Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Do You Think Noir Could Save Cinema Again?


Recommended Posts

Another consideration.  The height of Film Noir was during a period when there was no or little TV.  It was go to the movies or nothing for most people.  Changed a little in the late '50's (TV was around in '40's for some), but most people still went to movies.  Now they watch TV or stream or buy DVD's or whatever.

It was also very much where you went on a date.  Not so much now.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

"They won't dominate the industry" That's the whole point to this OPs question,I'm refering to. You will never see that kind of trend in films again,to where mass audiences are going to come out in droves to see film noir,like we want to see it again. A few films here and there,doesn't mean anything to the overall landscape of things. Without the majors on board,(because they are the only ones who have the distribution capabilities to mass market) there is zero chance of seeing any change to our side of the fence. Don't take my word for it...go ask the studios themselves what's on the horizon.

And that is why most films today are not very good. It's the same movies being churned out. There are only a handful of good contemporary films coming out today. It speaks more about the viewing public than it does of the studios themselves. No need to ask them what's on the horizon.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree, my mom told me she didnt really grow up on tv. She said she went to the movies all the time to watch westerns. Those were her favorite type of movies to view. She said even as a kid she would go by herself. Going to the movies was her entertainment and everyone elses. 

I noticed that in Witness for the Prosecution, the widow would go to the movies all the time.

 

Another consideration.  The height of Film Noir was during a period when there was no or little TV.  It was go to the movies or nothing for most people.  Changed a little in the late '50's (TV was around in '40's for some), but most people still went to movies.  Now they watch TV or stream or buy DVD's or whatever.

It was also very much where you went on a date.  Not so much now.

Link to post
Share on other sites

John Huston's THE MALTESE FALCON was a remake..... Just saying.

It may have been a remake of Dashiell Hammet's novel, but were the other movies noir in their style?  We are talking about a specific form that began in 1941.  It is possible to film The Maltese Falcon as a straightforward detective story with no special visual style.  That is where the greatness lies.

Link to post
Share on other sites

And that is why most films today are not very good. It's the same movies being churned out. There are only a handful of good contemporary films coming out today. It speaks more about the viewing public than it does of the studios themselves. No need to ask them what's on the horizon.

Film Noir can never be resurrected in its pure form because the Hays Code no longer exists.  One of the abiding features of noir is how the directors and screenwriters managed to hint at all kinds of naughtiness with innuendo.  Like the darkness that surrounds that key lighting, we must understand what is really being said.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems as though you're missing the point. No one said what's currently out there now is going to be replaced by films noir and silent films. It will always exist and will generate money, but it would be nice if there was more variety to have films that revert back to the old style. In fact this DOES happen and quite often. It usually generates a word of mouth response. I thought the 2012 British remake Brighton Beach was a great noir film (albeit color) without all the sex, very little (if any) profanity, minimal on screen violence. It had many of the technical noir elements including use of light/dark, shadows, camera angles. It was also well received. 

 

So yes you WILL see a return to of these types of films; they just won't dominate the industry. My sense from the posts here is that many would like to see this availability out there instead of the same industry milled big budget films.

Why knock out the sex and profanity if it's done right and realistically?, we are adults.

 

Check out The Wrong Man (1993) great Noir story, minimal violence, intense Noir sequences, with well fleshed out characters shot on location in Mexico with a great score by Los Lobos.

 

You have Kevin Anderson as the on the run from the law US seaman who gets stranded in Tampico, and gets falsely accused of murder, a part that would have gone to in the classic noir period to William Holden, Steve Cochran, Burt Lancaster. John Lithgow as the Henry Fonda-ish ne plus ultra "Ugly American" scamming his way across Mexico, and Rosanna Arquette as the Heartbreaker floozy femme fatale of a wife in a part that is reminiscent of an American Brigitte Bardo.. Its juxtaposed by an equally well written Mexican Federale policier side story.

Link to post
Share on other sites

And that is why most films today are not very good. It's the same movies being churned out. There are only a handful of good contemporary films coming out today.

 

I would argue that most films that came out at any time period were not very good. There is a strong element of curating that happens when we watch movies from before our own time. There might be an argument to be made that there is more junk these days, but part of that is certainly due to the fact that technology has put us in a position where people can literally make feature films on their phones--you don't have a studio system filtering stuff out in the same way. Movies from the 40s might have had a better batting average, so to speak, but I think that amazing movies are coming out all of the time. Consider 2004: Spartan, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Shaun of the Dead, Mean Girls, The Bourne Supremacy, Collateral, The Incredibles, Kung Fu Hustle--all of these are movies that I think deserve to be remembered, and many of them I'd be just as excited to rewatch as some of my favorite noirs. Spartan and Collateral, in particular, draw on the same hard-boiled sensibilities as many of the films we've discussed so far in this course.

 

In terms of the question of sex, violence, and profanity--I agree that filmmakers these days sometimes use these elements as a cheap crutch. But then again, so did the film noir movie makers. Watching the trailer for Gilda, what are it's selling points? Double entendre ("If I'd been a ranch they would have called me the Bar Nothing"); sex (they show a clip from her striptease number); violence (two separate scenes show characters being slapped and Gilda is repeatedly manhandled). She gets slapped before she can call herself a ****, but the word hangs there unspoken but clearly understood. I've seen a lot of trailers for noir movies, and they frequently highlight murder and violence and sex.

 

I also think that it's worth mentioning that the "moral" code at the time also included not showing things like interracial relationships, pregnant women, homosexual relationships, etc. Yes, directors and actors found ways to cleverly suggest these things, but just the fact that they had to be portrayed in this winking way is depressing. Kurt Vonnegut once said "Yes my characters speak coarsely, but that it because real men speak coarsely." I don't think that we always go to the movies to see real life portrayed honestly, but I do think that sex, violence, and profanity can be part of the larger truth-telling that movies do. Like any element of a movie, it is effective when deployed correctly and off-putting when used carelessly, just like background music, special effects, or different acting styles.

 

Noir (and the "classic style") is one way to make a movie. I think that it will always have an audience. Movies like Ida are definitely not noir, but use many elements of it in both visual and storytelling capacities. If anything, we should celebrate the fact that it is easier and cheaper to make and distribute movies these days. It means that people who want to create and view noir-type films don't have to rely on profit-focused studios to make it happen.

Link to post
Share on other sites

There's still a market out there for people who like films with a good story without all the graphic stuff, hence the reason some watch classic movies,, able to watch a movie without all the "extras"

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

As far as I'm concerned, most of the films made today are slated for a mass audience between the ages of 10 & 30. They're all about "special effects" and blowing up everything - not good plots.  Good screenplays are rare enough today - there's no beginning, no middle, and no end in sight - and that's why I do not think noir could save the "cinema" of today.  The film needs to have a terrific plot whether the noir is in black & white or color. Once in awhile a film like Woody Allen's Match Point comes along which has a terrific screenplay, "the bad and the good girl" and the "no-good guy" at the center. Another is "Mona Lisa" with Bob Hoskins and Michael Caine. Also "Sexy Beast" with Ray Winstone & Ben Kingsley. I'd like to know about other noir type films out there worth viewing. I'd like to see some good remakes of a few of my favorite noir films - such as "Force of Evil", "Nobody Lives Forever", "Body and Soul", "Pickup on South Street", "Panic in the Streets", "Yellow Sky", "The Clouded Yellow", "No Way Out", "The Man I Love", "Road House", "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" to name a few. Keep it simple - a terrific screenplay that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. What's your opinion?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, my goodness! So much pessimism!

 

There are so many amazing movies with fantastic characters, stunning visuals, and compelling plots coming out every year. Would a movie like Beasts of the Southern Wild ever have been made in the 40s? What about the nearly-wordless Bin Jip (3-Iron)? Gravity was special effects from start to finish, yet it was also one of the most compelling portrayals of overcoming grief that I've ever seen.

 

I know that cinematic golden ages come and go. The 40s were revolutionary, as were the 70s. But I think that if you can't find good movies these days, you aren't looking hard enough past what's screening at the local AMC. The big blockbusters might have turned into whirlwinds of CGI and explosions, but there is innovative, astonishing cinema (especially from places like South Korea) coming out constantly.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I am somewhat intrigued by how the so-called "New Media" might influence noir.  Like a lot of posters have pointed out, movies just don't dominate the entertainment landscape anymore.  Perhaps noir might find a new home in the New Media?  Netflix, Amazon and cable stations like AMC and SyFy seem interested in daring new content.  No reason why they would be interested in daring old content, either. ;)  Would love to see a noir series, such as a revival of The Naked City, appear in one of those venues.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Could film noir save cinema again?  Okay, here's my short, to-the-point answer: probably not and I don't think so, not at this time.  So if you just want my opinion nice and easy, there it is.  However, if you'd like to read why I believe this, please continue!  I hope my comments give you food for thought.  And at least spark an interesting discussion!  So here are my reasons for not believing film noir can save cinema today:

Before we can answer that, we need to consider some aspects of films noirs.  And the interesting tthing about noir was this: while it showed the darkness of life, the downside of life.  It's pessimistic, depressing.  But it it discussed life as it is, real life.  Films noirs compensated for the overly optimistic, overly bright and shiny, polyanna world of so many contemporaneous Hollywood movies.  After suffering through the Great Depression, Gangsterism and the rise of Organized Crime, the rise of the Dictatorships and World War II, everyone knew that life wasn't all sunshine, prosperity, peace and fun.  People struggled.  People suffered.  So film noir told the whole story of human life and modern living, particularly life in the city (and The City, as so many noirs are in San Francisco). 

     However, despite it's darkness and pessimism, despite the immorality or amorality shown in film noir very moralistic.
     We can argue that classic films noirs were moral stories which are meant to teach a lesson and that they had a moral to the story, which lesson was learned by observing the consequences of taking immoral or amoral decisions.  They were meant to show us why it is important to act morally, even if not all of life is moral.  Perhaps this is why the Hayes Office gave them their seal of approval, because they could be justified as morality tales.  They can be seen as adult fairy tales (in which children or common folk often make bad decisions but learn a lesson).  So many situations in film noir are about a protagonist making a decision, usually a bad one, and the consequences of having done so, thus leading to a moral conclusion, if not made by the principal character, at least by the audience.
     But morality is oftentimes a thing of its time, of its era.  Much of what was considered amoral or immoral, as depicted in film noir, is based on the moral beliefs of of the dominant society of that era.  This is perhaps one reason we have to see film noir as an artistic movement: something that comes about as part of its time, as part of the spirit of its time, the so-called zeitgeist.  But the zeitgeist can change, and probably will change from generation to generation, and so is tied to a particular period of time (which does not mean that it is not also a genre or movement).
     Stating the above, now I can address the question, can film noir save cinema again?  It could, if we had any sense of morality in our modern society.  I don’t believe we do, not at least as they did in the 1940s and 1950s.  So even if film noir, as a genre or style, could save contemporary cinema, or revitalize it, we don’t have the moral code in today’s society that made film noir so provocative.
     What was so interesting about noir was its honesty.  It uncovered the hypocrisy of American society at that time that pretended to value certain morals: marriage, integrity, duty, justice, but really was not valued by many in society.  However, film noir did not undermine marriage, integrity, duty or justice.  It just honestly showed that fact that not all of society honored these, and other moral beliefs, upheld by the dominant society.  Many just pretended to.  Film noir strips off the pretense and shows the hypocrisy.  There was a dualism in film noir that made it so interesting and dynamic: it really was about the struggle of good versus evil, and that in that struggle the protagonist does not come out of the fight unscathed (like the protagonist so many non-noir Hollywood films who, after a fist fight, who has no scars.  In a film noir, the protagonist is damaged, physically or psychologically, after a fight).  
     Film noir was realistic in that aspect.  It gave film noir its power, its honesty and dynamism.  Its dualism and and honesty provided for an honest discussion of what was good and bad in American (or other) society.  As I am writing this, I am watching Crossfire (1947), which discusses anti-Semitism and, essentially, racism (though it does not go quite far enough to discuss white-on-black racism, though any intelligent person could extrapolate that the topics discussed in this film noir applied there, too).  Film noir allowed its society to consider, to ponder what morality is and what to be moral really meant in a way that could only be discussed in this art form.
     So while film noir depicted or at least implied that adultery, murder, hatred, racism, bullying, might-makes-right, and other forms of sin, depravity, perversion and just all-around badness exist, noir never tried to say that these were good things or justify them.  Quite the contrary.  Because Frank Bigelow, the protagonist of D.O.A. (1950), instead of staying home or taking his fiancée with him on vacation to San Francisco, goes alone to play the field and is murdered as a consequence (if he had done the moral thing, stay home with his girl, or at least take her along and not be looking to fool around, he would not have been able to be targeted for death).  If Holly Martins (The Third Man, 1949) had been able to discern that his “best friend” Harry Lime was a rotten human being from the very beginning of their relationship (as Martins was aware of, as his dialogue with others reveals), he would not have been placed in a situation that eventually leads to his being even more of a loser than he already was, and terribly humiliated, to boot.  
     Of course, we could say that the characters Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe are not moral, but they really are.  They have a level of ethics that make them do justice in the end.  But they are hurt or damaged in having to deal with those who are not.  And they turn the criminals in, even though it hurts them personally.  Sam Spade is probably in love with Brigid O’Shaugnessy (The Maltese Falcon, 1931 and 1941), but he turns her in for murder anyway.  Phillip Marlowe (Murder, My Sweet, 1944) could run off with the jade necklace and the “bad” girl, the minute he has both in his hands, but he holds out for justice and the “good” girl.   There are so many films noir that discuss evil, portray immorality or amorality, and the good people are tainted by it, but that end up with the morally correct, if sometimes the film shows that life is driven by fate and can be terribly (e.g., Night in the City, 1950, in which the protagonist, a petty criminal, has a chance to go straight, but life just won’t let him; and Cry Danger, 1951).
     But things in film noir, though seeming black and white, are really gradients of black and white.  We really ought to study the grey in film noir as well as the black and white.  Are Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Holly Martins evil or good people in an difficult, evil world that forces them to be more grey than black or white, who are trying to be more “blanc” than “noir”, but never quite able to get the “noir” off of them?   Even characters with real personality flaws and a real dark streak, such as Helen Brent (Born to Kill, 1947), Barton Tare (Gun Grazy, 1950), Hank Quinlan (A Touch of Evil, 1958) are not completely evil.  Helen eventually calls the police on her murderous lover-pretender.  Barton Tare tries to straighten himself out, despite his criminal tendencies, until he falls in love with Annie, who leads him astray (is love supposed to destroy you?).
     In any case, film noir is ultimately moral and upholds the moral code of its time.  And this is exactly why it would be very difficult for film noir to save, rescue or revitalize contemporary cinema: Whereas the society in which film noir flourished had a definite and clearly defined moral code (regardless of whether people lived up to it, which is the story that film noir told), today’s society does not.  As a whole, American society of the 1940s and 1950s were moral absolutists; society today is generally morally relativistic.  There is no good or evil today; just the ends justifies the means.  Today, evil is celebrated, getting what one wants by any means is acceptable.  Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), which can be seen as the perfect anti-film-noir, depicts exactly this modern attitude of absolute immorality and amorality (which is what you get morality is relative).  So whereas film noir discusses adultery, murder, drug use, etc., it only tells us that these things exist, but does not justify them or legitimize them.  Modern film tells us that all these things are okay.  Crime does pay.  And thus we lose the dualism, the dynamism and the dialectic between good and evil that makes film noir so powerful.
     So it’s not that modern cinema can’t make a film in the noir genre or the noir style, it’s just that many of us do not have the moral outlook to understand it, or for it to have meaning for us.
     There are exceptions: those filmmakers who have a moral code (I will argue, for instance, that Quentin Tarantino, David Lean and others who have done neo-noir are closet moralists) who understand that film noir is essentially about the protagonists struggle between good and evil.  And they make good and great films.  But I feel that this dualism is lost on most people today.  So fear that film noir done today would have to be constructed in a way to get people to consider that there is good and there is evil, to see the difference between them.  And then encourage them to choose the good.  I just don’t know if society today wants this in their films.
     And certainly, Hollywood, with its complete lack of originality, it’s complete inability to recreate anything new (I say recreate anything new, which seems to be an oxymoron, but is not, Because while all stories have probably already been told, referencing Jung and his idea of the poet and poetry, all artists reinterpret the universal human stories, values and ideas for each new generation.  That is, artists, whether painters, poets, filmmakers or whoever, speak of the universal human experience anew in the language that their generation will understand).  Hollywood just seems to be able to copy and does not seem to value and thus has not been able to develop or support a new generation of writers and filmmakers who seem to be able to recreate new stories.  They just copy what has been done before.  At least for the most part.
     And a new recreation is not a mere copy.  For example. in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which uses the method of the modern, printed novel to tell of the drama of God and man, Creator and created, was made relevant for the people of the early 1800s.  And in 1931, the essence of this story was reinterpreted in a modern retelling, in the modern text of film, thus making the story relevant for a new generation.  It’s a great recreation of a great story.  
     On the other end of the spectrum, however, the remake of Psycho (1998) was nothing but that: a crass, meaningless copy with no relevance for our modern world.  There are too many remakes, too many poorly done formula films being done today.  The modern way of making films does not lead to the development of great artists like John Huston, Dalton Trumbo, Robert Wise, John Alton, and so many, many more.  Just competent journeymen and women, just like the craftspeople who adequate copies of Greek statues and cast them in plaster for someone’s front yard.
     Of course, this is not meant to put down all modern filmmakers.  There are some who have undoubtedly been able to make their own films.  I am sure many more would be able to make great films and write great scripts, if there was a concern for the art of film and not in just making money.  And if the public were willing to actually engage in thinking about and bettering their world, not just in being entertained, as the people of the postwar period were willing to do.

Link to post
Share on other sites
. . .if we had any sense of morality in our modern society.  I don’t believe we do, not at least as they did in the 1940s and 1950s.  So even if film noir, as a genre or style, could save contemporary cinema, or revitalize it, we don’t have the moral code in today’s society that made film noir so provocative.

  

      Modern film tells us that all these things are okay.  Crime does pay.  And thus we lose the dualism, the dynamism and the dialectic between good and evil that makes film noir so powerful.

     So it’s not that modern cinema can’t make a film in the noir genre or the noir style, it’s just that many of us do not have the moral outlook to understand it, or for it to have meaning for us.

 

   EDIT: This post sounds a little more . . . intense than I intended. But instead of rewriting it to soften its tone, I'm just putting this disclaimer here to clarify that this is meant to be conversational. Rereading it to myself it sounds a little . . . shouty. Apologies if it comes off a little brusque.

 

At the time that most film noirs were made, our country still had legal segregation. During the 1940s, 23 black men were lynched. Interracial marriage was illegal. Legally speaking, if a man forced his wife to have sex against her will it was not considered rape. Legal rape was actually defined as forced sexual intercourse with a female not his wife.

 

The idea that the United States used to be a more moral country makes no sense to me. It may have been that people were more polite. It may have been that people used to espouse more strict moral values. But the violence, disenfranchisement, and general degradation of whole swaths of people based on their gender, skin color, religion, or sexual orientation was widespread. The moral code that noir explored (and possibly challenged) was a hypocritical one, and also somewhat narrow. I would almost argue that it's the other way around: movies showed us the morality that we wish were true.

 

I think that there is a morality to our modern society, but it is more nuanced. There are still plenty of movies where people "do something wrong . . . once" and spiral downward from there (I'm thinking of something like A Simple Plan). They might get away with it (in the sense of not being killed or arrested), but they rarely escape unscathed. I think that the film noir approach (exploring wrongdoing and the consequences) can still be very effective, but it has to broaden its horizons. People will always struggle with morality, whether it is their own personal moral code, or the broader moral code espoused by society. There will always be taboos (like murder), and we will always be fascinated by those who break them and what comes of that violation. In the modern movies that I watch, sometimes crime does pay and sometimes crime doesn't. I think that it raises the question: how do we function in a society where sometimes people will do the wrong thing and get away with it?

 

I get what you're saying about the way that noir kicked up sparks as it pushed against the moral rigidity of the 40s and 50s. I definitely agree that there isn't the same dominant, across the board moral code of 50 years ago. But I do think that there will always be a way for films to show us the chasm between who we are and who we wish we were.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

At the time that most film noirs were made, our country still had legal segregation. During the 1940s, 23 black men were lynched. Interracial marriage was illegal. Legally speaking, if a man forced his wife to have sex against her will it was not considered rape. Legal rape was actually defined as forced sexual intercourse with a female not his wife.

 

The idea that the United States used to be a more moral country makes no sense to me. It may have been that people were more polite. It may have been that people used to espouse more strict moral values. But the violence, disenfranchisement, and general degradation of whole swaths of people based on their gender, skin color, religion, or sexual orientation was widespread. The moral code that noir explored (and possibly challenged) was a hypocritical one, and also somewhat narrow. I would almost argue that it's the other way around: movies showed us the morality that we wish were true.

 

I think that there is a morality to our modern society, but it is more nuanced. There are still plenty of movies where people "do something wrong . . . once" and spiral downward from there (I'm thinking of something like A Simple Plan). They might get away with it (in the sense of not being killed or arrested), but they rarely escape unscathed. I think that the film noir approach (exploring wrongdoing and the consequences) can still be very effective, but it has to broaden its horizons. People will always struggle with morality, whether it is their own personal moral code, or the broader moral code espoused by society. There will always be taboos (like murder), and we will always be fascinated by those who break them and what comes of that violation. In the modern movies that I watch, sometimes crime does pay and sometimes crime doesn't. I think that it raises the question: how do we function in a society where sometimes people will do the wrong thing and get away with it?

 

I get what you're saying about the way that noir kicked up sparks as it pushed against the moral rigidity of the 40s and 50s. I definitely agree that there isn't the same dominant, across the board moral code of 50 years ago. But I do think that there will always be a way for films to show us the chasm between who we are and who we wish we were.

If you are going to attribute something to someone, make sure you get it right.  I did not say that the United States was a more moral country.  I said it had a moral code and belief system that was absolutist.  And much of the United States was hypocritical in its moral stance, racism being one of the most obvious, evil and grievous.  As a matter of fact, that evil is still with us in this country, as recent events have shown.  That moral code not only oppressed minorities, but women.  We certainly did not live the "all men are created equal" morality of our own Declaration of Independence.  But there was a definite moral code and what was wrong was wrong and right was right.  But there is a problem when you set up this kind of dualism, as nothing is ever just one thing.

     When a society has a definite code of behavior, it sets up its own opposite, too.  It creates a dichotomy, a polarity, what you wisely call "the chasm between who we are and who we wish we were."  That is what I was getting at.  I never said that our system is or was better than anyone else's.

     But since our society is more relativistic now, "what true for you is rrue for you, what's true for me is true for me" (however absurd and illogical that is), that polarity in which noir thrived can't exist, and noir cannot thrive.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

It may have been a remake of Dashiell Hammet's novel, but were the other movies noir in their style?  We are talking about a specific form that began in 1941.  It is possible to film The Maltese Falcon as a straightforward detective story with no special visual style.  That is where the greatness lies.

 

You actually just made a pretty decent case for the existence of remakes. The idea of remakes is usually to tell the same story in a slightly different style, or with more modern eyes, as was the case with each of the three Maltese Falcons. One was a pre-code detective story, the second a screwball crime picture in the Thin Man vein, and the third was a film noir. If retelling the story in an updated style is OK in your eyes for an older picture, it should be OK for newer flicks as well.

Link to post
Share on other sites

If you are going to attribute something to someone, make sure you get it right.  I did not say that the United States was a more moral country.  I said it had a moral code and belief system that was absolutist.

.

.

.

     When a society has a definite code of behavior, it sets up its own opposite, too.  It creates a dichotomy, a polarity, what you wisely call "the chasm between who we are and who we wish we were."  That is what I was getting at.  I never said that our system is or was better than anyone else's.

     But since our society is more relativistic now, "what true for you is rrue for you, what's true for me is true for me" (however absurd and illogical that is), that polarity in which noir thrived can't exist, and noir cannot thrive.

 

I understood that you were talking about moral code and not moral behavior. I definitely did not mean to mischaracterize what you said or "take you to task" for harkening back to the "good old days".  What I was trying to point out was two things:

 

1) The immorality in society was highly visible (segregation, discrimination, violence, etc), and the absolutism was more in what people preached and not what they practiced. I'm saying that people knew what kind of society they were living in, and were witness to its many injustices. I think that there is very much a similar situation today where a kind of broad moral code ("It's wrong to judge people by the color of their skin!"; "Women should have just as many opportunities as men!") is preached, but not always practiced.

 

2) The values against which noir pushed were narrowly defined, white middle class values. There have always been different sets of values in our society, because there have always been very starkly different experiences of living in our society. We might these days have a more fractured sense of what it means to be a "good" man or a "good" woman--but I still think that's it's possible to make great, compelling stories out of exploring what happens when people fall short of those standards. Even if those standards belong to a sub-group or sub-culture as opposed to a society as a whole. For example, there are lots of movies (even dating back to noir times) that deal with the idea of "theives' honor". Our society would probably agree that robbing a bank is wrong, but that doesn't stop us from rooting for a more "moral" bank robber when compared to his back-stabbing or more violent partners. Within the sub-culture of thieves, we understand what separates a "good" guy from a "bad" one.

 

A repeated refrain in noir is a person who does something wrong . . . once. It might be out of lust, or greed, or love, or desperation. And like the speeding train in the clip we watched earlier, that single act unleashes an almost unstoppable momentum--a fatal trajectory. I think that many of the mainstays of noir (the single mistake that spirals out of control; the danger of navigating yourself through the selfish motivations of others) are just as compelling today.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I understood that you were talking about moral code and not moral behavior. I definitely did not mean to mischaracterize what you said or "take you to task" for harkening back to the "good old days".

Takoma1, thanks for responding and clarifying.  This is what good dialogue is all about.  And you do bring up very important issues for our society.  But remember that I had referred to the morality of the "dominant" culture, without personal value judgments as to whether or not they were good or bad.  We do hae to remember that part of what drove film noir, though, was the Production Code.  We can't forget how much it reflected the majority belief system of the dominant society in the United States at that time.  It set up a standard of human behavior for U.S-American society as the official morality.  It set up a onesidedness that had to be compensated for psychologically by its opposite.  It’s sort of Freudian, but better explained by Jung, that when one represses anything, it will come back as a “shadow” figure as per Jungian theory because regardless of what the individual (or society wants), that repressed idea is a truth that has to be dealt with honestly and not be ignoring it or repressing it.  

     So film noir may have been exactly how society as a whole dealt with its repressed feelings and beliefs, forced underground by a highly moralistic code, and why “truth,” oftentimes ugly truth is in the shadows and darkness of film noir and why what we want to be true is well let, but is really a deception or lie.  Film noir was an example of psychological compensation.  Jung has spoken of the relationship between art and the dream, but when studying his theories, we have to remember that for Jung, dreams are largely compensatory for our ego-consciousness’s attitudes, especially the false ones.  In dreams one finds the truth.  But you get to your dreams in the darkness of the night and in the darkness of sleep.

     The standard of moral behavior imposed by the Production Code was not reflective of all human experience, all human behavior, all human belief systems.  If Jung was right and art, if anything, is like a dream, and is a compensatory comment on society’s biases and beliefs, then it is logical that certain novels and film spoke to those hidden truths of being human that were not always pleasant or good to look at.  But it is real.  It is what humans experience.  It should not be hidden or denied.

     Besides all this, you bring up an excellent point, though: if film noir discussed human failings, criminality, distorted behavior, fate and all that, where is any discussion of hatred of humans because of whom they happen to be?  I think that film noir oftentimes does speak to sexism and the oppression of women, though not in an obvious or clear way.  But we don’t really see the same discussion about issues of racial or ethnic discrimination. 

     There are some exceptions, The Tall Target (1951), which I think we can include as a film noir, although it is set in the period prior to the U.S. Civil War.  That film touches on the issue of slavery and racism.  Then there is Mystery Street (1950), which was just on TCM, although more of a police investigation drama, there are definite noir elements in it.  In any case, the protagonist is played by Ricardo Montalbán, one of  the few times films of that period had a Mexican actor play a lead role as a Mexican, in a positive role, too.  A Touch of Evil (1958) really has a subtext about racism in that the “good” protagonist of the film’s character is Mexican (even if the actor was not) and married to an blonde Anglo-American (which was just as shocking to many viewing in white audiences of that time as if he had been African, Native American or Asian.  And the bad guy is a white Texan lawman.  Welles was at his subversive best in that film.  Crossfire (1947) deals with anti-Semitism.  But these films are the exception in their positive portrayals of racial and ethnic minorities as positive protagonists. 

     Why?  Because the morality of the dominant society during the film noir period saw no evil in racism.  I hate to say it, but it is true about American society then and still for some, now.  To most, it was the natural order of things, as wrong as that idea was and is.  And, obviously, still today, many see no evil in it despite the fact that it is an obvious though insidious evil.

     Are there any films noir in which an African American is a protagonist?  Or other minorities?  It is a valid question, I hope so, but I bet that there were not a lot.  But we also have to see any answer to this question in terms of its times.  And racism, in the form of legal segregation, was the law of the land until 1954 and really still legal in some ways until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, pushed through Congress by Lyndon Johnson.

     In any case, though, it would be interesting to see if African American filmmakers of the period were doing film-noir-type films, or if any films of the period made for an African-American audience produced by any studio during this period were noir films.

    I have found an interesting article on this topic at the filmnoir.net website: “Race and Film Noir: Black and Noir.”  (see  http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/race-and-film-noir-black-and-noir.html/)

     Here is an article in JSTOR that looks interesting, too:  “The Genre Don't Know Where It Came From: African American Neo-Noir Since the 1960s.”  By William Covey.  Journal of Film and Video, 55.2/3 (2003), 59-72.  These texts might help us delve into this issue.

     In any case, you have brought up something very relevant and important in our discussion of noir: the issue of race and ethnicity.  And I would like to see a survey of African American film noir or neo-noir in any viewing list or class discussion.  Perhaps there is one already listed.  It would be great to see such a film or films and discuss them!

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

The first film noir with an African American starring in it is Odds Against Tommorow starring Harry Belafonte and Robert Ryan. It is one of Harry Belafonte's best films. 

It has also been said that it is one of the noir films to end the noir cycle.

 

 

Takoma1, thanks for responding and clarifying.  This is what good dialogue is all about.  And you do bring up very important issues for our society.  But remember that I had referred to the morality of the "dominant" culture, without personal value judgments as to whether or not they were good or bad.  We do hae to remember that part of what drove film noir, though, was the Production Code.  We can't forget how much it reflected the majority belief system of the dominant society in the United States at that time.  It set up a standard of human behavior for U.S-American society as the official morality.  It set up a onesidedness that had to be compensated for psychologically by its opposite.  It’s sort of Freudian, but better explained by Jung, that when one represses anything, it will come back as a “shadow” figure as per Jungian theory because regardless of what the individual (or society wants), that repressed idea is a truth that has to be dealt with honestly and not be ignoring it or repressing it.  
     So film noir may have been exactly how society as a whole dealt with its repressed feelings and beliefs, forced underground by a highly moralistic code, and why “truth,” oftentimes ugly truth is in the shadows and darkness of film noir and why what we want to be true is well let, but is really a deception or lie.  Film noir was an example of psychological compensation.  Jung has spoken of the relationship between art and the dream, but when studying his theories, we have to remember that for Jung, dreams are largely compensatory for our ego-consciousness’s attitudes, especially the false ones.  In dreams one finds the truth.  But you get to your dreams in the darkness of the night and in the darkness of sleep.
     The standard of moral behavior imposed by the Production Code was not reflective of all human experience, all human behavior, all human belief systems.  If Jung was right and art, if anything, is like a dream, and is a compensatory comment on society’s biases and beliefs, then it is logical that certain novels and film spoke to those hidden truths of being human that were not always pleasant or good to look at.  But it is real.  It is what humans experience.  It should not be hidden or denied.
     Besides all this, you bring up an excellent point, though: if film noir discussed human failings, criminality, distorted behavior, fate and all that, where is any discussion of hatred of humans because of whom they happen to be?  I think that film noir oftentimes does speak to sexism and the oppression of women, though not in an obvious or clear way.  But we don’t really see the same discussion about issues of racial or ethnic discrimination. 

     There are some exceptions, The Tall Target (1951), which I think we can include as a film noir, although it is set in the period prior to the U.S. Civil War.  That film touches on the issue of slavery and racism.  Then there is Mystery Street (1950), which was just on TCM, although more of a police investigation drama, there are definite noir elements in it.  In any case, the protagonist is played by Ricardo Montalbán, one of  the few times films of that period had a Mexican actor play a lead role as a Mexican, in a positive role, too.  A Touch of Evil (1958) really has a subtext about racism in that the “good” protagonist of the film’s character is Mexican (even if the actor was not) and married to an blonde Anglo-American (which was just as shocking to many viewing in white audiences of that time as if he had been African, Native American or Asian.  And the bad guy is a white Texan lawman.  Welles was at his subversive best in that film.  Crossfire (1947) deals with anti-Semitism.  But these films are the exception in their positive portrayals of racial and ethnic minorities as positive protagonists. 
     Why?  Because the morality of the dominant society during the film noir period saw no evil in racism.  I hate to say it, but it is true about American society then and still for some, now.  To most, it was the natural order of things, as wrong as that idea was and is.  And, obviously, still today, many see no evil in it despite the fact that it is an obvious though insidious evil.
     Are there any films noir in which an African American is a protagonist?  Or other minorities?  It is a valid question, I hope so, but I bet that there were not a lot.  But we also have to see any answer to this question in terms of its times.  And racism, in the form of legal segregation, was the law of the land until 1954 and really still legal in some ways until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, pushed through Congress by Lyndon Johnson.
     In any case, though, it would be interesting to see if African American filmmakers of the period were doing film-noir-type films, or if any films of the period made for an African-American audience produced by any studio during this period were noir films.
    I have found an interesting article on this topic at the filmnoir.net website: “Race and Film Noir: Black and Noir.”  (see  http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/race-and-film-noir-black-and-noir.html/)
     Here is an article in JSTOR that looks interesting, too:  “The Genre Don't Know Where It Came From: African American Neo-Noir Since the 1960s.”  By William Covey.  Journal of Film and Video, 55.2/3 (2003), 59-72.  These texts might help us delve into this issue.
     In any case, you have brought up something very relevant and important in our discussion of noir: the issue of race and ethnicity.  And I would like to see a survey of African American film noir or neo-noir in any viewing list or class discussion.  Perhaps there is one already listed.  It would be great to see such a film or films and discuss them!

Link to post
Share on other sites

The first film noir with an African American starring in it is Odds Against Tommorow starring Harry Belafonte and Robert Ryan. It is one of Harry Belafonte's best films. 

It has also been said that it is one of the noir films to end the noir cycle.

Don't forget African American, Juano Hernandez starred with John Garfield in The Breaking Point (1950). Sidney Poitier starred in No Way Out with Richard Widmark (1950) , and Frank Silvera was in Kubrick's Killer's Kiss (1955)

Link to post
Share on other sites

thank you for reminding me of the these- the breaking point is one i never saw- on the watch list :-)

Don't forget African American, Juano Hernandez starred with John Garfield in The Breaking Point (1950). Sidney Poitier starred in No Way Out with Richard Widmark (1950) , and Frank Silvera was in Kubrick's Killer's Kiss (1955)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Takoma1, thanks for responding and clarifying.

 

Yes--of course. I didn't mean to cause any offense. Sometimes I jumble together things I'm just thinking with things that are responses. My speaking and writing style is also kind of blunt, which I think can read as aggressive or angry in the context of a message board where we don't have a long history together.

 

I actually want to respond with more thought to what you wrote in your response, but due to Father's Day I probably won't get to it until tomorrow. But I wanted to let you know that I appreciate you continuing this conversation and I want to give your post the measured (and hopefully less shouty) response that it deserves.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't forget African American, Juano Hernandez starred with John Garfield in The Breaking Point (1950). Sidney Poitier starred in No Way Out with Richard Widmark (1950) , and Frank Silvera was in Kubrick's Killer's Kiss (1955)

 

Juano Hernandez was Puerto Rican and a proud one at that. Puerto Ricans tend to identify first with their culture before their race. (Yes, I am PR.)

 

It seems those of Latin descent tend to be overlooked largely because there's too much focus on race (we come in all colors). It was quite nice watching Ricardo Montalbán in his noir films, particularly in Mystery Street. With exception for the murderer, everyone saw him more as a man of high regard regardless of his accent (which I loved). Many don't realize that Rita Hayworth was Hispanic (real name Margarita Cansino).

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Juano Hernandez was Puerto Rican and a proud one at that. Puerto Ricans tend to identify first with their culture before their race. (Yes, I am PR.)

 

It seems those of Latin descent tend to be overlooked largely because there's too much focus on race (we come in all colors). It was quite nice watching Ricardo Montalbán in his noir films, particularly in Mystery Street. With exception for the murderer, everyone saw him more as a man of high regard regardless of his accent (which I loved). Many don't realize that Rita Hayworth was Hispanic (real name Margarita Cansino).

I am glad you poinnted this out. I suspected that Juano Hernández was Hispano, and you are correct in stating that Puertorriqueños, as well as most other Hispano-Americanos see culture before color, because within one nuclear family, you can get the whole spectrum of colors. That is not to say that there are not racists in Hispanic culture, there are. But it's more of a social class thing and not considered anything to be proud of, on the contrary.

But this does show us that while noir tackled some of the social and personal issues of our country, it did not touch on, for the most part, issues of race and ethnicity. Again, this may be because of the Production Code which tacitly, if not overtly, supported the racial/ethnic status quo. So this brings us back to the Production Code and it being an absolute moral pole against which film noir filmmakers were reacting, something that does not exist today. Considering this may help us answer the original question fvor this blog.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Looking at the studio system at the time, and how A and B pictures worked, also that a certain style developed in the 40s as well as the use of black and white photography, shadows, ect.. is how film noir was created. i dont think it could be replicated in our society. It's a different time.  So that is why i call the 40s 50s the noir period, but what i'm waiting for is someone to make  a noir in the same vein as the Artist. The makers of the Artists understood what silent films are about and maybe someone out there there is a film maker who is a film noir buff that can make a film noir similar to the artist, totally authentic from the 40s and make it beleivable like the Artist.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
© 2021 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...