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  1. This discussion thread for proto-noir, like the Film Noir to Neo-Noir discussion thread, is based on ideas taken from the Summer of Darkness, HEYMOE, VanHazard, and me (Marianne). This discussion thread is a way to continue applying what we learned in Dr. Edwards’s course, TCM Presents Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir (aka Summer of Darkness: Investigating Film Noir). We are updating the list of film noir characteristics to start an investigation of proto-noir. Please use as many or as few characteristics as you like to discuss proto-noir and how a particular film could presage the coming classic period of film noir. We’re working on defining proto-noir and all its subcategories and on compiling a list of proto-noir films. I hope the discussion includes reactions to seeing some of the films. Also included (below the list of characteristics) is a list of proto-noir films; we will be adding titles to the list. The running list is alphabetized in its entirety. I will alternate between the film list alphabetized by decade and the list alphabetized in its entirety. Characteristics borrowed from film noir to define proto-noir: 1. Unusual narration or plot development 2. Flashbacks 3. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) 4. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale 5. The instrument of fate 6. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) 7. Violence or the threat of violence 8. Urban and nighttime settings 9. Greed 10. Betrayal 11. Philosophical themes involving alienation, loneliness 12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) 13. Allusion to postwar or wartime themes 14. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, or intense or muted color or tinting added to black and white films (In either case, the technique is used to enhance the mood and/or the emotional content.) 15. Unusual camera and/or lighting techniques 16. European or U.S. film influenced by European styles (for example, German expressionism, French poetic realism, and so on) 17. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) 18. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” List of alphabetized proto-noir titles (note that some of these films may be hard to find): Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), dir. Michael Curtiz La bête humaine (1938), dir. Jean Renoir The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), dir. Robert Wiene City for Conquest (1940), dir. Anatole Litvak Crime and Punishment (1935), dir. Josef von Sternberg Dangerous to Know (1938), dir Robert Florey The Devil Is a Woman (1935), dir. Josef von Sternberg The Docks of New York (1928), dir. Josef von Sternberg Fury (1936), dir. Fritz Lang The Glass Key (1935), dir. Frank Tuttle G Men (1935), dir. William Keighley Heat Lightning (1934), dir. Mervyn LeRoy I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), dir. Mervyn LeRoy The Invisible Man (1933), dir. James Whale Le jour se lève (1939), dir. Michel Carné The Kennel Murder Case (1933), dir. Michael Curtiz The Last Command (1928), dir. Josef von Sternberg The Letter (1940), dir. William Wyler Little Caesar (1931), dir. Mervyn LeRoy M (1931), dir. Fritz Lang The Mummy (1932), dir. Karl Freund Private Detective 62 (1933), dir. Michael Curtiz The Roaring Twenties (1939), dir. Raoul Walsh Sabotage (1936), dir. Alfred Hitchcock Scarface (1932), dir. Howard Hawks and Richard Rossan Shanghai Express (1932), dir. Josef von Sternberg Smart Money (1931), dir. Alfred E. Green The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932), dir. Michael Curtiz Stranger on the Third Floor (1940), dir. Boris Ingster They Drive by Night (1940), dir. Raoul Walsh The Thin Man (1934), dir. W. S. Van Dyke Thunderbolt (1929), dir. Josef von Sternberg 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932), dir. Michael Curtiz Underworld (1927), dir. Josef von Sternberg You and Me (1938), dir. Fritz Lang You Only Live Once (1937), dir. Fritz Lang
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