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Dr. Rich Edwards

Into the Darkness Video Lecture #1: The Heist (Official Discussion Thread)

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Where can I find video lecture #1?

 It is the second page of Module 2 in the Canvas course site. Just click on the link under the image on the main page under Week 2 "Lecture 1: The Heist "What is Film Noir"" - if you click on that link, you will be taken to an Intro page - read the intro, and click next at the bottom of the screen, and you will find the lecture video. 

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For  those having trouble finding lectures: use this link which will take you to a login screen where you can sign in or create an account : https://learn.canvas.net/courses/748

 

 

Here you will find the first quiz, which I found accidentally. It will be available 6-11. https://learn.canvas.net/courses/748/quizzes/7016

 

-M

 

Thanks Moxie264! Actually, all "due dates" for quizzes are suggested due dates. Everything in the course, once it is opened, will remain available and open until 8/3/15. Thanks for including the links. A very helpful idea! 

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I, too, have heard of noir as a mood. Having seen some German Expressionism, I can see what directors did with lighting and play of shadows. Many of the comments here address the historical underpinning of noir. I'm divided on that. People needed to laugh during the Depression because poverty was grinding and prospects for employment, bleak; yet, the Twenties were pretty lawless. I realize that the outlaws in the 30s films do often die, but there is a sense (in my opinion) that moviegoers were rooting for them. Vicarious wish? I imagine people were just as mad at financial institutions in the Thirties as people were in 2007 and 2008. I guess what I'm getting at it is I see a certain moralizing force at play as movies moved into the fifties. The bad guy has to get punished, even if it isn't in the court of law. The femme fatale had to get her just desserts. 

 

I read an essay (author's name escapes me) who suggested that the American gangster was a descendent of the cowboy. There is lawlessness, but eventually there is justice. I don't know if it is a reach to say that the 1940s were an ambiguous time, with WW2 raging in the background, but I see a lot of similarities between 1950s film and the 1980s. Today, we seem to admire the clever criminal. A new trend, a genre?

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Thanks Moxie264! Actually, all "due dates" for quizzes are suggested due dates. Everything in the course, once it is opened, will remain available and open until 8/3/15. Thanks for including the links. A very helpful idea!

You should inform all students to log into their Canvas acct,as that's where your whole outline and objectives for the course are. Luckily I've been doing that from the start.
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After going through the Lecture and Eddie Muller's Film Noir Overview, I watched the Maltese Falcon again.  It never ceases to show me something new.  I have a question about the film.  Early on, Miles Archer, Sam Spade's partner, is shot.  The setting is night, we see Archer's face, he smiles and then a gun is aimed at him only a few feet in front of him and it fires, killing Archer.  Later, in Sam's apartment with the two detectives, one says Archer was shot in the back from across the street.  Did I miss something?  

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Just finished my module. What I found interesting is the question is film noir a style, genre or movement? The angle you are giving the course as an investigation is appropriate and very interesting. What stuck out to me is that the french noticed a shift in style from the light hearted movies in the 30s to the more darker themed movies in the 40s. As a classic movie lover, this is how I classify if a movie is a film noir or not. Not to say movies were not dark, but there was a lot of escapism in the 30s, very rich and glamorous characters. Even the pre-codes, though not escapist had a different feel. For me, the restrictions of the code is what makes the noirs in the 40s and 50s and more appealing. It made film makers be more creative and focus on story telling, dialog, camera shots. I also liked the point that conditions were ripe from film noir. I agree with that. That is the enduring quality of the films.

Indeed: I think Years of restrictions under the Production Code pushed screenwriters, directors, AND audiences toward the style/genre/movement of what later came to be called Noir. It can be argued that all three wanted to change things up from constantly happy movies in the face of not only the Depression but another World War. I enjoyed the question of whether Noir fits one of the three definitions--or can fit all three (which I think it can). But what I glommed onto in the lecture was ... well, France. I knew the term was coined soon after the war but hadn't realized that during the war, American films were embargoed

Face palm, and a lightbulb overhead.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here, but I think this is a big point in how Noir was able to be identified, and why in 1946 by a French film critic. Bear with me ...

France obviously had a thriving cinema before the war, and somewhat during as well. It also had a very developed community of film critics. But imagine: It's 1946 and you're a French cineaste. You haven't seen an American film for five years. Suddenly, you're flooded with 'em, five years of films that fill in the cinematic gap you're been wondering about, in between blowing up bridges for the Resistance or hiding from the Gestapo or moaning because the local film house is showing another Leni Riefenstahl, courtesy of your occupiers. What the HECK has Hollywood been up to? Now it's all flooding in and WHAMMO--Some of these American films are ... different. Less happy and confident. More dark. A LOT more dark than you remember them. THAT is a seminal moment in identifying Noir films: that sudden realization that for the last five years or so, there has been this growing undercurrent of darkness in American films that wasn't quite there before. A change you can see, in stark relief, because you suddenly have five years' worth of films to gauge the change.

Oh, there were still big happy crazy musicals (The Gang's All Here) and sappy love stories to numerous to name, etc. etc., that were being made, but this, this dark stuff, is perhaps not the kind of film you thought would be made in America during the war. And they speak to you, you who had to live under German occupation and the Vichy government. These films speak in a way other films before the war didn't. And, for Nino Frank, they are worth noting by giving them their own term of identity: Noir.

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After going through the Lecture and Eddie Muller's Film Noir Overview, I watched the Maltese Falcon again.  It never ceases to show me something new.  I have a question about the film.  Early on, Miles Archer, Sam Spade's partner, is shot.  The setting is night, we see Archer's face, he smiles and then a gun is aimed at him only a few feet in front of him and it fires, killing Archer.  Later, in Sam's apartment with the two detectives, one says Archer was shot in the back from across the street.  Did I miss something?  

It's been a while since I saw it, but possibly they were just trying to trip up Spade and get him to say that's not what happened...

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I'd like to start off by saying that before I even knew about the term "film noir", films like It's A Wonderful Life and the Maltese Falcon were staples in my movie library.  In fact, I am always one to argue that, while I do enjoy watching It's A Wonderful Life during Christmas season, the film is so much more than a Christmas film.  I feel like that is so lost in this day of age where the film is on constant repeat, but only during the Christmas season.

 

In fact, I'd be more willing to argue that the film is simply a "Film Noir" that takes place during the Christmas season.  For example, the film is not a by-product of the season it takes place in.  What I mean by this is that, while a film like the Frankin Bass Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer requires that the film take place during Christmas, films like "It's A Wonderful Life", or more recently the horror film "Gremlins" and the sequel to the beloved Ivan Reitman Ghostbusters film, "Ghostbusters 2", take place during the season but could just as easily take place during any other season and the film would not loose any of its overarching themes.  

 

I believe my argument actually goes a long way in proving the opinion of the lecturer in our first video lecture.  He states that he doesn't believe that "film noir" should be classified into any specific genre. A "Christmas film" such as It's A Wonderful Life could just as easily be considered "film noir" as a "action/suspense" film such as The Maltese Falcon or the James Cagney gangster film "The Public Enemy" could be also.

 

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Boy, this is a tough and knowledgeable crowd :-) Point taken. FYI, I address the topic of jazz and its use and contributions to film noir in Video Lecture 2. 

 

But let's not focus too much on the music we selected for the video lectures. I am hoping we focus more on the main points of Lecture 1 (he says, as the saxophone fades in the background....)

To rrrick,

 

you lost me at diegetic. sorry, but smoky night clubs,  dames in backless shimmery glam gowns, champagne cocktails, and YES. sexy music from a sax all go hand in hand. Cut the prof some slack.

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My opinion on who gets credit for "inspiring" film noir? The Nazis. First, they forced some of the best German expressionist directors to flee to Hollywood and then they cast a spell of dread and pessimism over the US in the 1940s. American are not by nature pessimistic so the Nazi influence was critical. Ironically, very few examples of film noir have any overt Nazi imagery. They are virtually never mentioned. But the sense of tension and anxiety looms nonetheless.

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In the past I've paid more attention to the technical aspects of film noir, the look and feel of the film, but I am intrigued by the theme of disillusionment in the scripts. Dark Passage's small scene, where a single mother and lonely man connect and discuss their views on society, is overheard by Vincent/Allen and propels him to call Irene and make future plans.

 

In M, the underbelly of the city bands together out of self-preservation, but with an underlying concern for the children and their families. I'm going to continue to watch for this theme in other films noir. Despite the disillusionment, characters look for a way to connect with each other.

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In the past I've paid more attention to the technical aspects of film noir, the look and feel of the film, but I am intrigued by the theme of disillusionment in the scripts. Dark Passage's small scene, where a single mother and lonely man connect and discuss their views on society, is overheard by Vincent/Allen and propels him to call Irene and make future plans.

 

In M, the underbelly of the city bands together out of self-preservation, but with an underlying concern for the children and their families. I'm going to continue to watch for this theme in other films noir. Despite the disillusionment, characters look for a way to connect with each other.

 

I think a lot of us initially pay more attention to the technical aspects of film noir and only later pay more attention to the noir themes associated with the characters like obsession and disillusionment.        

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In today's video lecture no. 1, we hear that Film Noir started in Hollywood around 1940 and ended around 1958. But what about the films we saw last week from Europe. First there was M from Germany in 1931 and the La Bete Humaine in 1938. Europe should not be excluded from the Film Noir definition. Hollywood with the first film noir in 1940 was influenced by the rising tide violence. In much the same way M released in 1931 was probably influenced by the problems in Germany at the time. I saw M for the first time last Friday. I think it is probably one of the best movies I have ever seen. There was suspense and intrigue at every turn. I saw scenes that reminded me of the old TV series Dragnet. The office building even had a modern automatic electronic watch system that alerted the police department when triggered. The details on how the police solved the crime was most impressive.

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My opinion on who gets credit for "inspiring" film noir? The Nazis. First, they forced some of the best German expressionist directors to flee to Hollywood and then they cast a spell of dread and pessimism over the US in the 1940s. American are not by nature pessimistic so the Nazi influence was critical. Ironically, very few examples of film noir have any overt Nazi imagery. They are virtually never mentioned. But the sense of tension and anxiety looms nonetheless.

I wouldn't say the Nazis, but definitely the Germans. German Expressionism came from the disillusionment prevalent in Germany after WWI (where the Treaty of Versailles basically brought the country to its knees), similar to the disillusionment found in the United States after the Depression. The whole world was in chaos: one world war hot on the heels of another one, revolutions, economic depression, struggles everywhere ... who wouldn't feel like the world was imploding around them?

I think people were just too cynical to enjoy the screwball escapism of comedies that they'd been seeing, and they wanted something they could relate to: a confused, jarring world where people do what they have to do to get what they want. This world was presented in noir through both style (darkness and shadow, camera angles, et al) as well as themes (where's the line between good and bad people?) The European directors had the experience to bring the visuals with them and marry these to innately American stories.

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A nice introduction to the topics and themes to be addressed in the coming weeks. Not to be too critical from the get go, but it's ironic that the lecture is accompanied by a soundtrack often associated with, but actually rarely used in Film Noir - a lazy, lush saxophone jazz score....

 

Most Films Noir have a very limited score, and if they have one, it's usually a 'classic' orchestral score. If jazz is to be found in Noir, it's usually in a diegetic fashion, like in a nightclub visited by the characters, or from music coming from a record player.

 

I'm sure sound will be discussed in later entries, but it's interesting to ask why and how jazz became so connected to Film Noir.

 

Jazz rarely used in Noir? I beg to differ. Jazz is quite diverse and much more than the solitary saxophone. There's be-bop, big band, gypsy, swing, etc. I hear quite a bit of different subgenres of jazz in many films noir. For example:

The Third Man uses Gypsy Jazz throughout the film. 

Double Indemnity, Laura, Touch of Evil, Postman Always Ring Twice, Big Sleep all use jazz that is predominantly sax and piano.

Man with the Golden Arm is more be-bop jazz

Asphalt Jungle uses swing

 

Diegetic (aka source music) or not, it's still a soundtrack. Rear Window, though there may be no orchestra, still has a jazzy soundtrack nonetheless through diegesis.

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"people were just too cynical to enjoy the screwball escapism of comedies that they'd been seeing, and they wanted something they could relate to: a confused, jarring world where people do what they have to do to get what they want. This world was presented in noir through both style (darkness and shadow, camera angles, et al) as well as themes (where's the line between good and bad people?)"-JGiesbrecht 

 

  I have to agree, during the depression it seemed people wanted to escape the every day troubles with funny/light hearted comedies and love stories but War and the Red Scare had people on edge and they wanted to know that other people had the same feelings, troubles and experiences that they did. Not to mention the possibility that one could say "Well my life is tough but at least I haven't had to experience that!"

  There is also something magical at the thought that these French critics, unable to watch Hollywood movies for so long during the War were finally able to. I see them locking themselves away and watching movies literally in chronological order of production and suddenly noticing that little by little some film seemed to literally becoming darker, not just in content but also in the lighting and the film itself.  It must of been amazing to see the transformation taking place and wondering what was going on! Amazing 

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Jazz rarely used in Noir? I beg to differ. Jazz is quite diverse and much more than the solitary saxophone. There's be-bop, big band, gypsy, swing, etc. I hear quite a bit of different subgenres of jazz in many films noir. For example:

The Third Man uses Gypsy Jazz throughout the film.

Double Indemnity, Laura, Touch of Evil, Postman Always Ring Twice, Big Sleep all use jazz that is predominantly sax and piano.

Man with the Golden Arm is more be-bop jazz

Asphalt Jungle uses swing

 

Diegetic (aka source music) or not, it's still a soundtrack. Rear Window, though there may be no orchestra, still has a jazzy soundtrack nonetheless through diegesis.

No,he's talking about that clichéd saxophone bit,that the public has come to associate with film noir,more than jazz itself. Like the lead in score to Remington Steele..ect
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Personally I always thought of film noir as a cynical mood that permeates the film. Many of these films had a certain style, and many were part of the crime genre and they came about at a certain time but to me that cynicism permeates all Film Noir. I see film noir as the antithesis of the American dream: If you work hard enough you will succeed.

 

As the video lecture mentions the U.S. was probably ripe for a more cynical film post war. But a lot of the seeds for film noir were already planted in the hard boiled detective novels, 30's gangster films, French poetic realisism films, & German expressionist films. I don't think it is a coincidence that some of the most prominent noir directors like Preminger, Wilder, & Lang were also European. They brought their own cultural influences into their films.

 

Also to me it is fitting that the French coined the term film noir because their films of the 30's could fit in very well with American Film Noir.

 

Also I never before saw Its a Wonderful Life listed as film noir but despite the ending it is a pretty dark story . I like that this course is already challenging my perception of what film noir is. Sometimes I think it is a good idea to not always be so rigid in my thinking and I hope to look at things with a more open perspective.

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Personally I always thought of film noir as a cynical mood that permeates the film. Many of these films had a certain style, and many were part of the crime genre and they came about at a certain time but to me that cynicism permeates all Film Noir. I see film noir as the antithesis of the American dream: If you work hard enough you will succeed.

 

As the video lecture mentions the U.S. was probably ripe for a more cynical film post war. But a lot of the seeds for film noir were already planted in the hard boiled detective novels, 30's gangster films, French poetic realisism films, & German expressionist films. I don't think it is a coincidence that some of the most prominent noir directors like Preminger, Wilder, & Lang were also European. They brought their own cultural influences into their films.

 

Also to me it is fitting that the French coined the term film noir because their films of the 30's could fit in very well with American Film Noir.

 

Also I never before saw Its a Wonderful Life listed as film noir but despite the ending it is a pretty dark story . I like that this course is already challenging my perception of what film noir is. Sometimes I think it is a good idea to not always be so rigid in my thinking and I hope to look at things with a more open perspective.

 

At the risk of getting ahead of things a bit, I just watched On Dangerous Ground yesterday, which is one of the films selected for this class. It seemed to be commenting directly on the cynicism and nihilism of noir. It attempted to be a noir film without being hopeless and tragic. It's a Wonderful Life, if we accept it as a noir film, also attempts to bring light to scatter the shadows.

 

But yeah, I feel both stylistically and substance-wise noir deals with nihilism, but doesn't itself need to be nihilistic.

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The jazz scene in Phantom Lady would be a really good example for the music being used in the way you mention but yes generally even the diegetic music in Noir is generally classical or latin

 

The very first image that came to mind!

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One common theme mentioned in the lecture as well as amongst our comments here in this thread seems to be the feeling of disillusionment which occurred socially in both Germany and France following WWI and here in the US during and following WWII and then again in the US during and following Vietnam. All of these war/post-war periods led to a noir movement.

 

I think the classic period is the most well known and loved because it was a perfect storm of forces (writers, directors, actors, technology and business model) come together. Prior to the classic period some of these elements were present thus the proto-noir we saw last week. And following the classic period, we have the growth of television and the end of the studio system.

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Great lecture. There are so many elements that go into films noir, that it is difficult to come to a firm definition of these movies. The lecture brought up topics that are food for thought.....the individual can arrive at his own conclusion as to what he or she believes embodies the genre/style! I was intrigued with the question of why did these films emerged in 1940. Never thought of that before. I look forward to more. Thanks so much.

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