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Wednesday May 19th on TCM


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*Silver Screen Oasis* was started roughly three years ago when the TCM boards blew up with incessant fighting, trolling and flame wars. Moira, who runs the board is part of TCM's Movie Morlock bloggers and many of the same posters here are also on the SSO board. SSO is more tightly moderated than TCM to ensure trolling and other flare ups do not occur.

 

Have a look:

 

http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/index.php

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> {quote:title=Arkadin wrote:}{quote}

> My post was an intent to get beyond labels and dissect some of these films on an individual basis. I thought we had started this by questioning *Blade Runner* and might continue with that film or others (what about Melville's films for instance?, or why do some people think *L.A. Confidential* is the greatest noir of the modern era?)..

 

I agree it is best to get beyond labels at some point. They can be useful, but also restraining. I have long argued for a broader definition of film noir, beyond the US made films of the 40s and 50s, that most can agree on. I've pointed out in the past that two of my favorite noirs are Robert Mitchum westerns. I quite agree that *Blade Runner* is a film noir, even self-consciously so.*Memento* is also an excellent modern noir. I can't quite put my finger on why, but to me *L. A. Confidential* is more of an homage to the 50s crime films, than a noir. Perhaps it's the references to Dragnet, and because everything resolves so neatly, unlike most noirs. I do think it's a fine film. To me, what makes a film a noir is more a matter of atmosphere, attitude, tone, all subtle qualities, as opposed to fedoras, femme fatales, urban streets, etc.

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You all have made some great points. I still feel that once you are familiar with the 40s and 50s noirs, you can "feel" the noir in any other film from any other period. I think *Chinatown* and *Memento* are definitely noirs. I also think *Rawhide* is a western noir. I too would rather spend less time talking about if they make the noir cut and instead talk about the actual film.

 

Noir is my favorite film genre but at the end of the day, I like any kind of mystery. I have seen every episode of Murder She Wrote, I love an Agatha Christie whodunit. I don't think any movie reviewer or film historian really has the authority to give a definition in stone.

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}

> No "authority" is required. Any writer can say whatever he or she pleases, and be willing to accept any flak that results.

 

Agreed! I own a few noir books and I don't agree with some written in it but at the end of the day, any crime/mystery film will get at least one viewing from me....if it is from the defined era of noir....it will get a couple of viewings no matter how bad or how contrived the plot (people on this site and others slam *Beyond A Reasonable Doubt* and I watch it every time it is on).

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*Beyond a Reasonable Doubt* - is that the Fritz Lang film with Dana Andrews? I love that! And talk about exploring the dark side of human nature...

 

Another really bizarre "old-school" film noir I really like is *Decoy*. You never hear much about this one, but it's got one of the strangest plot devices I've ever heard of. Anyone seen it? Does TCM ever screen it?

 

As to newer noirs, I agree *Memento* is right up there. Another dark world view. Only problem is, I can't remember if I've seen it or not. Uh-what movie was I talking about? What is this, anyway...???

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That's exactly the film. I really enjoy it and watch it every time it is on. But then again, I am a Dana Andrews fan and any film he is in will get at least 2 screenings out of me.

 

I have never seen Decoy but I will definitely check it out. I am waiting for another big Amazon sale so I can stock up on some noirs particularly in box sets - I am trying to learn how to record from my DVR ( I know it is more simple than I believe!)

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Finance, no that is not correct. The majority of discussion at SSO is classic film (we have a slew of silent and precode posters), but individuals may discuss whatever films they wish (just like here).

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LoveFilmNoir wrote:

*The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a perfect example of post 1970 noir. The only reason why one would simply call it a crime drama is because of the fact it was shot in color and released in 1972.*

 

Which is exactly what Hollywood considered the vast majority of its product made in the 40s and 50s, which we now call Film Noir, crime dramas pure and simple.

 

These films should be rightfully called Classic or True noirs, to differentiate them from what came afterward. The idea of neo-noirs as being self-consciously so, or as mentioned a pastiche or an homage, is a good way of looking at many later films, from Chinatown to the present.

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I think what is common to all film noir, regardless of time period, setting, etc., is the dark world view these movies explore. In fact, when the occasional noir has a happy ending, I think of it as flawed! For example, I love Pick Up on South Street, it's one of my favourites, but - Spoiler - I wish Skip McCoy had been killed by the "Commie" bad guy in that struggle they have near the end. Well, I guess it's not a spoiler, since he wasn't killed.

 

Maybe that's one of the essential aspects of latter-day noir; they are even bleaker than their classic antecedents. Filmmakers who make noir , post the "golden" age of movies, are even more cynical, more pessimistic, than those from the 40s and 50s. Just look at some of the examples people have listed on this thread over the last few days (many Coen brothers movies, Friends of Eddie Coyle,

Chinatown, Memento...).

 

Something that interests me is, what draws us to this dark vision, why do I often prefer those kinds of movies to those with happy endings? One thing, they affect me more. I remember them.

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Well written mswonderly!

 

I too am drawn in by the sad endings. Why? I think it may be because no matter how we live our lives - whether doing good or bad, the ONLY thing we are promised in it is DEATH. The pathetic characters in film noir remind us of this. By pathetic I mean the "down on his luck", or "good guy turned bad", or "I was framed and instead of going to the police I am going to find the bad guy myself and hand him over" characters who we watch carefully in 90-120 minutes go through highs and lows, fist fights in dark alleys, meetings with femme fatales in dirty smoke filled offices with venetian blinds - it's dark, it's noir and I love it.

 

Whenever I read up on noirs, I come across info regarding the director and studio heads clashing over the ending. In those days Hollywood didn't mind the violence to an extent, but didn't want to see the blood or bullet holes (only Bogey or Cagney can be shot six times without a single wrinkle in their 3 piece suit! LOL) they also wanted "happier" endings meaning the bad guy ALWAYS got caught and the femme fatale (for the most part) marries the same guy that had her pinned to a murder 35 minutes ago!

 

By the 70s, the director's definitely had more freedom with violence, dialogue and endings. It's not that I don't like happy endings, I just like more realistic endings. I have watched noirs with completely contrived plots and endings...or a strange twist within the last 15 minutes where the bad guy gets his comeuppance (I guess this is where the re-shot footage comes in after the studio tells the director "no" to his unhappy ending). Very Recently I caught George Raft in *The House Across The Bay* - he swims back to Alcatraz why exactly ? How ironic that director John Huston would be the bad guy in Chinatown with such a dark ending....when had he made that film 20-25 years prior, Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway's characters would have been leaving a courthouse as newlyweds instead of the ending we know today.

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LoveFilmNoir wrote:

*. . . they also wanted "happier" endings meaning the bad guy ALWAYS got caught and the femme fatale (for the most part) marries the same guy that had her pinned to a murder 35 minutes ago!*

 

Sometimes the studios would insist on a happy ending, but it was the straitjacketing of the Production Code in full force that forced the situation. Criminals could not be seen getting away with it, etc.

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There are indeed some film noirs with happy endings, although I always feel that the "happiness" of the remaining characters is tenuous at best. For instance, -spoiler - in Kiss of Death, Victor Mature and Coleen Grey are reunited, and crazy Richard Widmark is gone, but it's unclear if Victor is going to live. And then there's The Big Sleep, although that hardly counts because a) I regard it as much as a comedy as a noir or even a crime drama and B) who the hell knows what's going on in that movie anyway?

A type of noir that we haven't discussed much is the "family situation", films such as Suddenly, The Desperate Hours, and Cape Fear. Although in these movies the family members remain physically unharmed- more or less -they are "changed". They have been damaged psychologically by their tormentors and will never be the same. So even when their ordeal is over, and the criminal/maniac either killed or arrested, it's not really a happy ending per sec. And the films are more powerful because of that.

Arturo, I think you have something here:

 

" *These films should be rightfully called Classic or True noirs, to differentiate them from what came afterward. "*

We've been discussing the idea of some kind of definition of film noir, opening up the criteria for what constitutes noir and so forth, for a while. We all seem to agree that it is most certainly not limited to the "classic" period, and yet it's helpful to have some sort of term to refer specifically to the "dark" movies that were made then. Seems reasonable to have a general term, "film noir", which encompasses all of those cinematic works which examine that dark view of human nature and the way the world works, and maybe to reserve the term "Classic" noir to refer to that beloved classic noir period where it all began. (Or not -weren't we also going to look at "pre" noir films? )

 

I prefer the word "Classic" to "True" , because it has fewer connotations attached to it; the word "True" has more emotional resonance somehow. Arturo, great idea!!

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But I like bad good guys! Where's the fun - or even the entertainment value -in a paragon of virtue?

 

What about Van Heflin in Act of Violence ? His present life is unimpeachable-upstanding citizen, happily married, etc. Oh, I supppose that's what it's all about; his past life catches up with him. But it's partly that very ambiguity about his character that makes the film interesting.

Dick Powell in Cry Danger! He spent all that time in prison, and he was framed -an innocent guy.Of course, he is motivated by revenge - not exactly a model of righteous behaviour.

I know, two out of the three Roberts in Crossfire. Robert Young and Robert Mitchum's behaviour(s) is exemplary. There you go.

 

Come to think of it, I don't want noir heroes to be "good". They're far more interesting with all their flaws and faults. Bad qualities/good qualities...Baby, I don't care.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jun 10, 2010 11:28 AM

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misswonderly wondered:

 

**" . . . and maybe to reserve the term "Classic" noir to refer to that beloved classic noir period where it all began. *(Or not -weren't we also going to look at "pre" noir films?* )**

 

This "reserve the term 'Classic' noir" does not preclude using "pre-" or "proto-" noir, since by definition, they came before those designated as "Classic".

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Nice noir characters? Who could forget the lovely couple from D.O.A. ? If the

competition wasn't so stiff, Frank and Paula could have been America's sweethearts.

She's golden, and his only fault is a roving eye. Unfortunately, their story ends in tragedy.

Awwww.

 

Noirs are sort of an opposite pole to musicals and romantic comedies. The latter

paint a too sunny picture of everyday life, and the former a too dark picture, but

they're still entertaining. Personally, I usually prefer noirs.

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My question, which was probably buried in too many double negatives, was whether there were noirs in which every single character was reasonably bad. In ACT OF VIOLENCE, e.g., Janet Leigh was OK. So was Mary Astor....... My initial thought is BORN TO KILL. Everyone was pretty much up to no good.

 

Edited by: finance on Jun 11, 2010 9:58 AM

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Now I see what you meant: is there any noir film in which all the characters are relatively "good" or at least more "good " than "bad"? Or, to turn it around, is there one in which they are all relatively "bad"?

I agree, Born to Kill is a good candidate for this. That Claire Trevor, I love her, so damn good in everything she did. Good at generating sympathy when the role calls for it ( Key Largo ) and equally good at **** sympathy -voila , Born to Kill !

But the film hinges upon the uncharismatic nature of the Lawrence Tierney character. What makes this a particularly interesting noir from the point of view of character is, we don't know what to make of Tierney. Usually in a "classic" film noir, we know who we're supposed to identify with, or at least sympathize with, by the way the hero is portrayed. Even if he is a criminal, weak, or possessing other faults, we know he's our protagonist, and we follow his exploits with interest and sympathy. But Tierney! Scary guy! Born to Kill refuses to provide that character-identification element.

 

Trivia -(which you probably already know): Lawrence Tierney played Elaine's intimidating father in a very early Seinfeld episode. Don't know why, but it's the only time he appears in the series. In fact, it's the only time there's any mention that Elaine has a father.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jun 11, 2010 10:12 AM

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jun 11, 2010 10:14 AM

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