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FILM NOIR -Love it, Hate it, or not sure?


misswonderly3
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I know there is an entire forum here devoted to film noir. But it's for people who know and love that genre. And not that many people post on it.

What I'm interested in is what most people think of it. There are many classic movie fans, but how many of them actively seek out films noir? ( damn, I can never get the plural for that quite right.)

 

TCM has been showing a lot of this kind of film lately. I'd like to hear what fans who don't watch that many or don't know all that much about it have to say about this dark and problematic genre of film ("problematic" because there are endless discussions on what, exactly, it is.)

Plus, of course, it's always nice to hear from the usual suspects.

 

Come to the dark side. Tell us what you think.

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This is without a doubt my favorite book on the subject. I found a copy at my public library, accidentally, and I highly recommend it. He covers most, if not all, of the major film noir entries, plus a few of the lesser-known gems. He's a great writer and it's fun to read...plus the film stills he has selected are great.

 

dark-city-cover.jpg?w=500&h=410

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I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the genre. While I may keep a list of films I hope see the light of day on TCM, I love discovering a B noir or forgotten noir that pops up on the schedule. I would love to know who the programmer on TCM's staff is that does those 6am to 6pm film noir days on the schedule that seem like they happen once a month so I can thank them and shake their hand. It's a dark genre, but something about those films - the murders, double crossing, fast talking, femme fatales, fall guys etc - just put me in a great mood.

 

Also, it seems like every director dipped into the genre in one way or another so film noir is really not a bad way to explore great movies and the directors behind them and then discover their other works. SUNSET BOULEVARD and DOUBLE INDEMNITY may be great ways for a newbie to Billy Wilder to discover his non-noir films such as THE APARTMENT and THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR.

 

I was watching MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940) last night and saw Rudolph Mate listed as the cinematographer. Who at the time would have known that 10 years later he would be directing the film noir classic D.O.A.?

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

... It's a dark genre, but something about those films - the murders, double crossing, fast talking, femme fatales, fall guys etc - just put me in a great mood.

 

You said it, LFM, baby. The darker, the more desperate the characters, the more moral ambiguity, the more I love it. (Hope that doesn't say anything about us, psychologically :) )

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Sep 12, 2010 3:24 PM

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I like Film Noir very much but I do not seek out movies just because they are that. I tend to find they are either excellent or lousy with no middle ground. I can not recall a single so-so film noir. That may be because either they draw me into dark underworld or they seem very superficial.

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Okay I have to ask this question. What makes a film a Film Noir?? I would like to know. For instance is White Heat one or Bette Davis's Of Human Bondage. If not, why not. I am serious, would like a description. I am a HUGE TCM fan, but that is one catagory I do not understand. Thanks.

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*Okay I have to ask this question. What makes a film a Film Noir?? I would like to know. For instance is White Heat one or Bette Davis's Of Human Bondage. If not, why not. I am serious, would like a description. I am a HUGE TCM fan, but that is one catagory I do not understand. Thanks.*

 

I'd like to know the answer to that one too. I like many of the movies I've seen that are described as Noir, but I'm not sure exactly what make them so.

 

In general though, I like good movies from all genres...except SciFi (just not my cup of tea.)

 

Edited by: sewannie on Sep 12, 2010 5:52 PM

 

Edited by: sewannie on Sep 12, 2010 5:52 PM

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I'm with Love, I am in love with Noir! But I also love crime and mystery and gangster films from the early classic era, so in a way I'm not sure if I am a fan of that more than noir per se, just that many noir films, or films many consider noir, have crime and mystery/detective/gangster elements in them? Haven't sorted that out, but I do love most noir films! :)

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I love the dialogue...

 

You'll always be a two-bit cannon. And when they pick you up in the gutter dead, you're hand'll be in a drunk's pocket. Pickup on South Street

 

?She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up.? The Big Sleep

 

I caught the blackjack right behind my ear. A black pool opened up at my feet. I dived in. It had no bottom.? Murder, My Sweet

 

"What I like about you is you?re rock bottom. I wouldn?t expect you to understand this, but it?s a great comfort for a girl to know she could not possibly sink any lower." The Big Steal

 

Last time I looked, you had a wife.

Maybe next time you look, I won?t.

That?s what they all say.

Clash by Night

 

Money. You know what that is. The stuff you never have enough of. Little green things with George Washington?s picture that men slave for, commit crimes for, die for. It?s the stuff that has caused more trouble in the world than anything else ever invented. simply because there?s too little of it.

Detour

 

"Where were you last night?"

"That's so long ago, I don't remember."

"Will I see you tonight?"

"I never make plans that far ahead."

Casablanca (not really noir, but good noirish dialogue)

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What is "film noir"? Oh, how do I begin? I will try and keep this short, which will be difficult, because even people who know this type of film very well are continually getting into debates over whether this or that movie is a "noir". I'm going to try and do this without referring to any of the (many) books I have on the subject so this will be rather arbitrary and my own personal "take". To keep it relatively simple, I'll stick to what we can call "classic" noir, roughly 1941-1961. Approximately.

 

1) check out the link on tracey's comment a few posts back (thanks, tracey !). it will give you an overall idea of the visuals involving noir better than any way I could try and describe it.

 

2) Unlike other "genres" , - Westerns, musicals, comedies, romances, melodramas - film noir was never a genre as such at the time "classic " noirs were made. That term was applied to them after the fact, by French film enthusiasts in the early 1960s. So it's not as though Robert Siodmak or Jules Dassin ( for instance) decided "Yes, I'm going to make a film noir . I'd better make sure it has an element of crime the story, and lots of shadows..." For lack of a better phrase, "post-war crime drama" was probably how they thought of it, if they gave it a label at all (other than "inexpensive to make" !)

 

3) Despite what I said in (1), I"ll mention the visual aspect a little: Noir is usually shot in black and white (although there are quite a few exceptions), but unlike other black and white movies from the 40s and 50s, they have a certain "look" to them :

very dark visually, to the point where sometimes it's hard to see what's going on (this was actually somewhat on purpose, because if you could hardly see the set than you wouldn't realize how much the film was being made on the cheap)

.-many scenes were shot at night, or anyway set in the nighttime; often it is raining; and often (but not always !)

- the story takes place in an urban setting, a big city like San Francisco, with cinematography involving dark twisty streets and ominous looking high buildings, tunnels, staircases, and seedy warehouses.

- there's almost always the presence of shadows, from windows, venetian blinds, staircases, etc. Noir movies will remind you of German expressionist silent movies (a major noir director is Fritz Lang)

 

4) "noir", which as you doubtless know means "dark" in French, means "dark" in both senses of the word: the films tend to be dark in a visual sense, but also "dark" philosophically. They tend to present a cynical, pessimistic world view. The protagonists are often jaded, fed up, suspicious. Often they are the victims of circumstances, often they are weak and are led into disaster of some sort by another ( often the so-called "femme fatale", but not always.) Sometimes they come to a bad end from a weakness within; sometimes they do nothing to deserve their fate ( see *DOA*). Usually, but again not always, a film noir has an unhappy ending, or at least an ambiguous one.

 

5)Usually there is a crime of some sort involved, hence the association with gangster movies.

 

There are many other elements to noir, that apply to some but not all: the "femme fatale" is in fact absent from many noirs, and it's unfortunate that so many people think all noirs have to have one, Although they are fun when they do appear.

 

Sorry, this was supposed to be short. I have left out a lot, but I have no doubt others will contribute, because it seems to be a characteristic of a noir fan that they like to discuss its definition.

 

But having said all that, I would prefer to get others' opinions on film noir, and whether they like it or not, what is their favourite, etc. If we get mired in a discussion about what noir is, than it won't be that different from conversations about it on the Noir Forum threads.

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I love Film Noir. Probably next to Screwball Comedies it's my favorite thing about Classic Film.

 

I also love pre-noirish films like the gangster films, German Expressionism, or some of the Poetic Realism films. Neo-Noir I am not too fond of though.

 

I have to admit though I have not noticed more of these films appearing on TCM. I certainly would not mind seeing more though.

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I'm very sure-it's my favorite genre next to Westerns. My favorites are Out of the Past, Double Indemnity, and Dead Reckoning. It's amazing how many good ones were made on what were obviously limited budgets. RKO seemed to have the template as so many of them came from there. Oops, I forgot the original Narrow Margin.

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

> Okay I have to ask this question. What makes a film a Film Noir?? I would like to know. For instance is White Heat one or Bette Davis's Of Human Bondage. If not, why not. I am serious, would like a description. I am a HUGE TCM fan, but that is one catagory I do not understand. Thanks.

 

Don't worry, I'm not going to go into a big dissertation again. But you did ask about those two films.

 

*White Heat* kind of overlaps gangster and noir. It's generally considered a noir, because for one thing, it was made ten years or more after the classic gangster movie era, and in terms of the time period it falls into, (1949), it would be a noir. Of course, there were some films that were straightforward gangster pictures made after 1940, but they didn't have the same "feel" as the 1930s films. *White Heat* also has a pretty dark vision, darker and stranger than older more traditional gangster movies. I can't really picture that incredible ending being made at the peak of the gangster film era. That ending is pretty noir.

 

*Of Human Bondage* ? I haven't seen it (either version) for a long time, but from what I can remember neither would be labelled a film noir. It does have the element of sexual obsession, a very typical ingredient in noir movies. That aspect of the main character being in thrall to the object of his desire is certainly a noir type theme; but I think the connection ends there. *Of Human Bondage* is more what I think of as a drama (and a good one -have you read the novel by W. Somerset Maugham?)

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Sep 12, 2010 10:16 PM

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Thanks, tracey. I'm kind of worried that I sounded a bit pompous, explaining a type of film that has university professors at a loss to define sometimes. And I am definitely no university prof, and no expert on the subject, just an enthusiastic fan. There may very well be mistakes and oversights in that explanation I attempted. I'd love for others to comment, give their ideas on what constitutes noir.

 

Or, since everyone on these forums loves lists so much, even if they just list some of their favourite film noirs, that could be fun.

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"TCM has been showing a lot of this kind of film lately"

 

It seems to me the opposite has been the case - to the point that I had given up on this channel. I've mentioned in other posts that it certainly seemed in years past 'Noir' was the genre one could count on finding simply by clicking on TCM. I've since wondered if this was just 'one of those things" - coincidental and MY own particular 'luck of the draw' ? If so, my luck has seemed to change lately - that is until I saw 'White Heat' and 'High Sierra' back to back the other night. I LIVE for and flat out LOVE film' noir'! !!

In most areas of life, too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing but when it comes to this genre....

I could live with a 'film noir' channel. A 24/7 rotation of the 400+ on 'list' would be fine with me as one has the option to pick and choose when one wants to indulge. The only way this wouldn't work for me would be if a '24/7 film noir channnel' was the ONLY channel available - then I could see myself getting burned out on them. I also enjoy 'cross overs' such as 'The Day The Earth Stood Still' and 'Invasion Of The Body Snatchers' (RIP Kevin McCarthy) even though I'm no longer a Sci/Fi fan - go figure. 50's cars, steam engine powered trains, 'woodies' (cars) and fins or not fins - the rounded shape of 50's cars or even the '49 Ford... the fashions - especially floppy hats, longer polkas dot dresses, red lip stick and babes in high heels with ankle straps, seemed stockings ... ooops, ummmm ... where was I ? Oh yes, fashion... dudes with fedoras and jacket/ties. Then theres the architecture - not exclusive to noir but its the choice of locations I guess. Streamline Moderne/Art Deco - train stations, bus stops/stations - especially at night. And oscillating fans, enameled table tops, red 'Coca Cola' coolers, tube powered radios and 'bakelite' !!

A mix of noir and gangster flicks might be the ticket. BUT, what about movies like 'Bridge on the River Kwai', 'Kellys Heroes', 'The Dirty Dozen' along with older classics such as 'From Here to Eternity' and 'Sgt.York' ? Love 'em too. But then where do 'The African Queen' or 'Lolitta' fit in ?

Then there are the 'holiday classics'. Christmas Eve/Day without 'A Christmas Story' or 'Its A Wonderful Life', 'A Christmas Carol' (Wha ? The Alastair Sim version of course !!) or even 'Christmas Vacation' ? Shoot me !! Guess its not so easy to figure me out, anticipate my wants and needs....to cater to my whims. So, whats a channel to do ?? I've got it !! The 'Everything BUT Musicals/ Sci/'Fi/Silent Films/Hope/Cosby Comedies Channel' !! I could live with this. No, wait. I haven't laughed at a Lloyd/Chaplin/Marx Bros. flick since I was 10 years old either -

Gimme a Cary Grant comedy any day/night of the week ...

Maybe I should just stick with the OP's question..."FILM NOIR -Love it, Hate it, or not sure?". Oh, I'm quite sure, I love 'em !! Now PLEASE ME damn it !! Thank you.

* If Bob, Ben or Alec happen to stumble across this post - I enjoy you gentleman too ! Don't take the above as....ahhhh, like you guys have the time to read the forums....you have lives ! LOL !!

Thank you for the question misswonderly.

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You know, considering that noir is essentially a pessimistic genre, I really enjoy the fact that its fans seem to be brimming over with optimistic enthusiasm - at least for film noir.

 

To be honest, I think a "noir only" tv station would almost be too much of a good thing. I actually kind of like it when TCM shows movies I'm not interested in; it gives me a chance to do other things -read, go for a walk, for for that matter catch up on the many films I've recorded from TCM that I haven't watched yet! If some station aired nothing but noir films 24/7, I'd go crazy trying to catch it all, and also continue some kind of a life outside of watching movies ! Also, I might even become blase about the whole thing, take it for granted. Sometimes I think we appreciate things more when they're less accessible than we'd like them to be.

 

Coming up at 8:00 this Thursday night: UNDERWORLD USA ! , a great latter-day noir (1961) directed by Sam Fuller (he of one of my favourite film noirs, *Pickup on South Street* ). You gotta want to watch it just for the title alone. It's a fun title to say out loud, like a lot of noir titles. Cliff Robertson makes it his life's work to avenge his father's death (no spoilers there, it's made clear right from the beginning.) I love the weary older floozie in this. And there's some nice sexy little scenes between Cliff and Dolores Dorn. Proof that noir was still alive and at least occasionally well in 1961.

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