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Books On Film Noir


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Just finnished about a week ago Blackout: World War II and the Origins of Film Noir by Sheri Chinen Biesen (Oct 19, 2005), and its given me some new insight into what I'm trying to quantify. I suggest everyone read it. Some quotes from the book below.








A number of elements all came together into what The New York Times tagged the "red meat crime cycle" (before French critics coined the term Film Noir) at the onset of WWII. "The PCA' s lapses in code enforcement, the Office of Censorship banning "un-American" Hollywood gangsters but condoning of depictions of war related atrocities, and the Office of War Information's regulation of screen stories depicting the combat front or domestic home front to promote the war effort---all of these developments complicated WWII censorship and encouraged hard-boiled film adaptations that initially reformed gangsters and promoted patriotic crime." Pictures were filmed with "tremendous studio rationing of lighting, electricity, film stock, and set materials" in an uncharacteristically dark urban Los Angeles basin in response to wartime blackouts.









The first Noir where all of the elements came together was Double Indemnity, and along with other wartime productions such as The Phantom Lady and, Murder My Sweet represented some of the most expressionistic, stylistically black phase of film noir (what I'm calling the *Hard Core Noirs*). "The noir aesthetic evolved from the wartime constraints on film making practices. Brooding, often brutal realism was conveyed in low lit images recycled sets (disguised by shadows, smoke, artificial fog, and rain), tarped studio back lots, or enclosed sound stages.









In the post war period film makers redefined noir realism having more flexibility in location shooting and lighting. Wartime Noir created a psychological atmosphere that in many ways marked a response to an increasingly realistic and understandable anxiety---about war, shortages, changing gender roles, and "a world gone mad"---that was distinctive from the later postwar paranoia about the bomb, the cold war, HUAC, and the blacklist which was more intrinsic to the late 40's and 50's Noir pictures." (lighter grayer or Films Gris, *Soft Core Noir*)









And you can see this in the films. Wilder's Double Indemnity is darker in visual style than 1950's Sunset Boulevard, Fritz Langs Ministry of Fear and Scarlett Street are darker than The Big Heat (1953). But there are some exceptions Aldrich's *Kiss Me Deadly*(1955) and Lewis' *The Big Combo*(1955) are pretty dark, but the general trend outlined in the book is distinctive and sort of explains the reason for the range in the pallet of Films Noir.


Edited by: cigarjoe on Feb 21, 2012 5:52 PM

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