances)

   Villain becomes a victim then back to villain instantly

I’m trying to avoid spoilers

 

The Usual Suspects has solid noir themes and introduces new ones. Therefore I suggest we keep it in mind for possible inclusion to permanent modern neo-noir list.

 

This thread was unavailable to me most of the afternoon. Other threads were ok. I can not figure it out.

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The Usual Suspects (1995 )

5 production companies listed

 

Classic noir themes are evident very early in this story, about a heist or two, with sinister characters, mostly told in flashbacks and first-person narration.

 

The usual suspects (5) are rounded up and presented in a police lineup. Each is told to step forward and read a line handed to them. All seem a bit annoyed but unconcern as they read their line in comedic fashion. We then see each being interrogated by detectives in classic noir Chiaroscuro; the light so bright, that shadows are cast over the eyes by their brows in otherwise fully lilted face.

 

Most of our attention is focused on the interrogation of Verbal (Kevin Spacey) by Detective Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri). Verbal survives an explosion on a cargo ship where police find 27 bodies and $91 million and Kujan wants answers from him. He begins to tell his story beginning with events six weeks ago when he was 1 of 5 suspects in a police line up.

Director Bryan Singer does exceptional work filming the interrogation. I counted at least ten times where he returns to the room (after showing us visuals of Verbal’s story) and each time he shows us new angles, new positioning of the actors, different points of view, and various zoom-ins with panning or tracking around the actors.

 

Classic noir themes

1. Chiaroscuro (use of bright light)

2. Flashbacks (conventional)

3. Narration (standard use)

4. Crime/planning a crime (heist)

5. Greed (reason for the heist)

 

New themes observed

 

a. Narcotics (in this case cocaine)

b. Arson (to cover a crime)

c. Pool table or pool hall (as a meeting place)

d. Peripetia (sudden and unexpected reversal of circumstances)

   Villain becomes a victim then back to villain instantly

I’m trying to avoid spoilers

 

The Usual Suspects has solid noir themes and introduces new ones. Therefore I suggest we keep it in mind for possible inclusion to permanent modern neo-noir list.

 

This thread was unavailable to me most of the afternoon. Other threads were ok. I can not figure it out.

 

I've been mulling about this discussion thread and I notice a couple of things. First, I'm still not a big fan of categories. I do think they are useful for discussing classic films noir and neo-noir, but parsing categories into additional smaller subcategories doesn't seem useful. At least not to me. And that brings me to the second thing. I really enjoy movies, and if I keep describing characteristics of categories and subcategories, I won't have time to see more movies! Or even have time to see movies a second time.

 

I like our original list, with fine-tuning in bold:

 

Borrowings from film noir to define neo-noir and modern neo-noir:

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color (In either black and white or color, the technique is used to enhance the mood and/or the emotional content.)

2. Flashbacks

3. Unusual narration

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder)

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale

6. The instrument of fate

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst)

8. Violence or the threat of violence

9. Urban and nighttime settings

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional)

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia)

13. Greed

14. Betrayal

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on)

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good”

 

It seems to me that most of the additional themes presented in this discussion thread for neo-noir are really variations on themes from this list. For example, "arson to cover up a crime" -- isn't that a variation of number 4, Crime/planning a crime?

 

Neo-noir will be neo-noir because of the way that the films expand on the list? We can account for changes in technology and variations in themes, narration, and so on, as we go along?

 

I've put The Usual Suspects on my list! It has been so long since I've seen it that it will be like seeing it for the first time.

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I've been mulling about this discussion thread and I notice a couple of things. First, I'm still not a big fan of categories. I do think they are useful for discussing classic films noir and neo-noir, but parsing categories into additional smaller subcategories doesn't seem useful. At least not to me. And that brings me to the second thing. I really enjoy movies, and if I keep describing characteristics of categories and subcategories, I won't have time to see more movies! Or even have time to see movies a second time.

 

I like our original list, with fine-tuning in bold:

 

Borrowings from film noir to define neo-noir and modern neo-noir:

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color (In either black and white or color, the technique is used to enhance the mood and/or the emotional content.)

2. Flashbacks

3. Unusual narration

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder)

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale

6. The instrument of fate

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst)

8. Violence or the threat of violence

9. Urban and nighttime settings

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional)

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia)

13. Greed

14. Betrayal

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on)

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good”

 

It seems to me that most of the additional themes presented in this discussion thread for neo-noir are really variations on themes from this list. For example, "arson to cover up a crime" -- isn't that a variation of number 4, Crime/planning a crime?

 

Neo-noir will be neo-noir because of the way that the films expand on the list? We can account for changes in technology and variations in themes, narration, and so on, as we go along?

 

I've put The Usual Suspects on my list! It has been so long since I've seen it that it will be like seeing it for the first time.

 

Okay, so going forward, we’ll do away with additional smaller subcategories, which I agree, will simplify the process and also puts us all on the same page. The original list of 16 (with fine tuning) shall remain our benchmark for defining neo-noir and modern neo-noir.

 

I neglected to mention in my post, how much I enjoyed watching The Usual Suspects a second time. Sometimes I remember  some movies being very good then realize how much fun they are when I get to view them again.  

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I've been mulling about this discussion thread and I notice a couple of things. First, I'm still not a big fan of categories. I do think they are useful for discussing classic films noir and neo-noir, but parsing categories into additional smaller subcategories doesn't seem useful. At least not to me. And that brings me to the second thing. I really enjoy movies, and if I keep describing characteristics of categories and subcategories, I won't have time to see more movies! Or even have time to see movies a second time.

 

I like our original list, with fine-tuning in bold:

 

Borrowings from film noir to define neo-noir and modern neo-noir:

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color (In either black and white or color, the technique is used to enhance the mood and/or the emotional content.)

2. Flashbacks

3. Unusual narration

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder)

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale

6. The instrument of fate

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst)

8. Violence or the threat of violence

9. Urban and nighttime settings

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional)

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia)

13. Greed

14. Betrayal

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on)

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good”

 

It seems to me that most of the additional themes presented in this discussion thread for neo-noir are really variations on themes from this list. For example, "arson to cover up a crime" -- isn't that a variation of number 4, Crime/planning a crime?

 

Neo-noir will be neo-noir because of the way that the films expand on the list? We can account for changes in technology and variations in themes, narration, and so on, as we go along?

 

I've put The Usual Suspects on my list! It has been so long since I've seen it that it will be like seeing it for the first time.

There are a number of Classic Noirs that use the anti-city the desert as a setting, and even more Neo Noirs that do so I don't know how that fits with your initial list.

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Okay, so going forward, we’ll do away with additional smaller subcategories, which I agree, will simplify the process and also puts us all on the same page. The original list of 16 (with fine tuning) shall remain our benchmark for defining neo-noir and modern neo-noir.

 

I neglected to mention in my post, how much I enjoyed watching The Usual Suspects a second time. Sometimes I remember  some movies being very good then realize how much fun they are when I get to view them again.  

 

 

There are a number of Classic Noirs that use the anti-city the desert as a setting, and even more Neo Noirs that do so I don't know how that fits with your initial list.

 

The list of neo-noir characteristics is always going to have exceptions, which was true of classic noirs. The Hitch-Hiker comes to mind as a film noir that didn’t take place in an urban setting. But the exceptions don’t disprove anything really. I think that’s my point!

 

We can point out exceptions when we discuss the films that we think are neo-noir—or modern neo-noir, or postmodern neo-noir, or whatever else we want to call them. The fact that a film meets thirteen out of sixteen characteristics for noir (which is the point I made in my post about Memento) makes a very strong case for calling that film a neo-noir.

 

From what we’ve been posting and discussing so far, it seems that neo-noir is a rather tight category—with perhaps more exceptions than classic noir. Maybe that’s what we’ll end up proving by this little experiment on this discussion thread.

 

If we keep the descriptions of the characteristics on our list simple, more films will fit the category of neo-noir, which is fine with me. That seemed to be the case for the films that we saw for the Summer of Darkness.

 

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 neo-noir—or modern neo-noir, or postmodern neo-noir

 

This seems excessive, why so many categories, what is your reasoning?
 
I did something similar a few years back with a different genre, Westerns
 
Westerns that were made in the 1939-1973 "Golden Age of The Western" (both in film & TV) have a certain pallet, part of it is a look that we who lived through that period or those of us that are Western Aficionados or just have seen a lot of Westerns recognise as being the "correct look"  a feel that is the "correct feel" and certain traits that comprize the "correct deportment's" for a Western.  Once you get those conventions correct then you can, within those conventions,  try and push the envelope in a creative way.
 
Granted that during that time period there was a gradual FLEXABILITY in character motivations between 1939 and and the early 1960's, look at the controversy surrounding the psychological Westerns and notably "High Noon". Later a more jarring one with comming of the anti hero in the Spaghetti Westerns, but the conventional look stayed generally within the same boundaries. We also had a more realistic depiction of violence ratcheted up over that period. 
 
Our stable of actors that could make a convincing lead in a Western are limited.  In the Golden Age the lead actor had a weary weathered leathery look and was usually in his thirties or older and was show to be wise beyond his years.  The actors in their twenties played the young hot heads or the naive and inexperienced kids who usually made a fatal mistake and got blown away early. Now a days the scheme is turned on its head,  its the young adults and teens who are showed to be more knowledgeable than their elders, it may be playing to today's audience demographics but it doesn't ring true.
 
On top of all that you had a stable of conventional character actors who made a CAREER of just appearing in film Westerns and in TV Westerns who also contributed to that same "correct look" over the transitional change from cowboy as boyscout to cowboy as antihero in the span of their lives.
 
Forget the hewing close to historical accuracy BS, or trying to hard to get the archaic speech patterns correct, the more modern directors attempt to make a Western too true to the actual historical West the farther they get away from the classic Western and its look. 
 
Watching a Western should be like slipping into a comfortable old pair of shoes.
 
Its almost like trying to make a modern Film Noir,  it just doesn't look quite right. The difference with Film Noir and Neo Noir is for more obvious and readily understandable reasons, in Neo Noir everything looks to crisp, clear and new, you don't have that contemporary for the time post WWII rundown shabby outdoor locations and can't get new stockfootage to match the old look, nor do you have,  the steam locomotives the rolling stock, etc., etc., Noir was contemporary with the historical time it was shot and you are not shooting in Black & White on top of all that.  
 
For Westerns it shouldn't be THAT hard to get that classic look and old pair of shoes feeling correct, its just costuming, and the classic landscapes can be revisited and give an instantaneous cachet to a project and there are still a lot of great untapped landscapes out there available that are way more accessible in this day and age than in the past. 
 
The urban environment has changed drastically eliminating the things that gave it its Noir-ish atmosphere. Just take lighting alone, i.e. classic neon light are replaced with "light box" signage, there are no bare incandescent light bulbs, Mercury vapor street lights, etc., etc.
 
I think this is why Desert set Neo Noirs "tune" better with me, the Desert doesn't change it still looks like it did in the 40s & 50s giving Neo Noir films set there an unmistakable cache.

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This seems excessive, why so many categories, what is your reasoning?

 

 

 

Posted 22 August 2015 - 12:18 PM

Just a quick note about the tags for this discussion thread. I'm actually not a big fan of categories, but when reading about later films noir, one sees all sorts of categories meant to apply to films that aren't classic film noir (classic film noir being those noir films made between 1941 and 1958). I didn't want to leave any ideas out, so I added all the tags I could think of that might apply.

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Posted 22 August 2015 - 12:18 PM

Just a quick note about the tags for this discussion thread. I'm actually not a big fan of categories, but when reading about later films noir, one sees all sorts of categories meant to apply to films that aren't classic film noir (classic film noir being those noir films made between 1941 and 1958). I didn't want to leave any ideas out, so I added all the tags I could think of that might apply.

 

OK thanks.

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The list of neo-noir characteristics is always going to have exceptions, which was true of classic noirs. The Hitch-Hiker comes to mind as a film noir that didn’t take place in an urban setting. But the exceptions don’t disprove anything really. I think that’s my point!

 

We can point out exceptions when we discuss the films that we think are neo-noir—or modern neo-noir, or postmodern neo-noir, or whatever else we want to call them. The fact that a film meets thirteen out of sixteen characteristics for noir (which is the point I made in my post about Memento) makes a very strong case for calling that film a neo-noir.

 

From what we’ve been posting and discussing so far, it seems that neo-noir is a rather tight category—with perhaps more exceptions than classic noir. Maybe that’s what we’ll end up proving by this little experiment on this discussion thread.

 

If we keep the descriptions of the characteristics on our list simple, more films will fit the category of neo-noir, which is fine with me. That seemed to be the case for the films that we saw for the Summer of Darkness.

 

From what we’ve been posting and discussing so far, it seems that neo-noir is a rather tight category—with perhaps more exceptions than classic noir.

 

I suspect that Neo Noir  can be as tenuous and amorphous a category to pin down as is Noir, but more so, and that, as you suggested in an earlier post, whether a film 'qualifies' as one or the other is more the result of a preponderance of traits and characteristics rather than any focus on just one or two.  

 

Further complicating any firm definition of Neo Noir is the fact that so many of the core elements of Noir had, by the Late Fifties/Early Sixties, become common throughout film in general.    Chiaroscuro, flashbacks, non-linear storylines, femme and homme fatales, violence, entrapment, crime in myriad forms, alienation and nihilism, corruption, ominous and forbidding locales (urban or not), etc., etc. became common tropes and devices in virtually every type of film made worldwide.   Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and that certainly applies to the more familiar tropes of Noir.    

 

I guess one question that emerges is: at heart, is Neo Noir glancing back or looking forward?    Is Neo Noir telling old stories in new ways, or is it using the tropes and motifs of classic Noir to tell new stories?   

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