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listing 'downbeat' cinema ...which isn't noir-ish at all


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Has anyone got five years of their life to spare? Maybe ten? It might require that kind of devotion. It might probably be how long it would take to itemize every gloomy or depressing film which ...isn't a noir! Yes, I'm sure its hard to imagine, (for some).

The throes of noir-fever can blind many a fan to the fact that most dismal-feeling films are entirely remote from the cachet and the savoir-faire and the hipness of 'film noir'.

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Since the majority of films have noir elements in them, it would only take about five minutes to come up with a list of non-noir films. 

Those would be what I call film blanc. Which Dargo thinks involves voice overs that Mel Blanc was hired to do.

All kidding aside this thread seems like an (un)healthy tirade against those who see the value in listing things. Listing things does not harm anyone. Live and let live. No need to be mean-spirited about it.

In my opinion the thread title is loaded with words that might provoke a negative reaction from certain other posters. And the tags identified definitely seem like they were chosen to vent anger/frustration and probably provoke. Maybe that's cool on other message boards, but here at TCM City, we like to give one another a wide enough berth to figure out what film means, free of possible ridicule or "threat." Just saying.

That is all. Carry on. And all the rest. :) 

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  • 4 weeks later...

MsWonderley3 murmured:


 I am waiting....

'Detour' is fine enough for now. Its common ground for probably everyone; and therefore should allow us to avoid the tiresome haggling over 'what are noir ingredients?' and 'what is the noir recipe?'.

The kind of film this is, surely leaves the viewer (at the end) with an overall emotion; rather than a "viewer's choice of little bits of noir" that make a "subjective percentage-of-an-effect" here, and a "subjective-percentage-of-an-effect there for someone else".

There's nothing in dramatic theory which even supports this 'mix and match'. The structure of a play or a film flows toward the climax, the emotional catharsis. Gaining in pitch all along the way.

If anyone is able to watch a film with the same attitude as flipping through manila folders in a filing cabinet, it probably means that one is watching re-runs of a film they already know inside-out and are no longer being moved by it emotionally.

Or, it means the film is not gripping in the first place; or maybe not even intended to be.

'His Kind of Woman' just does not have a 'sledge-hammer' emotional effect on anyone. Its probably safe to say this, in general terms.

As anyone can observe in 'The Black Dahlia' --a film can have all the technical hallmarks of noir ...and yet since it doesn't arouse any keen emotions--emotions specific to noir --then its still not a noir.

Thus, I'm reluctant to continue haggling over the technical pedigree of specific films.

History, studio history, and cultural history are all good starting points to identify noir trends--but ultimately (#4 on my list) decides. Our gut decides what is noir; not our brains.



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  • There's not just one form of comedy. We can chuckle. grin, belly-laugh, snicker, roll-on-the-floor.
  • There's not just one form of horror. We can squirm, tremble, wince, cover-our-eyes, or leap-out-of-our-seats.

There's a myriad of ways filmmakers attain these various effects. Its not a matter of 'amount' its a matter of technique.

Uncle Joe is firstly saying there's just one kind of noir effect every time. Secondly, that it is simply 'distributed across all manner of movie' and thirdly that 'how much of the effect is noticeable is determined by each viewer'.

In this schema, "tough guy banter" (for example) can be called 'noir' ...even though it might produce a laugh. In another film the same banter might produce panic, or in another film, dread. (This isn't even taking into account inadvertent influences like the Kuleshov Effect).

So what produces the vivid emotions of noir? And what are those emotions? Joe is stating that they're all just one thing; they're designed and produced the same way every time and have the same effect every time, differing only in "degree" --and never in "type".

But then why are some so-called noir films clearly mild and light-hearted and others practically beat us up?

Ugh. Its as clear as day that some movies are falsely called noir: the acid-test for this is our emotional reactions to what we see. Noir has the specific power to create moods of cynicism, jaundice, woe, discouragement, gloom, futility, world-weariness, xenophobia...even despair.

Why not talk about these emotions, why not call them out for the uniqueness they possess?

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