Marianne

Film Noir to Neo-Noir: Transitions and Modern Noir

347 posts in this topic

I'm glad that you put "rescues" in quotation marks! I haven't seen Taxi Driver in some time, but I remember a discussion with someone else who had seen the film and thought that Travis was Iris's savior. If I'm not mistaken, Travis never once asks Iris what she wants. Yes, she is living a life of exploitation and abuse, but Travis has his own vision of what Iris should have in life and doesn't have any way to provide it for her once he destroys everything that she knows. And he doesn't know if Iris wants what he wants her to have! I think the character of Travis really expands the definition of and the criteria for homme fatale in many ways.

 

Exactly right...Travis is on a trajectory all his own, and Iris, like Betsy and everyone else in the film are simply along for the ride.  He really does expand the concept of 'homme fatale', as you say.   As I noted, he's a ticking time bomb; the tension inside him, and in the film, builds and builds until he explodes.   

 

I also like the ending, because Scorsese actually just sets the spring inside Travis all over.  Nothing's changed.  We're back where we started. Travis is still cruising the streets picking up the refuse of the cities sordid shores, and every day the spring winds another notch tighter until he'll go off on another crusading spree to cleanse the squalor and 'rescue' someone else.  

 

It's really unsettling, and it's wonderful.    

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Two suggested Policier Neo Noir Films from classic Noir era directors. (Hustle, is listed under Neo Noir in "Film Noir The Encyclopedia", while Dirty Harry is listed in "Detours And Lost Highways a Map Of Neo Noir" by Foster Hirsch) 

 

Dirty Harry (1971) Dir. Don Siegel stars Clint Eastwood, Andrew Robinson, watching it through Noir tinted glasses, it's listed on some lists of Neo Noir films, it is dark in tone, and Harry and Scorpio are obsessed and alienated individuals. The night time sequences are just night time sequences you could say some shots suggest or are slightly Noir-ish, the sequence where Harry is getting a bead on Scorpio with the Jesus Saves sign looming in the b.g. is a great example, the sequence of the money drop with it's climax at the concrete cross is similar, but that shot where a dazed Harry looks up at the cross would have been a no brainer to shoot at a Dutch angle, but no it's squared to the frame. There are some nice noir-ish shots of San Francisco's sleazy, porno, tenderloin district, and the Kezar Stadium sequence culminating with the finding of the nude girls body with the Golden Gate in the b.g. It's Noir -Lite, as a Neo Noir it's visually a 6/10 as a film it's 9/10 (according to Hirsch, it's only marginally noir, I concur.) 

 

 

Hustle (1975) Directed by Robert Aldrich stars Bert Reynolds, Catherine Deneuve, Ben Johnson, and Paul Winfield. This is also on Neo Noir lists and deservedly so, it does look like a Noir lots of shots with out a fill light and with copious amounts of other Noir-ish segments. Its problem is that it's almost too character driven and the only believe-able characters are Johnson and Winfield. I don't buy the Deneuve-Reynolds relationship for a minute. Reynolds past baggage i.e., his Southern goof off, good old boy persona is so engraved in my mind that it overpowers, he can't overcome it for me. Some times you get stereo typed/branded too strongly. You could say the same thing about Eastwood only his baggage is of a bad a$$ and that's an asset in Crime Noir. Reynolds best film for me (that I've seen) is still Deliverance he didn't talk a whole lot in that. As Neo Noir its visually an 8/10 as a stand alone film it misses for me, 6/10.

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I'd probably rank Taxi Driver a little higher on the Neo Noir scale.    I think it qualifies in all the categories you check off, and a few you don't.

 

In ways, Travis is a homme fatale, a ticking time bomb who could go off and strike out at any time.   He's fixated, obsessive, at war with himself and the squalid urban world he prowls at night in his cab.   He's also a stalker of sorts, however well-intended, and for a while during the film you think he might target Betsy.    

 

Also think Psychology does apply here, albeit not in the conventional sense of hypnosis, amnesia, etc., but in Bickle's case, a man on the verge of a breakdown.  

 

And, the way Travis 'rescues' Iris from her pimp in that riveting scene qualifies as both a variation on the very noir 'tarnished knight rescues damsel in distress' motif as well as a variation on the theme of 'expertise triumphs' outside of good and evil.  Travis is neither and both at the same time; another reminder that good and evil become increasingly irrelevant in neo noir.    

It is not unusual when viewing films, to see things others do not or vice versa. You say that in ways, Travis is a homme fatale and list the reasons why. I have no reasons to say, this is not so.

 

On my part though, I see thing a little different. Travis never does harm or brings harm to either Betsy or Iris. He is never seductive or uses them for selfish reasons. They never become victims of his. Travis does not have an agenda wherein he needs them to further a cause. There lies my pause. Homme fatale in Taxi Driver hides  somewhere in the shadows. It may very well exit, but it is not clear to me.

 

I believe you may have a stronger grasp on what constitutes a homme fatale and therefore, I need to further familiarize myself with this archetype.

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It is not unusual when viewing films, to see things others do not or vice versa. You say that in ways, Travis is a homme fatale and list the reasons why. I have no reasons to say, this is not so.

 

On my part though, I see thing a little different. Travis never does harm or brings harm to either Betsy or Iris. He is never seductive or uses them for selfish reasons. They never become victims of his. Travis does not have an agenda wherein he needs them to further a cause. There lies my pause. Homme fatale in Taxi Driver hides  somewhere in the shadows. It may very well exit, but it is not clear to me.

 

I believe you may have a stronger grasp on what constitutes a homme fatale and therefore, I need to further familiarize myself with this archetype.

 

I think it's less that I have a 'stronger grasp' on what constitutes a homme fatale (or anything else, for that matter), than perhaps a broader definition of it.   To me, the key element in being a homme or femme fatale is that they are dangerous, even lethal characters.   Who they are dangerous/lethal for is almost immaterial...it can be someone with whom they're romantically attached or interested, a rival or competitor, or, in Travis Bickle's instance, target of fixation or even a complete stranger.   

 

Scorsese uses Bickle's internal volatility in a very 'Hitchcockian' way: he establishes that Travis is a man on the edge, I've used the term a ticking time bomb, and then sets in motion a panoply of possible targets Travis could conceivably strike out at: Betsy, Palantine, Iris, Sport, Iris's pimp, etc.  Travis's final choice of targets is interesting in better defining Travis's character, but not his condition and volatility.   He doesn't pick the woman who spurned him, or the stock politician out of central casting, or perhaps a co-worker or irritating random fare, but rather Iris, a lost-puppy of sorts that Travis fixates on without, as Marianne earlier noted, having the slightest idea of who she was or what she wanted.  Why Travis is interested in Iris is never really explained.    

 

In the end, it's not about Iris at all, or Sport, or Betsy.   It's only about Travis, who, despite outwards appearances and newspaper clipping calling him a hero, is actually as sick, unhinged and volatile when Taxi Driver ends as he was when it began.   He's simply relieved the tension inside himself, but it's a cycle that promises to repeat itself again and again.   

 

To me, a femme or homme fatale just has to be dangerous; they unleash death, carnage, chaos, mayhem, betrayal, jealousy, greed and a host of other deadly sins upon the world.   They can be evil, but not necessarily so.   They can harbor these ills within or simply be carriers or hosts of them; infecting those around them without necessarily succumbing to them themselves.   Yes, they can and often are seductive, but seduction is only one way of being irresistible, and it's irresistability...which is probably not a word...but conveys my meaning, that I think lies at the heart of femme and homme fatales...you know they're 'off', dangerous, even lethal, but you usually cannot deny them or walk away.   

 

Regardless of gender, 'fatales' are all Medusa's...you can't look away even though you know you'll be turned to stone in the end.  Why you invite that destruction has nothing to do with Medusa, but everything to do with those who dare to glance her way.  

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Adding Tightrope (1984) to the Neo Noir List

 

I really love when this happens. As a serious Noir Aficionado when I get interested in a subject, i.e., Noir, I investigate all aspects of it, its sources and influences, hard-boiled detective and crime novels, pulp paperbacks, Black Mask and True Crime/Detective Mags, the Jazz age, the culture at the end of prohibition and WWII,the Blacklist and the transition to the Cold War, etc, etc,. 
 
And, like me, I'm sure you all also check out or buy every book you can get your hands on about Noir to acquire more insight, more background, more films to pursue to fill your appetite. I enjoyed TCM's Summer of Darkness, also, participating in the class, the discussions and getting to re-watch some of the great, and see for the first time some of the forgotten Noirs. 
 
I happy to say I've seen a lot of Noirs over the last five years easily over 300, and the new ones now are either marginally noir or very low budget. I was happy to catch The Female Jungle recently. It's not listed in Selby's Dark City The Film Noir, it's not in the first edition of Film Noir An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style it did make the 2010 edition. So, there are still films out there waiting to be seen and re-discovered and added to the canon. 
 
The same goes for Neo Noirs, but with Neo's it's even worse, Noir is a new craze, fad, the in-thing, Noir has a certain cachet that can add to sales for a particular film, and you'll find that there are films that are "no-brainers" as being no question "mainline" Noirs that aren't even mentioned, while others, that are a real stretch at being classified as so, that are included in lists. It makes you wary, it makes you question the author's knowledge or the extent of their research. It makes you curious to explore on your own. 
 
Recently I re-watched a Don Siegle/Clint Eastwood collaboration Dirty Harry (1971), Siegle was one of the last of the Classic Noir directors, and the film did have some noir-ish sequences it's a good film but Noir lite. One thing it did was that it got me thinking and I remembered a much better Eastwood Neo Noir candidate. It wasn't very popular or particularly successful at it's original release because it wasn't your typical Eastwood vehicle, he played against type and his fans at the time didn't take to it. 
 
Tightrope was Written and Directed by Richard Tuggle, though there are rumors that Eastwood either helped out or took over at some point. But judging from the comparison of style between this and other Eastwood directed films something doesn't quite wash. This film is very dark in subject matter and stylistically extremely Noir, more so than anything else ever directed by Eastwood so something must be attributed to Tuggle and a definite shout out to cinematographer Bruce Surtees. Right now, I'd say its one of the best set in New Orleans, Neo Noirs, others, that come to mind are The Big Easy, Johnny Handsome, Angel Heart, and The Drowning Pool
 
The story, a recently divorced and somewhat alienated (from average women) Detective raising two daughters, enables his inner "demons" and gets his various sexual outlets/kicks with prostitutes in the Latin Quarter/Bourbon Street red light district of New Orleans. Soon the regular hookers he frequents in his district start showing up dead, sexually violated and strangled. He at first suppresses his connection to the victims, possibly questioning his own sanity, but as the serial killer gets closer to hearth and home, clues and detective work ultimately close the case in a denouement that you could say homages the ends of Act Of Violence, The City That Never Sleeps, and Highway 301. It's got a great jazzy/bluesy score too boot. It's easily a 10/10. 
 
I'll do a full blown review once I catch up with the others already in my queue. 
 
If you haven't seen it for a while watch it again with your Noirdar on, you wont be disappointed.
 
Chronological Neo Noir list:
 
 
Blast Of Silence (1961) 
 
Underworld USA (1961) 
 
Something Wild (1961) 
 
Cape Fear (1962) 
 
Experiment In Terror (1962) 
 
Satan in High Heels (1962) 
 
The Manchurian Candidate (1962) 
 
Shock Corridor (1962) 
 
Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) 
 
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
 
The Naked Kiss (1964) 
 
The Pawnbroker (1964) 
 
Brainstorm (1965) 
 
Once A Thief (1965) 
 
Harper (1966) 
 
Mr. Buddwing (1966) 
 
In Cold Blood (1967) 
 
In The Heat Of The Night (1967) 
 
Marlowe (1969) 
 
The Honeymoon Killers (1970) 
 
Shaft  (1971)
 
Across 110th Street (1971) 
 
The Getaway (1971) 
 
Get Carter (1971) 
 
Hickey & Boggs (1972) 
 
Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia (1974) 
 
The Nickel Ride (1974)
 
Chinatown (1974)
 
The Drowning Pool (1975) 
 
Farewell My Lovely (1975)
 
Night Moves (1975) 
 
Taxi Driver (1976) 
 
Dressed to Kill (1980) 
 
Union City (1980) 
 
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)
 
Body Heat (1981) 
 
Thief (1981)
 
Blade Runner (1982) 
 
Hammett (1982) 
 
Blood Simple (1984) 
 
Tightrope (1984)
 
To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)
 
Blue Velvet (1986) 
 
Angel Heart (1987) 
 
Frantic (1988) 
 
Kill Me Again (1989)
 
The Grifters (1990) 
 
The Kill-Off (1990) 
 
The Hot Spot (1990) 
 
Wild At Heart (1990) 
 
Impulse (1990)
 
Dick Tracy (1990) 
 
Delicatessen (1991) 
 
Reservoir Dogs (1992) 
 
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) 
 
Romeo Is Bleeding (1993)
 
True Romance (1993) 
 
The Wrong Man (1993) 
 
The Last Seduction (1994) 
 
Pulp Fiction (1994) 
 
Se7en (1995) 
 
Fargo (1996) 
 
Mulholland Falls (1996) 
 
Hit Me (1996)
 
Jackie Brown (1997) 
 
L.A. Confidential (1997) 
 
Lost Highway (1997) 
 
This World, Then the Fireworks (1997) 
 
Dark City (1998) 
 
A Simple Plan (1998) 
 
The Big Lebowski (1998) 
 
Payback (1999)
 
Night Train (1999) 
 
The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) 
 
Mulholland Drive (2001) 
 
Sin City (2005) 
 
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
 
No Country For Old Men (2007) 
 
Dark Country (2009)
 
The Killer Inside Me (2010)
 
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (2014)
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The Manchurian Candidate (1962, dir. John Frankenheimer)

 

I wish we could do a side-by-side comparison because we agree for different reasons. I would call The Manchurian Candidate a neo-noir that’s also about politics, but the politics are really a backdrop to the themes of Cold War fear and dread about what the future holds for a world divided into only two camps: democracy and communism. I give the film ten out of sixteen on our list of film noir characteristics, so it’s neo-noir in my estimation.

 

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color Not applicable (N/A) I wouldn’t say that lighting was used throughout the film to enhance the mood or the emotional content of this film. But I felt a great deal of unease in spite of the lack of chiaroscuro lighting.

2. Flashbacks Raymond Shaw tells the story of falling in love in flashback. It was particularly interesting because he narrates in a fade-in camera shot while the flashback continues. The nightmares by the platoon members are flashbacks to their actual experiences in Korea.

3. Unusual narration N/A The narration is mostly linear.

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) Murders/suicide (8):

Ed Mavole, strangled

Bobby Lembeck, shot in the forehead

Holborn Gaines (smothered?)

Senator Jordan, shot

Jocie Jordan, shot

Mr. and Mrs. Iselin, shot

Raymond Shaw, shoots himself

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Mrs. Iselin is the femme fatale playing on her son’s emotions. She manipulates him out of a romance with Jocie Jordan, and she uses him for her own and her husband’s political advantage. She gives a speech to her son near the end of the movie about not wanting to use him as an assassin, but it’s hard to believe that. Once his role as assassin is a fact, she still uses him to her advantage. And that scene is so incestuous and creepy: She kisses him three times, the last one a long one on the lips. Ick.

6. The instrument of fate N/A I don’t think fate plays a strong role in The Manchurian Candidate.

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on) Shaw isn’t supposed to feel any guilt, but when Ben Marco tries to break the effect of the brainwashing, Shaw realizes what he has done. The men in his platoon suffer from nightmares and post-traumatic stress.

8. Violence or the threat of violence Definitely. See number 4 above.

9. Urban and nighttime settings N/A

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes The entire film revolves around Cold War fears of communism, McCarthyism (Senator Jordan calls it Iselinism), and readjustment to military life after the Korean War. According to John Frankenheimer’s commentary on the DVD, The Manchurian Candidate was the first movie to take on McCarthyism, and the blacklist was still a factor in the arts.

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness Raymond Shaw is completely isolated because of his mother’s dysfunction and his inability to stand up to her. None of his platoon mates liked him. They admit  to this, and he is well aware of their lack of regard.

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Brainwashing is part of the plot. It’s the technique perfected by the Russian experts at the Pavlov Institute in Moscow. They use it to create their own assassin.

13. Greed N/A

14. Betrayal Mrs. Iselin plays out the ultimate betrayal on her son: She uses him for political gain and might be using him for some sexual gratification. (That kiss she plants on her son’s lips ends only because the scene is cut.)

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) N/A I think it’s pretty clear who is right (American) and who is wrong (anyone who is a communist).

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” Raymond Shaw’s expertise in shooting triumphs in the end. But it’s at the expense of his peace of mind and his life.

 

 

In a discussion earlier (below) with VanHazard, I suggested he may have a stronger grasp on a particular motif. He responded that it was more likely he had a broader definition of it. With that in mind, it is easier to see that analysis of the films we see for this thread may differ, not necessarily in substance but rather on how broad or narrow we apply our perception to these listed motifs.

 

In each of our lists we agree that Mrs. Iselin betrays her son. Yet I hesitate to name Betrayal a motif because I may have a narrower definition as to its application for this film only. I'm thinking its not a theme of the movie, but definitely a flaw of a character in the movie.

 

I am looking forward to continuing identifying new neo-noirs as well as getting to better understand them through the excellent and insightful comments found in these write-ups as well as other commentaries from all participants.  

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In a discussion earlier (below) with VanHazard, I suggested he may have a stronger grasp on a particular motif. He responded that it was more likely he had a broader definition of it. With that in mind, it is easier to see that analysis of the films we see for this thread may differ, not necessarily in substance but rather on how broad or narrow we apply our perception to these listed motifs.

 

In each of our lists we agree that Mrs. Iselin betrays her son. Yet I hesitate to name Betrayal a motif because I may have a narrower definition as to its application for this film only. I'm thinking its not a theme of the movie, but definitely a flaw of a character in the movie.

 

I am looking forward to continuing identifying new neo-noirs as well as getting to better understand them through the excellent and insightful comments found in these write-ups as well as other commentaries from all participants.  

 

The more I think about The Manchurian Candidate, the more I think betrayal plays a large role in the plot. Mrs. Iselin doesn't just betray on a personal level, as she does with her son. She is also the American operative (or did the film use the term American handler?) for the Manchurian candidate. She is working with the Soviets and the Chinese during the Cold War. She betrays her country and her son. She explains a lot about this toward the end of the film, during the scene with her son, the one that ends with the kiss between them. She may have been the only one in the film who shows this trait, but it is a major feature of the plot, too. The Manchurian Candidate is even more neo-noir than I originally believed!

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The more I think about The Manchurian Candidate, the more I think betrayal plays a large role in the plot. Mrs. Iselin doesn't just betray on a personal level, as she does with her son. She is also the American operative (or did the film use the term American handler?) for the Manchurian candidate. She is working with the Soviets and the Chinese during the Cold War. She betrays her country and her son. She explains a lot about this toward the end of the film, during the scene with her son, the one that ends with the kiss between them. She may have been the only one in the film who shows this trait, but it is a major feature of the plot, too. The Manchurian Candidate is even more neo-noir than I originally believed!

Yes. You are absolutely correct. I focused only on her betrayal to her son, never realizing that her betrayal went further as you pointed out. I have no explanation for how I missed it. The moment I read your post, it hit me immediately.

 

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It made a difference.

 

Let me make it official- Betrayal- Yes

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After Hours (1985, dir. Martin Scorsese)

 

After Hours was released thirty years ago today, on September 13, 1985. I decided to celebrate this anniversary by taking another look at the film and see if it would work as neo-noir. I think After Hours is laugh-out-loud funny and fits the description of neo-noir: twelve out of sixteen on our “borrowings from film noir to define neo-noir and modern neo-noir.” Even if I give only a half-point to numbers three and fourteen in the list below, that’s still eleven out of sixteen. I’ve read that some people find the film dark and depressing (and not funny at all), so some might rate it higher on our scale for neo-noir.

 

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color Muted colors and shadows are used throughout the film because it takes place at night, and this certainly adds to the plot and the mood of the film. On the DVD, Martin Scorsese mentions that he filmed only at night to maintain the mood.

2. Flashbacks N/A

3. Unusual narration The story line is linear, but it doesn’t reveal how everything is connected until the end and the audience has a chance to connect the dots.

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) The following crimes are shown or discussed in the film:

• Rape.

• Suicide.

• Paul is hunted by a murderous vigilante mob in Soho.

• Serial burglaries in Soho.

• Murder in an apartment across an alley from where Paul is hiding.

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Almost all the women (really almost everyone) Paul meets eventually turn on him or leave him in situations that he has trouble coping with or getting out of. Gail might be the best example because she uses her Mister Softee truck to lead the mob looking for Paul.

6. The instrument of fate The entire plot hinges on fate and coincidence. The minute that Paul’s twenty dollar bill flies out of the cab on his way to Soho, he’s in the hands of fate. Even the ending (and even though the ending brings the plot full circle) is the result of fate.

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on) On the DVD, this is how Martin Scorsese describes Paul Hackett: a character who is guilt-ridden for no reason. Paul has plenty of reason to be angst-ridden. Scorsese also mentions mythology as way to describe Paul: He is a character about to descend into Hades.

8. Violence or the threat of violence Paul is suspected of being the neighborhood burglar in Soho. Neighborhood residents recognize him as a stranger who’s been hanging out in the neighborhood. They form a vigilante mob to hunt him down. When they break into Club Berlin to look for Paul, they come downstairs into June’s apartment to investigate. They mean harm: One of them beats June’s pillows with a baseball bat to suss him out.

9. Urban and nighttime settings The entire film, both indoor and outdoor scenes, were shot at night to keep the right mood. Only ambient lighting was used most of the time, especially for the outdoor scenes and definitely for Paul’s cab ride downtown (per Scorsese on the DVD). The diegetic light adds to the mood.

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes The bouncer at Club Berlin is wearing a Checkpoint Charlie T-shirt: Checkpoint Charlie is the name given by the Western Allies in World War II to a crossing point in the Berlin Wall between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness Paul is lonely and wants companionship, which is why he is so eager to travel down to Soho and meet Marcy again. I saw this on Wikipedia: the dialogue between Paul and the bouncer at Club Berlin was inspired by Kafka’s Before the Law, one of the short stories included in his novel The Trial. According to Scorsese, the short story reflected his frustration about having to wait to get one of his film projects (The Last Temptation of Christ) completed, which didn’t happen until two years after After Hours. Even without knowing this before seeing the film, it is clear that the film is about the absurdity of Paul’s situation. And Paul’s frustration could easily be an illustration of Scorsese’s frustration at not getting a favorite project completed.

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) N/A

13. Greed N/A

14. Betrayal Maybe in mild sort of way. Julie wants to get back at Paul, so she posts drawings of him around the neighborhood so the mob can find him. Gail repeatedly prevents Paul from phoning a friend by confusing him and his memory of the phone number by repeating random numbers. She thinks this entertaining, but she is certainly not helping Paul. The minute she sees one of Julie’s posters, she literally blows the whistle on him.

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) I can’t think of any character who is either good or evil. Chance, fate, coincidence—whatever you call it—this is what drives the plot and Paul’s despair. But Paul isn’t completely sympathetic: He snoops through Marcy’s purse, and his voyeuristic streak comes out when he removes the sheet from her body to examine it. At one point in his desperate run through the city streets to escape capture by the vigilante mob, Paul gets to his knees in the middle of the street and addresses fate directly: “What do you want from me? What have I done? I’m just a word processor . . . !” But fate can’t be described as evil; it’s simply indifferent to Paul and his predicament.

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

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After Hours (1985, dir. Martin Scorsese)

 

After Hours was released thirty years ago today, on September 13, 1985. I decided to celebrate this anniversary by taking another look at the film and see if it would work as neo-noir. I think After Hours is laugh-out-loud funny and fits the description of neo-noir: twelve out of sixteen on our “borrowings from film noir to define neo-noir and modern neo-noir.” Even if I give only a half-point to numbers three and fourteen in the list below, that’s still eleven out of sixteen. I’ve read that some people find the film dark and depressing (and not funny at all), so some might rate it higher on our scale for neo-noir.

 

I agree, I've been adding more of the black comedies to my Neo Noir list in the last few days, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Dr. Strangelove this past week will add After Hours also.

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Adding After Hours  (1985)  and  The Incident (1967)

 

The Incident A forgotten gritty NYC ensemble Crime Noir, watch ASAP available right now on Youtube do a search ;-)

 

 

 

Directed by Larry Peerce, written by Nicholas E. Baehr (based on his teleplay Ride with Terror, which had been previously adapted as a 1963 television film). Cinematography by Gerald Hirschfeld (classic noirs Guilty Bystander, C-Men

 

Joe Ferrante (Tony Musante) and Artie Connors (Martin Sheen) two alienated and obsessed with causing trouble they give a hard time to a pool hall owner for closing early interrupting their game, then briefly harassing a passing couple on the street, then finally mugging an old man for his eight dollars and beating him into unconsciousness, they board the last car of a New York City Subway train and psychologically terrorize the passengers who cannot move to another car. 

 

Rest of the cast includes Classic Noir vets Thelma Ritter (Pickup On South Street, Call Northside 777, Rear Window), Jan Sterling (Caged, Mystery Street, Union Station, Ace In The Hole, Appointment With Danger) and Gary Merril (Where The Sidewalk Ends, A Blueprint For Murder) and also Ed McMahon, Diana Van der Vlis, Donna Mills, Victor Arnold, Jack Gilford, Robert Bannard, Brock Peters, Ruby Dee and Beau Bridges. 

 

Great chiaroscuro cinematography of late 60s NYC, and NYC subway "subterrainia".

 

Chronological (work in progress) Neo Noir list a work in progress, includes Films Soleil (those sun baked, filled with light, often desert or tropical Neo Noirs):

 

 


Blast Of Silence (1961) 

 

Underworld USA (1961) 

 

Something Wild (1961) 

 

Cape Fear (1962) 

 

Experiment In Terror (1962) 

 

Satan in High Heels (1962) 

 

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) 

 

Shock Corridor (1962) 

 

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) 

 

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

 

The Naked Kiss (1964) 

 

The Pawnbroker (1964) 

 

Brainstorm (1965) 

 

Once A Thief (1965) 

 

Harper (1966) 

 

Mr. Buddwing (1966) 

 

The Incident (1967)

 

In Cold Blood (1967) 

 

In The Heat Of The Night (1967) 

 

Marlowe (1969) 

 

The Honeymoon Killers (1970) 

 

Shaft  (1971)

 

Across 110th Street (1971) 

 

The Getaway (1971) 

 

Get Carter (1971) 

 

Hickey & Boggs (1972) 

 

Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia (1974) 

 

The Nickel Ride (1974)

 

Chinatown (1974)

 

The Drowning Pool (1975) 

 

Farewell My Lovely (1975)

 

Night Moves (1975) 

 

Taxi Driver (1976) 

 

Dressed to Kill (1980) 

 

Union City (1980) 

 

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

 

Body Heat (1981) 

 

Thief (1981)

 

Blade Runner (1982) 

 

Hammett (1982) 

 

Blood Simple (1984) 

 

Tightrope (1984)

 

To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

 

After Hours (1985)

 

Blue Velvet (1986) 

 

Angel Heart (1987) 

 

Frantic (1988) 

 

Kill Me Again (1989)

 

The Grifters (1990) 

 

The Kill-Off (1990) 

 

The Hot Spot (1990) 

 

Wild At Heart (1990) 

 

Impulse (1990)

 

Dick Tracy (1990) 

 

Delicatessen (1991) 

 

Reservoir Dogs (1992) 

 

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) 

 

Romeo Is Bleeding (1993)

 

True Romance (1993) 

 

The Wrong Man (1993) 

 

The Last Seduction (1994) 

 

Pulp Fiction (1994) 

 

Se7en (1995) 

 

Fargo (1996) 

 

Mulholland Falls (1996) 

 

Hit Me (1996)

 

Jackie Brown (1997) 

 

L.A. Confidential (1997) 

 

Lost Highway (1997) 

 

This World, Then the Fireworks (1997) 

 

Dark City (1998) 

 

A Simple Plan (1998) 

 

The Big Lebowski (1998) 

 

Payback (1999)

 

Night Train (1999) 

 

The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) 

 

Mulholland Drive (2001) 

 

Sin City (2005) 

 

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

 

No Country For Old Men (2007) 

 

Dark Country (2009)

 

The Killer Inside Me (2010)

 

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (2014)


Edited by cigarjoe
Link to video removed due to copyright concerns

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Yes. You are absolutely correct. I focused only on her betrayal to her son, never realizing that her betrayal went further as you pointed out. I have no explanation for how I missed it. The moment I read your post, it hit me immediately.

 

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It made a difference.

 

Let me make it official- Betrayal- Yes

 

I decided to re-post this -- mostly to update number 14 in our list of noir characteristics for The Manchurian Candidate. I'm still thinking about the movie, so I guess it deserves an update!

 

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color Not applicable (N/A) I wouldn’t say that lighting was used throughout the film to enhance the mood or the emotional content of this film. But I felt a great deal of unease in spite of the lack of chiaroscuro lighting.

2. Flashbacks Raymond Shaw tells the story of falling in love in flashback. It was particularly interesting because he narrates in a fade-in camera shot while the flashback continues. The nightmares by the platoon members are flashbacks to their actual experiences in Korea.

3. Unusual narration N/A The narration is mostly linear.

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) Murders/suicide (8):

Ed Mavole, strangled

Bobby Lembeck, shot in the forehead

Holborn Gaines (smothered?)

Senator Jordan, shot

Jocie Jordan, shot

Mr. and Mrs. Iselin, shot

Raymond Shaw, shoots himself

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Mrs. Iselin is the femme fatale playing on her son’s emotions. She manipulates him out of a romance with Jocie Jordan, and she uses him for her own and her husband’s political advantage. She gives a speech to her son near the end of the movie about not wanting to use him as an assassin, but it’s hard to believe that. Once his role as assassin is a fact, she still uses him to her advantage. And that scene is so incestuous and creepy: She kisses him three times, the last one a long one on the lips. Ick.

6. The instrument of fate N/A I don’t think fate plays a strong role in The Manchurian Candidate.

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on) Shaw isn’t supposed to feel any guilt, but when Ben Marco tries to break the effect of the brainwashing, Shaw realizes what he has done. The men in his platoon suffer from nightmares and post-traumatic stress.

8. Violence or the threat of violence Definitely. See number 4 above.

9. Urban and nighttime settings N/A

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes The entire film revolves around Cold War fears of communism, McCarthyism (Senator Jordan calls it Iselinism), and readjustment to military life after the Korean War. According to John Frankenheimer’s commentary on the DVD, The Manchurian Candidate was the first movie to take on McCarthyism, and the blacklist was still a factor in the arts.

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness Raymond Shaw is completely isolated because of his mother’s dysfunction and his inability to stand up to her. None of his platoon mates liked him. They admit  to this, and he is well aware of their lack of regard.

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Brainwashing is part of the plot. It’s the technique perfected by the Russian experts at the Pavlov Institute in Moscow. They use it to create their own assassin.

13. Greed N/A

14. Betrayal Mrs. Iselin plays out the ultimate betrayal on her son: She uses him for political gain and might be using him for some sexual gratification. (That kiss she plants on her son’s lips ends only because the scene is cut.) She betrays her son and her country: She is a the American operator/handler for “the Manchurian candidate,” and she is working with the Soviets and the Chinese during the Cold War. She explains a lot about this toward the end of the film, during the scene with her son, the one that ends with the kiss between them. She may have been the only one in the film who shows this trait, but it is a major feature of the plot, too. The Manchurian Candidate is even more neo-noir than I originally believed.

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) N/A I think it’s pretty clear who is right (American) and who is wrong (anyone who is a communist).

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” Raymond Shaw’s expertise in shooting triumphs in the end. But it’s at the expense of his peace of mind and his life.

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The more I think about The Manchurian Candidate, the more I think betrayal plays a large role in the plot. Mrs. Iselin doesn't just betray on a personal level, as she does with her son. She is also the American operative (or did the film use the term American handler?) for the Manchurian candidate. She is working with the Soviets and the Chinese during the Cold War. She betrays her country and her son. She explains a lot about this toward the end of the film, during the scene with her son, the one that ends with the kiss between them. She may have been the only one in the film who shows this trait, but it is a major feature of the plot, too. The Manchurian Candidate is even more neo-noir than I originally believed!

 

Mrs. Iselin's betrayal goes deeper still when you think about it.   I may have noted it before, in my earlier comment; not only has she betrayed her country and her own motherhood/son, but she clearly says that she in effect will betray her  'masters' in Moscow and Beijing once she's in power, vowing to "make them pay" for making her own son the assassin operative she's handling.  

 

This is an amazing role and an amazing performance by Lansbury.   

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Mrs. Iselin's betrayal goes deeper still when you think about it.   I may have noted it before, in my earlier comment; not only has she betrayed her country and her own motherhood/son, but she clearly says that she in effect will betray her  'masters' in Moscow and Beijing once she's in power, vowing to "make them pay" for making her own son the assassin operative she's handling.  

 

This is an amazing role and an amazing performance by Lansbury.   

 

Angela Lansbury's performance was certainly amazing, and The Manchurian Candidate is a great movie. I agree that Mrs. Iselin is probably capable of betraying just about anyone. But her promise to her son didn't ring true to me. She treated him so badly throughout the film that I really doubt she'll betray the Soviets and the Chinese for him. For herself, she'd betray anyone. But her for her son, not so sure. I really didn't believe her promises to him. And I have a feeling he didn't either: hence the ending.

 

But doesn't that make Lansbury's character and the movie overall even "neo-noir-er"?!?!

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Angela Lansbury's performance was certainly amazing, and The Manchurian Candidate is a great movie. I agree that Mrs. Iselin is probably capable of betraying just about anyone. But her promise to her son didn't ring true to me. She treated him so badly throughout the film that I really doubt she'll betray the Soviets and the Chinese for him. For herself, she'd betray anyone. But her for her son, not so sure. I really didn't believe her promises to him. And I have a feeling he didn't either: hence the ending.

 

But doesn't that make Lansbury's character and the movie overall even "neo-noir-er"?!?!

 

I think it's that her 'masters' had the audacity and devious cruelty of making her own son the instrument of their plot that she objects to and seeks revenge for.   I agree that she doesn't care about her son any more than they do, and that she's as willing to use him to further their plot as they are....

 

....but it's their arrogance and callousness in doubting HER loyalty and dedication to the cause, and that they would dare to use HER the same way she and they have used Raymond, Senator Iselin and everyone else that whets her appetite for revenge.   I am absolutely convinced she will hold her masters accountable for that affront were she to ever gain power.  Hell hath no fury... 

 

Which is why Raymond knows he alone can and must stop her...because her lust for power and her capacity to use others is endless and insatiable.  

 

A big resounding YES! to  Eleanor Shaw Iselin being noir, neo-noir and quintessentially noir!   She's one of the most noir characters ever depicted in film and/or fiction, and she's by far the most noir element in the entire film.    

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Fargo (1996)

Dir. Joel Coen

 

We are all familiar with that ‘world of darkness’ we find in classic film noir. I believe the Coen brothers with Fargo shows us that world in “negative film form”. Were we to view the opening scene by way of its negative, would we not see an image similar to what we saw in several Daily Doses? A lone car moving along a road, at night, in darkness, with two minute headlights moving towards the camera: The Hitch-Hiker and Too Late for Tears are the two I recall. In Fargo, we again have a car (tow truck) moving towards the camera from a distance only this time our view is obstructed by the white-out condition in a blizzard. This creates a negative image of the scenes previously described. At the end of the opening credits, the title Fargo, North Dakota (in white fonts) appears on a now black screen. The title remains as seconds later the background changes to a snow-covered commercial road. The Coen brothers here, I believe, are contrasting noir with neo-noir: white font/black background then a spilt second later white font/white background. The contrast is striking.

 

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.) Yes.

Best example is at about the 38 min. mark. A car with two occupants comes across a crime scene. One of the kidnappers, Gaear (Peter Stormare) drives off after them. He spots the car (it has flipped over) and we see white snow, brighten by headlights on one side, on the other side we see the red brake lights cast a red glow on Gaear’s face, while he takes aim at the driver, wearing a red jacket, running away through the white snow. Filmed with rich color contrast.

 

2. Flashbacks N/A

3. Unusual narration N/A

 

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

A kidnapping is planned and executed. Several murders are committed

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Yes.

Jerry (William H. Macy) needing money to cover a debt, puts his wife’s life in danger by having her kidnapped by two murdering thugs.

 

6. The instrument of fate N/A

 

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

Practically every scene Jerry is in, finds him battling his inner angst. We see him bewildered and confused when after arranging plans for the ransom he is asked, “Will Scotty (Jerry’s son) be okay?” Then there’s the time when he looks like on the verge of a nervous breakdown, after receiving back-to-back phone calls from first the kidnapper demanding more money and then GMAC demanding documents proving sales of cars that may not have been sold. When police-detective Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) simply asks him, “ Any new vehicles stolen from the lot recently?” he just stares at her with a frozen expression. It takes him 30 seconds or so to say no, all the while he rocks on his chair, wearing a silly wide grin.

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes.

Police officer killed with a gun

An innocent driver and his passenger both shot to death

Another man killed for the ransom money

Two more killings occur but I will not say who so to be spoiler safe.

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings N/A

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

 

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

Jerry finds himself in a hole, (all of his own making) and now must deal with it by himself. We see him disoriented each time he is confronted with evidence of his inept planning. The confusion leads to more lies. At one time he sneaks away from the police in order to avoid further questioning. He’s become alienated from his moral consciousness (kidnapping wife, not thinking of his son, lying to police, stealing of some sorts from GMAC)

 

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) N/A

 

13. Greed Yes.

The other kidnapper Carl (Steve Buscemi) takes the entire loot- $1 million minus $80k and buries it. He then meets up with Gaear to split the $80k. They argue about the car and who is paying off whom for it. Carl’s greed for this relatively small amount gets him killed. 

 

14. Betrayal Yes.

Jerry betrays the trust of his employer and father-in-law borrowing money in deceitful ways, swindals money from GMAC, and he betrays his wife.

 

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

Jerry is a liar, swindler, conspirator and by association a murderer. He’s also a worried (?) concerned (?) husband, wanting (?) his wife’s safe return. Then we have pleasant, easy going police-detective Marge, expecting a baby soon going about her investigation in an orderly manner, while the monsters she’s after, run around creating ‘maleficent’.

 

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” Yes.

Good police work helps officer Marge Gunderson solve the multiple murder case.

 

Fargo is a black comedy with every character being poked fun of.

 

The kidnappers- Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare)- are an odd pair. At first we get the impression that Carl runs the show and Gaear is his dumb quiet sidekick. By the end of the film we see the opposite is true. Their antics throughout are both vicious & humorous.

 

I wonder, do the people of Fargo really speak like the characters in this film? Or, are the Coen brothers presenting a caricature?

 

Frances McDormand is excellent here. I last saw her in Olive Kittredge.

 

William H. Macy is an excellent actor and here he plays Jerry as an unintentional villain.

This character has no scruples and yet you feel for him in his moments of frustrations because Macy allows us to feel his agony. It’s a wonderful performance.

 

10 of 16  Fargo is most definitely a neo-noir.

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Natural Born Killers (1994) A satirical, Neo Noir, sensory overdose, a psychedelic acid road trip to Hell. 
 
Directed by Oliver Stone, based on a Quentin Tarantino story, with Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Russell Means, Tommy Lee Jones, Rodney Dangerfield, Edie McClurg, Balthazar Getty, and Robert Downey Jr. 
 
Its full of these little picsaresque noir vignettes that stuck in my mind amidst all the designed chaos. Other times the vignettes are just small homages to the past cinema like when Mallory & Mickey are dancing at the diner the sequence changes from full traditional lit color to Astaire & Rogers low key chiaroscuro. 
 
OK i'll play.
 

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.) Yes. The film like a delayed strobe sporadically flashes between Black & White and Color film, some segments are also chiaroscuro.

 

2. Flashbacks Yes

 

3Unusual narration Yes

 

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

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Yes.

Mickey & Mallory function as both

 

6. The instrument of fate Yes

 

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst)Some  Half point, Mallory has some self doubt when Mickey starts looking for other women. 

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes.

Non stop sensationalized killing spree.

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings Half point, desert & rural nighttime settings

 

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

 

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

Traumatized as children both Mickey & Mallory are alienated from society.

 

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Yes Mallory is manipulated by her father

 

13. Greed No

 

14. Betrayal No

 

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

Society as a whole is satirized 

 

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” Yes. The Natural Born Killers triumph over the average.

 

It's a bizarre black comedy satire of the American 24 hr news cycle celebrity/violence culture, much in the vein of how Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) satirized the Cold War Arms Race and how A Clockwork Orange (1971) satirized behavioral psychology. 

 

I've managed to not ever see this somehow since it's release, and I believe my experience was all that more enhanced since I've begun delving into Noir and Neo Noir so heavily.

 

It's the same set up as Badlands (1973), but combined with the love story angle of They Live By Night (1948) and Gun Crazy (1950), Mickey & Mallory are depicted as damaged individuals two children who grow up into man created demon/outlaws rolling across the Southwest guns a-blazing, how different is this from say Quantrill's Raiders,  the James Gang or any other marauders roaming the West that are mythologized even today.

 

It's got STYLE in capitol letters. The film like a delayed strobe sporadically flashes between Black & White and Color film, it has these insanely canted Dutch Angles while at other times they tilt teeter-totter like along with other Noir stylistics, it uses documentary style footage and live breaking news parodies, animation, TV sit com satire, super 8 film sequences, TV quasi News Specials, and music video style promos and hyper violence mixed with cultural and natural Iconography all in a assault on the senses. It's INSANITY, with a complimentary soundtrack. 

 

At 10 and 2 halves out of 16 it most definitely is a Neo Noir.

 

 

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Winter’s Bone (2010, dir. Debra Granik)

 

I would say that Winter’s Bone is a neo-noir: I can give it nine out of sixteen on the list of noir characteristics. That still makes it a neo-noir, but it doesn’t begin to describe the mood of this film—the local music that emphasizes the fear and uncertainty (“local” meaning from southern Missouri), the inscrutable code of honor that the inhabitants have set and then break when it suits them, the almost constant gray overcast of an Ozark winter that seems to bleed into the hardscrabble rock that makes up the landscape. In the middle of Winter’s Bone is a sequence of shots filmed among the trees in the area. It is both majestic and unnerving: The audience can hear the live wood creaking in the wind. No humans are shown in each shot of the sequence, but this is a landscape that is home only to people who know it well. The commentary on the DVD from the director and the cinematographer filled in some details, but it’s not necessary to hear what they have to say about making the film to understand its mood.

 

And yes: that’s the Jennifer Lawrence. I think her portrayal of Ree Dolly is one of the best of her career so far.

 

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.) On the DVD, Debra Granik (the director) and Michael McDonough (the cinematographer) talk about filming on location in southern Missouri during the winter months. The scenery “looks cold”: no leaves on the trees, hardscrabble earth. There’s a wonderful scene in the middle of the film that was shot among trees with the wind blowing and the live wood creaking. Both the visuals and the soundtrack add to the building dread of the plot and bitterness of winter.

2. Flashbacks Not applicable (N/A)

3. Unusual narration N/A

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

• Murder

• Conspiracy to cover up a crime

• Drugs (manufacturing, selling, taking)

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale N/A

6. The instrument of fate Ree wants to find out what happened to her father because she needs to keep her family’s house and land, and he’s her father. There’s a code of honor that seems to function in the role of fate: Certain outcomes are inevitable if Ree continues to flaunt the code of honor and thus tempt fate.

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Ree is afraid of many members of her own extended family. They threaten her, and then make good on their threats.

8. Violence or the threat of violence Ree’s relatives threaten violence and then make good on their threats.

9. Urban and nighttime settings N/A

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

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness Ree is alone with huge responsibilities; she is only seventeen and she is responsible for taking care of her mother (who doesn’t appear to be in her right mind any more) and two younger siblings. People who are related to her will not help her because they have something to hide. But she persists in her search for her father because of her desire to help her family. She cannot imagine doing otherwise.

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) N/A

13. Greed N/A

14. Betrayal Various extended family members betray Ree and her immediate family. Their loyalties to her as family members have clear limits.

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) People who commit crimes and cover them up eventually put themselves in Ree’s position and offer to help. Ree accepts their help and lies about it to law enforcement. Toward the end of the movie, she admits that she feels a little bit ashamed of her father, even though she risks her safety and her future to find him.

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” People in the locality have a complicated code of honor. They help Ree, but all of them, including Ree, lie about the circumstances surrounding her father’s disappearance. Their knowledge of the terrain and the local customs allow them to succeed. (Ree says that she is local “bred and buttered.”)

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I agree, I've been adding more of the black comedies to my Neo Noir list in the last few days, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Dr. Strangelove this past week will add After Hours also.

 

Okay, so black comedy neo-noir would include After Hours, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Dr. Strangelove. Did you find any others to add to the list?

 

I'm curious because I recently watched Death to Smoochy hoping to call it a neo-noir, but alas, I can't. It was on the edge until the finale, when . . . well I won't give away the ending!

 

I remembered it as a very funny dark comedy, but years ago, when I tried to rent it and couldn't find it, someone told me to look under "Horror." Apparently many people do think it's completely dark, but that I just don't see. By the way, it might be about a children's show character that looks suspiciously like Barney from PBS, but it's definitely not a film for children. It's also not a neo-noir, at least in my opinion.

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Okay, so black comedy neo-noir would include After Hours, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Dr. Strangelove. Did you find any others to add the list?

 

I'm curious because I recently watched Death to Smoochy hoping to call it a neo-noir, but alas, I can't. It was on the edge until the finale, when . . . well I won't give away the ending!

 

I remembered it as a very funny dark comedy, but years ago, when I tried to rent it and couldn't find it, someone told me to look under "Horror." Apparently many people do think it's completely dark, but that I just don't see. By the way, it might be about a children's show character that looks suspiciously like Barney from PBS, but it's definitely not a film for children. It's also not a neo-noir, at least in my opinion.

I remember that one, but it's been a while since I've seen it.

 

I've posted the question "Black Comedies that could be considered Neo Noirs?" over on IMDb also, so far my list includes:

 

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

After Hours (1985) 
Barton Fink (1991) 
Delicatessen (1991) 
The Big Lebowski (1998) 
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
 
Other candidates mentioned by others were:
 
Pennies From Heaven (1981)
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)
Something Wild (1986)
Serial Mom (1994)
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Underworld U.S.A. (1961)

dir. Samuel Fuller

 

Underworld U.S.A. is an early example of neo-noir. It’s a tale of vengeance staring Cliff Robertson as Tolly Devlin who as a teenager, witnessed his father being pummeled to death but refused to name those responsible because he ‘wants to take care of the punks himself.’

 

These early transitional films were not under the restrictions of the Hays Office and began pushing the envelope in terms of violent content (shown or implied.) I believe this film separates itself from the classic era for this reason.

 

Underworld U.S.A. is not considered among Samuel Fuller’s best films, but for our purposes (Transitions and Modern Noir) I believe it is a revealing noir because it finds itself at a crossroad of sorts. In what direction will directors take the genre?

 

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.) Yes.

Here we get the expected B&W chiaroscuro associated with noir. There are variations of key lighting to go along the many zoom-in and close-up shots.

 

2. Flashbacks N/A

3. Unusual narration N/A

 

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

Devlin looks to avenge the murder of his father. He uses a call girl, the mob, and a federal investigator in that quest.

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale N/A

6. The instrument of fate N/A

 

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

Devlin’s scheme to avenge his father’s murder involves giving false documents to mob boss Earl Connors (Robert Emhardt), who grows fearful and paranoid. His panic leads to the demise of all. Devlin is engrossed by the need to retaliate. Director Fuller uses tight camera shots to show Devlin’s expression of satisfaction each time his plans moves forward. Revenge is an angst here because it becomes his sole mission in life. He talks of little else.

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes.

Murder by assault

Murder by vehicle

Murder by fire

Murder by gun

Murder by drowning

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings Yes.

There are several scenes throughout taking place at night and in dark alleys. In fact the film opens and ends in dark back alleys.

 

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

 

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

Devlin is alone in his venture for vengeance. He is 32-years-old and has done nothing with his life. He has no family or friends other than a friendly-acquaintance with Sandy (Beatrice Kay) a mother-like figure who tells him, “Tolly, I know its been like a disease with you since you were a kid, but you’re a grown up man now. Act like it. Don’t eat your heart out with hate and revenge."

 

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

Devlin manipulates Inspector Driscoll (Larry Gates) into a false meeting with a mobster in order to advance his cause. He also tells a drug courier he is in ‘narcotics’ (under-cover) and she leads him to the drugs she was to pick up which further leads to his meeting with the men he is looking for. His obsession for revenge later becomes violent.

Further, a young child is ordered killed by an obsessed mob boss so as to teach a disloyal associate a lesson.

 

13. Greed N/A

 

14. Betrayal- Yes.

Devlin (under his breath) calls Cuddles (Dolores Dorn) a sucker after seeing her sign off on helping the authorities nail a murderer. Later, he tells her of his good intentions, then laughs at her when she tells him how much she loves him. A police chief , overcome by guilt for accepting pay-offs from the mob, commits suicide, unable to accept the betrayal to the force and his family.

 

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

Earl Connors, the mob’s top boss arrogantly boasts:

As long as we don’t have any records on paper, as long as we run National Projects with legitimate business operations and pay our taxes on legitimate income and donate to charities and run church bazaars, we’ll win the war. We always have.

But behind that false facade, the same narcissist boss orders his men to school grounds and offer heroin to students as young as ten in order increase profits:

Now there are at least 13 million kids in this country between the ages of 10 and 15. Don’t tell me the end of a needle has a conscious.”

 

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

 

9 of 16

This is one of the earliest neo-noir.

 

One would expect any film character looking to avenge his father’s murder to be the anti-hero, having questionable morals but remaining sympathetic. That is not the case with Tolly Devlin. Devlin strong-arms an elderly man who lays dying in bed, he laughs at a woman simply for expressing her love for him and another time refers to her as “sucker” after she agrees to testify against one of the men he’s after. By movie’s end he is more an outlaw than an anti-hero.

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Yay! Just finished reading all the posts, and kudos to you all who have put so much effort into so fun a project!!! There are many movies on the lists that I have yet to see, so I'll be catching up on those directly, and will (hopefully) have something to add to the discussion shortly. 

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Yay! Just finished reading all the posts, and kudos to you all who have put so much effort into so fun a project!!! There are many movies on the lists that I have yet to see, so I'll be catching up on those directly, and will (hopefully) have something to add to the discussion shortly. 

 

Film Noir to Neo-Noir: Movie List

September 24, 2015

 

This updated list includes contributions from me (Marianne), HEYMOE, VanHazard, and cigarjoe. Now that others are jumping in (and Yay! to that), I thought it was a good time to post the most recent version:

 

Early examples of neo-noirs:

Underworld U.S.A. (1961), dir. Samuel Fuller, b&w

Cape Fear (1962), dir. J. Lee Thompson, b&w

Shock Corridor (1963) dir. Samuel Fuller, b&w

The Naked Kiss (1964), dir. Samuel Fuller, b&w

Point Blank (1967), dir. John Boorman, color

The Incident (1967), dir. Larry Peerce

 

Modern neo-noirs:

Chinatown (1974), dir. Roman Polanski

Taxi Driver (1976), dir. Martin Scorsese

Body Heat (1981), dir. Lawrence Kasdan

Blade Runner (1982), dir. Ridley Scott

Blood Simple (1984), dir. Joel Coen

Blue Velvet (1986), dir. David Lynch

House of Games (1987), dir. David Mamet

Miller’s Crossing (1990), dir. Joel Coen

Red Rock West (1992), dir. John Dahl

Se7en (1995), dir. David Fincher

The Usual Suspects (1995), dir. Bryan Singer

Fargo (1996), dir. Joel Coen

L.A. Confidential (1997), dir. Curtis Hanson

 

Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), dir. Carl Franklin

Following (1999), dir. Christopher Nolan

Jackie Brown (1997) dir. Quentin Tarantino

The Manchurian Candidate (1962), dir. John Frankenheimer, b&w

Memento (2000), dir. Christopher Nolan

Mulholland Drive (2001), dir. David Lynch

Brick (2006), dir. Rian Johnson

 

After Hours (1985), dir. Martin Scorsese

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), dir. Peter Yates

Gangs of New York (2002), dir. Martin Scorsese

Hollywoodland (2006), dir. Allen Coulter

Irrational Man (2015), dir. Woody Allen

Pulp (1972), dir. Mike Hodges

Wait Until Dark (1967), dir. Terence Young

Winter’s Bone (2010), dir. Debra Granik

 

The Two Jakes (1990), dir. Jack Nicholson

Dark City (1998), dir. Alex Proyas

Mulholland Falls (1996), dir. Lee Tamahori

Bound (1996), dir. The Wachowski Brothers

The Black Dahlia (2006), dir. Brian DePalma

The Last Seduction (1994), dir. John Dahl

Palmetto (1998), dir. Volker Schlondorff

Angel Heart (1997), dir. Alan Parker

U-Turn (1997), dir. Oliver Stone

Deep Cover (1992), dir. Bill Duke

Manhunter (1986), dir. Michael Mann

Klute, (1971), dir. Alan J. Pakula

Stormy Monday (1988), dir. Mike Figgis

Romeo Is Bleeding (1993), dir. Peter Medak

Silence of the Lambs (1991) dir. Jonathan Demme

Night Moves (1975) dir. Arthur Penn

Farewell My Lovely (1975), dir. Dick Richards

The Big Sleep (1978), dir. Michael Winner

A Better Tomorrow (1986), dir. John Woo

Year of the Dragon (1985), dir. Michael Cimino

Branded to Kill (1967) dir. Seijun Suzuki

Hard Boiled (1992) dir. John Woo

King of New York (1990) dir. Abel Ferrara

Get Carter (1971) dir. Mike Hodges

The Long Good Friday (1980) dir. John Mackenzie

The Long Goodbye (1973) dir. Robert Altman

Marlowe (1969) dir. Paul Bogart

Sea of Love (1989) dir. Harold Becker

Sexy Beast (2000) dir. Jonathan Glazer

State of Grace (1990) dir. Phil Joanou

Collateral (2004) dir. Michael Mann

Heat (1995) dir. Michael Mann

The Sweeney (2012) dir. Nick Love

Training Day (2001) dir. Antoine Fugua

Jade (1995) dir. William Friedkin

True Romance (1993) Tony Scott

A Rage in Harlem (1991) dir. Bill Duke

The Red Riding Trilogy (2009), Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, Anand Tucker

Oldboy (2003) dir. Chan-wook Park

Mystic River (2003) dir. Clint Eastwood

Reservoir Dogs (1992) dir. Quentin Tarantino

Shutter Island (2010), dir. Martin Scorsese

Stonehearst Asylum (2014), dir. Brad Anderson

The Big Easy (0000), dir. Jim McBride

 

Zodiac (2007), dir. David Fincher, with Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo

Derailed (2005), dir. Mikael Hafstrom, with Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston

Out of Time (2003), dir. Carl Franklin, with Denzel Washington, Sanaa Lathan and Eva Mendez

Femme Fatale (2002), dir. Brian de Palma, with Rebecca Romijn and Antonio Banderas

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), dir. Stanley Kubrick

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), dir. Shane Black

Barton Fink (1991), dir. Joel and Ethan Coen

Delicatessen (1991), dir. Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet

The Big Lebowski (1998), dir. Joel Coen

 

Pennies from Heaven (1981), dir. Herbert Ross

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), dir. Carl Reiner

Something Wild (1986), dir. Jonathan Demme

Serial Mom (1994), dir. John Waters

Edited by Marianne
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The Incident (1967)
Dir. Larry Peerce
 
 
A forgotten gritty NYC ensemble Crime Noir, watch ASAP available right now on Youtube, do a search.
 
Directed by Larry Peerce, written by Nicholas E. Baehr (based on his teleplay Ride with Terror, which had been previously adapted as a 1963 television film). Cinematography by Gerald Hirschfeld (Guilty Bystander, C-Men
 
Joe Ferrante (Tony Musante) and Artie Connors (Martin Sheen) two alienated and obsessed with causing trouble punks, they give a hard time to a pool hall owner for closing early interrupting their game, then briefly harass a passing couple on the street, then finally mugging an old man for his eight dollars and beating him into unconsciousness, they board the last car of a New York City Subway train and psychologically terrorize the passengers who cannot move to another car. 
 
Rest of the cast includes Classic Noir vets Thelma Ritter (Pickup On South Street, Call Northside 777, Rear Window), Jan Sterling (Caged, Mystery Street, Union Station, Ace In The Hole, Appointment With Danger) and Gary Merrill (Where The Sidewalk Ends, A Blueprint For Murder) and also Ed McMahon, Diana Van der Vlis, Donna Mills, Victor Arnold, Jack Gilford, Robert Bannard, Brock Peters, Ruby Dee and Beau Bridges. 
 

 

 
 
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.) Yes. Great chiaroscuro cinematography of late 60s NYC, and extremely claustrophobic when the film moves onto the subway car.
 
2. Flashbacks N/A
 
3. Unusual narration N/A
 
4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) Yes. Joe and Artie plan rolling drunks for money
 
 
5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale I guess you could say there are two homme fatales so Yes
 
6. The instrument of fate  The subway car as it collects its passengers serves are the instrument of fate so Yes
 
7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Yes. All of the passengers display varying degrees of all.
 
 
8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes.
assault of a drunk
harassment of the passengers by knife wielding thugs. 
Murder by blugeoning
 
9. Urban and nighttime settings in spades it entirely takes place at night on a subway car Yes.
 
 
10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional) N/A
 
11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness Yes.
Various couples relationships are both strained and tested 
 
12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Yes.
Joe manipulates various victims
 
13. Greed  partially, the thugs want money but they also want their kicks so Yes
 
14. Betrayal- Jan Sterling's unhappy housewife character betrays her husband Yes.
 
15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) No.
 
16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” originally ambivalent soldier from a rural area finally takes action over the "stay out of it attitude" of his NYC buddy. Yes
 
at 12/16 most definitely a Neo.
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The Incident (1967)
Dir. Larry Peerce
 
 
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.) Yes. Great chiaroscuro cinematography of late 60s NYC, and extremely claustrophobic when the film moves onto the subway car.
 
4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) Yes.
Devlin looks to avenge the murder of his father. He uses a call girl, the mob, and a federal investigator in that quest.
 
5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale I guess you could say there are two homme fatales so Yes
 
6. The instrument of fate  The subway car as it collects its passengers serves are the instrument of fate so Yes

You said, "Okay, I'll play." Well your participation certainly adds to the fun. The more the merrier.

One of the lines here needs editing for content. You may want to update for accuracy purposes only.  

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