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

Slow Fade to Gray: Noir's Descent into Neo-Noir


Recommended Posts

Some of us (Marianne, Heymoe and myself) have been discussing the similarities and differences between vintage Films Noir of the Forties and Fifties and the Neo-Noir's that started emerging thereafter and continue even today, and we thought the exchanged warranted a thread of its own.   

 

By no means does this interest in Noir's transition to Neo-Noir imply we've exhausted our investigation into Film Noir, per se.   Quite the opposite is true; we're exploring the ways noir, it's tropes, motifs and storytelling and cinematic techniques evolved over time and were in fact appropriated and absorbed into new generations of mainstream film, worldwide.    

 

To kick things off, I'll copy a few of the posts that got the discussion started.  Please feel free to add your insights and comments to them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some of us have been discussing the similarities and differences between vintage Films Noir of the Forties and Fifties and the Neo-Noir's that started emerging thereafter and continue even today, and thought the exchanged warranted a thread of its own.   

 

By no means does this interest in Noir's transition to Neo-Noir imply we've exhausted our investigation into Film Noir, per se.   Quite the opposite is true; we're exploring the ways noir, it's tropes, motifs and storytelling and cinematic techniques evolved over time and were in fact appropriated and absorbed into new generations of mainstream film, worldwide.    

 

To kick things off, I'll copy a few of the posts that got the discussion started.  Please feel free to add your insights and comments to them!

#1 icon_share.png VanHazard

Advanced Member

Posted Yesterday, 11:33 PM

HEYMOE, on 21 Aug 2015 - 5:01 PM, said:snapback.png

I agree. We are good to go. I've added director's names to the list:

 

Modern neo-noirs:

Chinatown 1974             dir. Roman Polanski

Taxi Driver 1976             dir. Martin Scorsese

Body Heat 1981             dir. Lawrence Kasdan

Blade Runner 1982        dir. Ridley Scott

Blood Simple 1984         dir. Joel Coen

Blue Velvet 1986            dir. David Lynch

House of Games 1987   dir. David Mamet

Miller’s Crossing 1990    dir. Joel Coen

Red Rock West 1992     dir. John Dahl

Se7en 1995                    dir. David Fincher

The Usual Suspect 1995 dir. Bryan Singer

Fargo 1996                     dir. Joel Coen

L.A. Confidential 1997    dir. Curtis Hanson

Memento 2000               dir. Christopher Nolan

Mulholland Drive 2001   dir. David Lynch

Brick 2006                       dir. Rian Johnson

 

Some additional neo/new wave noirs that might also warrant some attention (no particular order):

 

The Two Jakes, Dark City, Mulholland Falls, Bound, The Black Dahlia, Devil in a Blue Dress, The Last Seduction, Palmetto, The Last Seduction, Angel Heart, U-Turn, Deep Cover, Manhunter, Klute, Stormy Monday, Romeo is Bleeding.   There's probably dozens more, depending on how broad a net we want to cast.  

 

Not sure it makes sense to expand into TV series, but I might make an exception for one show/character in particular: Luther, starring Idris Elba, and especially in connection with his extraordinary relationship with the serial killer, Alice Morgan.   

Link to comment
Share on other sites

#2 icon_share.png HEYMOE

Advanced Member

  • default_large.png
  • Members
  • bullet_black.pngbullet_black.pngbullet_black.png
  • 126 posts
  • LocationNew York

Posted Yesterday, 05:01 PM

Marianne, on 21 Aug 2015 - 11:59 AM, said:snapback.png

I once again took the ideas from my earlier post, your most recent post (quoted above), and this time VanHazard’s post to tweak the list of characteristics that could define transition noir, neo-noir, and modern neo-noir. All in the following list are subject to change, and a film doesn’t have to have all of these characteristics. We can keep adding to or changing the list.

 

Borrowings from film noir to define neo-noir and modern neo-noir:

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color (In either black and white or color, the technique is used to enhance the mood and/or the emotional content.)

2. Flashbacks

3. Narration

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder)

5. Femme fatale

6. The instrument of fate

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, and so on)

8. Violence or the threat of violence

9. Urban and nighttime settings

10. Allusion to post–World War II themes (optional)

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia)

13. Greed

14. Betrayal

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on)

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good”

 

Early samples of neo-noirs:

Underworld U.S,A. (1961) dir. Samuel Fuller B&W

Cape Fear (1962) dir. J. Lee Thompson B&W

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) dir. John Frankenheimer B&W

Shock Corridor (1963) dir. Samuel Fuller B&W

The Naked Kiss (1964) dir. Samuel Fuller B&W

Point Blank (1967) dir. John Boorman Color

 

Modern neo-noirs:

Chinatown 1974

Taxi Driver 1976

Body Heat 1981

Blade Runner 1982

Blood Simple 1984

Blue Velvet 1986

House of Games 1987

Miller’s Crossing 1990

Red Rock West 1992

Se7en 1995

The Usual Suspect 1995

Fargo 1996

L.A. Confidential 1997

Memento 2000

Mulholland Drive 2001 dir. David Lynch

Brick 2006

 

Perhaps it’s time to start a new discussion thread so we can discuss these themes and films independently ofIrrational Man? Here was my idea for the new discussion thread:

Film Noir to Neo-Noir: Transitions and Modern Noir

 

What do both of you think?

 

I agree. We are good to go. I've added director's names to the list:

 

Modern neo-noirs:

Chinatown 1974             dir. Roman Polanski

Taxi Driver 1976             dir. Martin Scorsese

Body Heat 1981             dir. Lawrence Kasdan

Blade Runner 1982        dir. Ridley Scott

Blood Simple 1984         dir. Joel Coen

Blue Velvet 1986            dir. David Lynch

House of Games 1987   dir. David Mamet

Miller’s Crossing 1990    dir. Joel Coen

Red Rock West 1992     dir. John Dahl

Se7en 1995                    dir. David Fincher

The Usual Suspect 1995 dir. Bryan Singer

Fargo 1996                     dir. Joel Coen

L.A. Confidential 1997    dir. Curtis Hanson

Memento 2000               dir. Christopher Nolan

Mulholland Drive 2001   dir. David Lynch

Brick 2006                       dir. Rian Johnson

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

#5 icon_share.png VanHazard

Advanced Member

Posted 20 August 2015 - 03:31 PM

Marianne, on 18 Aug 2015 - 11:38 AM, said:snapback.png

I took the ideas from my earlier post and your most recent post (quoted above) to start thinking about a list of characteristics that could define neo-noir and modern neo-noir (I like “modern neo-noir” as a subcategory). All in the following list are subject to change, of course. By the way, a film doesn’t have to have all of these characteristics; I’m just trying to get a general list started that we can keep adding to or changing.

 

Borrowings from film noir to define neo-noir and modern neo-noir:

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, which could translate to intense tint contrast in movies filmed in color

2. Flashbacks

3. Narration

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder)

5. Femme fatale

6. The instrument of fate

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, and so on)

8. Violence or the threat of violence

9. Urban and nighttime settings

10. Allusion to post–World War II themes (optional)

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia)

 

Hypnosis is actually a film noir theme: Whirlpool (released in 1949) uses hypnosis as a plot device, I think. I haven’t seen it, and it wasn’t part of the Summer of Darkness lineup. It was directed by Otto Preminger and starred Gene Tierney. No Dana Andrews for this one. So The Manchurian Candidate was not new in using it as a plot device.

 

I wasn’t sure what you meant by “intense tint contrast,” but I left it on the list. Could you explain what you mean by this term?

 

And do you have any transition neo-noirs (the “symbolic hand-off period” of the 1950s and 1960s) to recommend?  Should we add this as a subcategory (I vote yes!)? Any modern movies in addition to Irrational Man that could help us add and/or refine the list above?

 

And wouldn’t it be great to have an online Summer of Neo-Noir class where the class participants help to create a list of characteristics and a list of films that could be called transition neo-noirs and modern neo-noirs? Dr. Edwards, if you’re reading, please note!!!

 

Great discussion Marianne and Heymoe!   Agree a Summer of Neo-Noir might be in order!

 

You both raise some very interesting points, and highlight many of the similarities that run through classic noir and Neo Noir.  The differences between them are also intriguing, and may in fact be a way to determine what separates 'Noir' and 'Neo-Noir' other than the periods in which they were made.

 

Clearing the deck of similarities...like those you so well list above...leaves us with a couple possibile disparities.   First, and perhaps most important, I think, is the abandonment of stark contrasts in both the characters and their stores.   Concepts of good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and depravity, etc., become terribly muddled by the Sixties, and the distinction between one extreme and the other is no where near as polar as it was before.    

 

This lack of clarity, which begins in the aftermath of WWII and continues, unabated, today, led to conflicts between polar extremes being waged no so much between characters as within them.   Somewhere along the line we lost our 'innocence'.  We became Kurtz's with dark minds and and darker hearts, and Noah Cross's who, in the right time and the right place, were capable of anything!       

 

That's a stark turnaround from the soil from which noir originally grew, where everyone but the shady characters and criminals depicted in noir, and even some of them, were presumed innocent until proven guilty.   Suddenly, the opposite applied.  We were all guilty of something; it became a matter of degree.  

 

Once you substitute stark contrasts in character and plotline with varying shades of gray, cinematic chiaroscuro and shadow loose vitality and relevance.   The transition to color also changes the landscape, complicating it in the same way characterizations became complicated.   The world was no longer portrayed in the sharp contrasts of black and white, but in subtle shades, tones and degrees or, as you both discussed, 'tints' of color that perhaps represents not the stark difference between the characters on the screen and ourselves but rather our uncomfortable closeness to them.     

 

Heroes became more fatally-flawed and more jaded, while villains more sympathetic, even likeable.  Everything was corrupt. Chaos, crime, war and corruption became the norm, the ever-constant, and violence, betrayal and terror lurks around every corner and under every bench or subway seat, or in the eyes of your next door neighbor.   More and more, there's no escape and there's no relief...there's only momentary diversion --- in power, money, technology, music, sex or drugs, etc.--- and every one of them come at a cost.   

 

Further undermining the sharp contrasts between right and wrong, etc. has been the increasing importance of individual expertise and prowess as the yardstick against which all action is measured.   Like the gunslinger's of the American West, or the trials heroes undertook in Classical Mythology, questions of right and wrong, guilt and innocence, etc. are now settled by how well one can do a particular thing.   In the absence of meaningful cultural and political consensus, are you good enough to get over despite your fatal flaws and shortcomings?   If so, all is forgiven.   If not, you're little better than roadkill for those who are. 

 

If classic Noir warned or reminded us that there was a darker, more unsettling world beneath the surface of the world we normally knew, what is Neo Noir (and beyond) telling us?   That ideals of any kind are inconvenient fictions, at best; that, like Elsa Bannister in The Lady From Shanghai, we must all come to terms with that dark and menacing world if we're to survive as best we can; or maybe that if we become good enough at one thing by ignoring everything else we can somehow keep the demons nipping at our heels at bay? 

 

Maybe Neo Noir is warning there's no meaningful difference between us and the demons.  Now that's a sobering thought.   

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

© 2023 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...