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MarshaKatz

Film Noir - Is it only considered an American Art Form or can it beWorld Wide

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I brought this up specifically because four of my favorite films (which I consider film noir) are Rififi, Diabolique, Night And The City and Brighton Rock, the first two are French and the 2nd two are British. Is Film Noir world wide?

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Noir is Noir, whatever the nationality.. Fritz Lang, from Germany, has some of the finest, darkest films ever. "M" was shown this past Friday, and whether the course will include one of the greatest Sc-Fi films, "Metropolis", also by Lang, I'm waiting to find out.

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Akira Kurosawa directed HIGH AND LOW, something of a whodunit which has many noir-ish aspects.  I'm not familiar with Japanese cinema, but I'd be surprised if there weren't some number of noir-ish films out of Japan.

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IMDb lists the two French films as crime and Diabolique as crime/horror.  The two British films are listed as "film noir".  

 

Film Noir is seen as an American form, whether genre, style of movement, that began in 1940's.  That doesn't mean that "noir" can not come from other countries, that decide to follow that form, and 'noir" owes a lot to German Expressionism.  

 

I believe "noir" can and will be found in other countries. 

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Clearly there are international noirs, you mention some of my favorites.  I especially like the French, including Rififi, Le Samouri, Bob le Flambeur, Touchez Pas au Grisbi and on and on.  Pierre Melville deserves his own page in the book of noir.

 

One might wonder if the French noirs contribute originality to the category, or if they are by definition imitative.  Melville obviously chose his professional name in admiration of all things American, much like the protagonist of A Bout de Souffle imitated Bogart.

 

But I think the French added their own mark on noir, and probably influenced some of their American cousins in the process.  The French had more freedom from censorship that allowed them to include elements Hollywood could never have used (until much later, that is).

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Interesting question. I tend to think of film noir as something uniquely American (but with a French name). ;-) Maybe that's because so many of the classic noir films are set in cities like Los Angeles, New York City, or San Fran. Those settings really capture the American style and flavor. I also think one of the hallmarks of American noir is the snappy dialogue and slang (but I haven't seen enough international noir to know if that's there or not--especially since slang is something that can get lost in translation). For me personally, I think of "classic" noir as American films from the 40s and 50s, but noir in general is not limited to only that.  Could international noir be considered a subcategory/subgenre of film noir?

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I'm of the belief that Film Noir doesn't belong to any one group of of people. So saying that it's an "American Art Form," when there are very clear examples of international film makers creating some of the greatest noir classics, doesn't really make sense to me. To me Film Noir has always been about breaking the rules of film making that existed in the 30's, 40's, and 50's. Film Noir could have characters that weren't clear cut good guys, maybe even bad guys in many of our eyes. During the heyday of Film Noir many directors watched in awe as film makers broke all the rules and did what they wanted to do. It inspired not only the upcoming directors, writers, or actors, but the it also inspired many of the "old guard," that were tired of doing the same old thing for every single movie.

 

The "Old Guard" and the new generation of film makers were not only inspired by American masters of Film Noir, but by the masters in other countries as well. Film makers, musicians, anyone in an artistic field are influenced by fellow artists all over the globe. They only care about the quality of the art. They care if it inspires them, makes them feel something. If it does, then those works, whether they be from the US, France, Italy, any Middle Eastern country, China, etc. it doesn't matter, because they are taking all of those influences and making something new. That is not uniquely American in anyway. Film in general belongs to the artists, to the creators of that art, it belongs to the audience, regardless of gender, country of origin, color of skin, it's for everyone. There is nothing in Film Noir films that I find to be uniquely American. The stories are ones we've seen a thousand times, the characters are architypes we've all watched in countless films from around the globe.

 

Film Noir wasn't just a style of film making, it was a movement to get away from the same tired cliches that were in every other movie of that era. Film Noir was a more realistic view of the world. Very few people in life are truly all good or all bad, so Film Noir showed more complex characters. In movies everyone always used to have very clear motivations for what they were doing. You knew which side they were on, but in Film Noir sometimes a character does something just to see what happens. The entire world was ready for this style of story telling after World War II. The world was no longer able to pretend that everything was a-ok. Soldiers came back from the war, many wondering if they were truly good if they killed another man. In roundabout ways Film Noir dealt with these issues, or at least captured what many of those soldiers were feeling. When I say soldiers, I'm not only talking of the American ones, but all of the countries that were affect by the war. Film Noir crosses language barriers. It's a universal language through film. That's why I can never be on board with the idea that it's "only considered an American art form."

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Just like the Statue of Liberty, the French gave it to us, so yes it's American. Doesn't mean we haven't been internationally imitated a million times.

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I agree film noir spread to England and France with the films that CitizenKing and MarshaKatz list above.  Not surprisingly, each country has a somewhat different take on the noir genre/style/movement, but that's what makes them fascinating.

 

I'd also add Le Doulos (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1962) and Le Deuxieme Souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966) to the list.  Shoot the Piano Player (Francois Truffaut, 1960) is also worth considering.  British director Carol Reed's Odd Man Out and The Third Man have noir overtones.  Doomed criminal actives and doomed love respectively.

 

Criterion has a series titled, "Nikkatsu Noir" that star the amazing Joe Shishido.  The series includes, I Am Waiting, Rusty Knife, Take Aim At The Police Van, Cruel Gun Story and, A Colt Is My Passport.  I believe the films were made in the late 50's, early 60's.

 

Thanks - Mark

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