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No offense taken. The posts on this thread are never presented with any authoritative inclinations. That being the case, I accept your post in the same light.

 

For clarification purposes I have some questions. You say I have Chinatown wrong.

Wrong- I misunderstood the film?

Wrong- the film is not a neo-noir?

Wrong- Evelyn is not presented as a femme fatale then a revelation towards the end, makes us re-think; When is a femme fatale not a femme fatale.”

 

From my vantage point, Chinatown has a femme fatale- only she doesn’t hold up as such by the end of the film, which is why I asked When is a femme fatale not a femme fatale. The viewer can not possibly know of Evelyn Mulwray’s “admirable motives” until her secret is revealed near the end. Up to then, she is presented as a femme fatale by Robert Towne.

 

We disagree on Jake Gittes. There is nothing wrong with that. Differences of opinion are important to this discussion thread, as we continue our efforts to define neo-noir and compile a list of neo-noir films.

 

Thank you for posting your thoughts. You were very articulate.

Do not read this as a rebuttal. You offered an opportunity to clarify that which needed it.     

 

I was surprised you said 'yes' to the question of if Chinatown features a femme fatale.    I also viewed 'yes' as wrong (i.e. the film does NOT have a femme fatale) but now I understand why you said 'yes'.   (Gittes clearly felt she was because he was physically abusive to her until he found out her secret as well).

 

Thanks for sharing.

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No offense taken. The posts on this thread are never presented with any authoritative inclinations. That being the case, I accept your post in the same light.

 

For clarification purposes I have some questions. You say I have Chinatown wrong.

Wrong- I misunderstood the film?

Wrong- the film is not a neo-noir?

Wrong- Evelyn is not presented as a femme fatale then a revelation towards the end, makes us re-think; When is a femme fatale not a femme fatale.”

 

From my vantage point, Chinatown has a femme fatale- only she doesn’t hold up as such by the end of the film, which is why I asked When is a femme fatale not a femme fatale. The viewer can not possibly know of Evelyn Mulwray’s “admirable motives” until her secret is revealed near the end. Up to then, she is presented as a femme fatale by Robert Towne.

 

We disagree on Jake Gittes. There is nothing wrong with that. Differences of opinion are important to this discussion thread, as we continue our efforts to define neo-noir and compile a list of neo-noir films.

 

Thank you for posting your thoughts. You were very articulate.

Do not read this as a rebuttal. You offered an opportunity to clarify that which needed it.     

My point is really about viewing the film upon (many) re-watch.  It is from the vantage point of the ending, particularly Gittes' last words which happen to be his former boss' advice. 

 

Jake Gittes (again upon re-watch) misreads crucial evidence in Hollis and Evelyn's backyard to confront an innocent person that ultimately dooms that person and her daughter.  I mean, it's not really my opinion or my interpretation; that's what happens. 

 

He literally prevents an innocent person and her daughter from getting to their intended destination and he confirms it with his last words.

 

I'm not saying Gittes is a bad guy.  He is a a great three-dimensional character but not a hero under any circumstances.  Evelyn Mulwray is the hero of the film.

 

Regarding Evelyn, (upon re-watch) we know her motives because we have seen the film before.  She's lying to Gittes at the restaurant about her and her husband having affairs to get Gittes off the trail of her sister/daughter and also lying about seeing another man during the night of her husband's death.  (She was at her sister/daughter's house)

 

All this may make the film less entertaining, but much, much more rich.

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My point is really about viewing the film upon (many) re-watch.  It is from the vantage point of the ending, particularly Gittes' last words which happen to be his former boss' advice. 

 

Regarding Evelyn, (upon re-watch) we know her motives because we have seen the film before.  She's lying to Gittes at the restaurant about her and her husband having affairs to get Gittes off the trail of her sister/daughter and also lying about seeing another man during the night of her husband's death.  (She was at her sister/daughter's house)

 

 

 

I was surprised you said 'yes' to the question of if Chinatown features a femme fatale.    I also viewed 'yes' as wrong (i.e. the film does NOT have a femme fatale) but now I understand why you said 'yes'.   (Gittes clearly felt she was because he was physically abusive to her until he found out her secret as well).

 

Thanks for sharing.

 

I appreciate and thank you each.

 

Were it possible to ask Evelyn Mulwray if she thought of herself as a femme fatale, her response would be emphatically, “No! Never!”

I would agree. She knows, what she knows.

 

But the way the film tells the story, the audience does not become aware of what she knows until 4/5 into the film.

 

Our differences is simply a matter of perspective.

 

There are two ways to view the film: apply what we know about Evelyn, to the entire film or follow the story as it is told.

There are no femme fatale in the former, but one, in the latter.

 

 

 

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I appreciate and thank you each.

 

Were it possible to ask Evelyn Mulwray if she thought of herself as a femme fatale, her response would be emphatically, “No! Never!”

I would agree. She knows, what she knows.

 

But the way the film tells the story, the audience does not become aware of what she knows until 4/5 into the film.

 

Our differences is simply a matter of perspective.

 

There are two ways to view the film: apply what we know about Evelyn, to the entire film or follow the story as it is told.

There are no femme fatale in the former, but one, in the latter.

 

 

 

I agree with your last point regarding the two ways to view the film.  If we do view the film based on applying what we know about Evelyn, we can actually understand her motivations in pretty much every scene beginning when she first appears.  It's either she has something to do with her husband's murder or she doesn't.  She has nothing to do with political malfeasance.

 

The problem with the alternative way of viewing this particular film is critical missing of key points.  Jake Gittes is not a hero; just the protagonist  That's not my perspective, that's in the film  Sure, he has "good intentions" but that can't make him a hero.  He doesn't take one constructive action in the entire film.  Any perceived heroic action is undermined by action of his own doing.  And it stems from the fact that "You can't always tell what's going on in Chinatown"; with Chinatown being a state of mind, like Rober Towne says.  That was the basis for the traumatic event as a police officer in Chinatown that caused him to leave the police force and, again, the basis of falsely confronting Evelyn Mulwray and preventing her escape. (Gittes is in the tradition of The Long Goodbye's Marlowe and Night Moves' Harry Moseby.  His "biting" dialogue proves to be a smokescreen and inconsequential) 

 

His last words at the end of the film confirm his mistakes, his flawed vision, and above all, his culpability.  I think you miss all of that if you don't watch the film from the vantage point of the ending.  In some ways it's kind of like Citizen Kane, where re-watching the film is really from the vantage point of Kane's burning sled, denoting his lost childhood and unhappiness.

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I agree with your last point regarding the two ways to view the film.  If we do view the film based on applying what we know about Evelyn, we can actually understand her motivations in pretty much every scene beginning when she first appears.  It's either she has something to do with her husband's murder or she doesn't.  She has nothing to do with political malfeasance.

 

The problem with the alternative way of viewing this particular film is critical missing of key points.  Jake Gittes is not a hero; just the protagonist  That's not my perspective, that's in the film  Sure, he has "good intentions" but that can't make him a hero.  He doesn't take one constructive action in the entire film.  Any perceived heroic action is undermined by action of his own doing.  And it stems from the fact that "You can't always tell what's going on in Chinatown"; with Chinatown being a state of mind, like Rober Towne says.  That was the basis for the traumatic event as a police officer in Chinatown that caused him to leave the police force and, again, the basis of falsely confronting Evelyn Mulwray and preventing her escape. (Gittes is in the tradition of The Long Goodbye's Marlowe and Night Moves' Harry Moseby.  His "biting" dialogue proves to be a smokescreen and inconsequential) 

 

His last words at the end of the film confirm his mistakes, his flawed vision, and above all, his culpability.  I think you miss all of that if you don't watch the film from the vantage point of the ending.  In some ways it's kind of like Citizen Kane, where re-watching the film is really from the vantage point of Kane's burning sled, denoting his lost childhood and unhappiness.

 

I will defer this discussion on Gittes until I have had a chance to see Chinatown again. I do not recall in detail, exactly what were the last words spoken by Gittes. You suggest they are fundamental to understanding ‘his mistakes, his flawed vision, and above all, his culpability,’ which obviously I missed.

 

I will see the film again, as you suggest, from the vantage point of the ending. I know this disrupts the continuity of our discussion but when it resumes, it will be with a more informed participant.

 

For now, to be continued.

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I will defer this discussion on Gittes until I have had a chance to see Chinatown again. I do not recall in detail, exactly what were the last words spoken by Gittes. You suggest they are fundamental to understanding ‘his mistakes, his flawed vision, and above all, his culpability,’ which obviously I missed.

 

I will see the film again, as you suggest, from the vantage point of the ending. I know this disrupts the continuity of our discussion but when it resumes, it will be with a more informed participant.

 

For now, to be continued.

That is why Chinatown is one of the greatest films of all time.  You re-watch it and uncover more layers.  Earlier, he also says those words were the advice of the District Attorney in Chinatown when Evelyn asked him about working as a cop.  Take note that and the conversation Gittes and Evelyn have in bed.

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Red Rock West (1993)

dir. John Dahl

 

Michael Williams (Nicolas Cage) is both unemployed and broke. He enters the town of Red Rock and stops for a drink at a bar. Bar owner, Wayne Brown (J.T. Walsh) mistakes Michael for Lyle of Texas, (Dennis Hopper) an out-of-town assassin he hired to murder his wife, Suzanne Brown (Lara Flynn Boyle). Michael goes along with the premise and accepts an advance from Wayne to kill his wife. Michael leaves the bar and drives to Suzanne’s Ranch.

 

Michael: I don’t know how to tell you this but your husband Wayne, he plans to have you murdered.

Suzanne: This is a joke- right?

Michael: No. He paid me to do it.

Suzanne: Well, what are you going to do?

Michael: I don’t know. I hate to see an innocent girl get hurt but its an awful lot of money.

Suzanne: Let me fix you drink?

Michael: You seem to be taking this a lot better than I thought you would.

Suzanne: Suppose I double this offer and you do something for me.

Michael: What do you have in mind?

Suzanne: Take care of Wayne.

 

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.) YES.

The use of key light is very apparent in this film, resulting in well defined contrasts. The scenes filmed at night have a hue of blue, illuminating the landscape on the roads and in the woods.

 

2. Flashbacks N/A

3. Unusual narration N/A

 

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

Contract Killing

Attempted murder

Jailbreak

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale YES.

When Michael becomes aware that Wayne too, is looking to kill him, he decides to go to the police, but Suzanne talks him out of it. She would much rather return to Red Rock, (where Lyle is looking for them) seduce Michael then use him to get her hands on monies she left behind. The temptress sleeps with him one minute, then draws a gun on him, the next.

 

6. The instrument of fate Yes.

Michael’s troubles begin, when he enters the wrong bar and Wayne mistakes him for an assassin. Then, when the opportunity to leave Red Rock along with the loot presents itself, he decides instead to return back and pay Suzanne another visit, which again leads to trouble.

 

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) YES.

All characters at one time or another, experience fear, confusion, and panic.

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence YES.

Murder

Kidnapping

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings No.

The film has no urban setting as it takes place in a rural town. Few people. No crowds.

 

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional) YES.

Michael is a Marine-veteran and survivor of the Beirut truck bombing (1983). Lyle is also a marine-veteran who served in Vietnam.

 

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

Michael is a disabled veteran, down on his luck who finds himself socially isolated with no money, no job, no prospects, and no home. His short stay in Red Rock does not help as he comes across a double-crossing femme fatale, a corrupt police chief, and an out-of-town assassin. When he does bad (runs over a pedestrian) and tries to do good (takes him to hospital) he comes across a man that means him harm.

 

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) N/A

 

13. Greed YES.

$1.9 million stolen, and wanted by others.

 

14. Betrayal YES.

Suzanne shoots someone close to her for selfish reasons and later pulls a gun then the trigger on Michael, who on two different occasions returned to help her.

 

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

Michael twice accepts a contract to murder; twice he drives away with intentions not to go through with it, yet twice returns to forewarn Suzanne. Is he a bad man with a good heart or a good man with bad judgment?

 

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” N/A

 

Red Rock West has some twists, a few seedy characters, and was filmed with an eye for noir by John Dahl { Kill Me Again (1989) and The Last Seduction (1994) } It maintains an independent-film feel throughout. Nothing rings Hollywood. Equivalent to the  “B” films of the 30s and 40s.

 

11 of 16 on our scale. 

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Red Rock West (1993)

dir. John Dahl

 

Michael Williams (Nicolas Cage) is both unemployed and broke. He enters the town of Red Rock and stops for a drink at a bar. Bar owner, Wayne Brown (J.T. Walsh) mistakes Michael for Lyle of Texas, (Dennis Hopper) an out-of-town assassin he hired to murder his wife, Suzanne Brown (Lara Flynn Boyle). Michael goes along with the premise and accepts an advance from Wayne to kill his wife. Michael leaves the bar and drives to Suzanne’s Ranch.

 

Michael: I don’t know how to tell you this but your husband Wayne, he plans to have you murdered.

Suzanne: This is a joke- right?

Michael: No. He paid me to do it.

Suzanne: Well, what are you going to do?

Michael: I don’t know. I hate to see an innocent girl get hurt but its an awful lot of money.

Suzanne: Let me fix you drink?

Michael: You seem to be taking this a lot better than I thought you would.

Suzanne: Suppose I double this offer and you do something for me.

Michael: What do you have in mind?

Suzanne: Take care of Wayne.

 

Really enjoyed reading these lines of dialogue. They make me want to hear more. I haven't seen this film, not yet anyway!

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Mystic River (2003, dir. Clint Eastwood)

 

*****Spoilers*****

 

I thought I would do an almost side-by-side comparison because Mystic River was already discussed on this thread in January by HEYMOE. I give it 13 out of 16 on our list of noir characteristics. I’m repeating some of HEYMOE’s post from January; my notes are in purple.

 

Detective Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon) and his partner, Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne) are investigating the murder of a young teenage girl. The case reunites Det. Devine with two childhood friends, Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn) and Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins). It is inferred that each went their separate ways, after a heinous crime is committed against one of them.

 

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.) Yes. Yes.

Practically the entire film is picturesque. A prevailing hue, I believe, is green with different shades and blends and presented subtly. I noticed during the first 8 minutes a certain softness to the lighting, as if a slightly tinted lens were used to diffuse the sunlight. I noticed this, too. I kept thinking that the director managed to find cloudy days to film all the opening sequences. The softness of the lighting could be interpreted as a way to distort and to create doubt because memory, fear, and guilt are involved in the boys’ childhood story.

2. Flashbacks  Yes. Yes.

Used effectively, not to tell the story, but rather to show peeks of what happened.

3. Unusual narration No. One-half. I might give this one a half-point because the details are shown the way that Dave Boyle remembers them. These flashbacks are told from his point of view, which is filtered through his grief and pain.

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

Kidnapping

Sexual assault

Murder

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale No. One-half.

Maybe a half-point? Annabeth Markum (played by Laura Linney) could still be considered a femme fatale. She gives a chilling speech to her husband after they learn the truth and they are alone: that he should never doubt what he does, the lengths he goes to, or the consequences when he is protecting their family. We don’t learn what she is capable of until the final scenes of the film, but she is propping up her husband all the same. She admits to being aware of his activities when she gives her chilling speech.

6. The instrument of fate No. Yes. I would go with yes. Fate brought the two men to the boys’ street at the beginning of the film. Fate brought Katy to the street where the two boys were “playing” with the gun that belonged to the father of one of them. Fate hangs heavily over Dave Boyle.

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Yes. Yes.

Dave Boyle was sexually assaulted as a child and the trauma still haunts him. We get a sense that as an adult, he struggles with it each day.

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes. Yes.

Murder

Everyone is afraid of the Savage brothers. They do Jimmy Markum’s bidding and his dirty work. Jimmy Markum seems to run the neighborhood with the help of the Savage brothers.

9. Urban and nighttime settings Yes. Yes.

The story takes place in Boston, mostly during the day with a couple of night scenes.

Director Clint Eastwood shows us the city’s bridges, residential communities, and a tavern or two.

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional) No. N/A

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

Dave Boyle is joyless and showing lack of hope throughout the film. There appears a disconnect between himself and the outside world, we can see it in his talk, his walk and the empty look in his eyes. I do think Dave Boyle’s loneliness is unique because of his childhood experiences, but he seems close to his son, and he protects the boy from the pedophile behind McGill’s. It’s a heroic act, but it is misunderstood because he has trouble explaining it to others and it eventually brings him down. Jimmy Markum seems to be alone in his grief about his daughter. He had felt so close to her, but he really didn’t know her very well.

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

There are two investigations going on simultaneously; one is official, lead by Det. Sean Devine who uses proper procedural techniques to solve the case; the other is without merit and unauthorized, led by Jimmy Markum who uses coercion to solve the case. When both meet again, they and we discover that only one got it right.

-Celeste Boyle’s (Marcia Gay Harden) paranoia sees her reaching wrong conclusions and making unwise decisions.

-Dave Boyle suffers from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

13. Greed No. N/A

14. Betrayal  Yes. Yes.

Celeste Boyle betrays her husband twice. She suspects him of lying and of having committed a crime but she never fully engaged with him. Then, instead of telling the police what she suspects, she tells the person most likely to do him harm.

Everyone seems to betray Dave Boyle, not just his wife Celeste. His so-called friends and neighbors are willing to jump to conclusions about him because he suffers from PTSD, because he was the one attacked as a child. They find it hard to trust him, even though he’s done nothing to earn their mistrust. Jimmy Markum is the one who acts on his assumptions, before he has actual proof.

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

Jimmy Markum is a loving father, distraught by the loss of his daughter and we sympathize with him. But he is flawed in his lust for vengeance and his haste for justice. Celeste Boyle doesn’t know where to turn when she starts worrying about her husband’s state of mind. She makes a poor choice, but it’s not out of good or evil intentions.

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good”  Yes. Yes

Good old fashion police investigation solved the case except, as someone says: Maybe if you’d been a little faster.

No one triumphs in this film. Sean Devine and Whitey Powers may have solved the case, but no one seems happy by the end of the film. Everyone has more secrets to keep.

 

Mystic River is an excellent crime drama. It scores 11 of 16 on our template suggesting a valid neo-noir.

 

I give it 13 out of 16 on our list of noir characteristics. So we’re pretty close in our estimation of Mystic River as neo-noir. Plus it’s a great film—no matter how one chooses to categorize it.

 

Both Sean Penn and Tim Robbins won Oscars for their performances.

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I am repeating the list of film noir and neo-noir characteristics (borrowings) we have been using to investigate neo-noir. Please use as many or as few characteristics as you like to discuss neo-noir. I started the discussion thread as a way to continue applying what we learned in Dr. Edwards’s course, TCM Presents Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir (aka Summer of Darkness: Investigating Film Noir).

 

Also included (below the list of characteristics) is the most up-to-date list of neo-noir films; we have been adding—and continue to add—titles to the list. The running list (divided between U.S. neo-noirs and neo-noirs from abroad) is alphabetized as a whole in case that’s easier for some folks to find what they are looking for. I will alternate between the film list alphabetized by decade and the list alphabetized in its entirety.

 

Characteristics borrowed 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. Unusual narration

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

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale

6. The instrument of fate

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst)

8. Violence or the threat of violence

9. Urban and nighttime settings

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) 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”

 

List of alphabetized neo-noir titles:

After Hours (1985), dir. Martin Scorsese

Angel Heart (1997), dir. Alan Parker

 

Barton Fink (1991), dir. Joel and Ethan Coen

Batman Begins (2005), dir. Christopher Nolan

A Better Tomorrow (1986), dir. John Woo

The Big Easy (1986), dir. Jim McBride

The Big Lebowski (1998), dir. Joel Coen

The Big Sleep (1978), dir. Michael Winner 

The Black Dahlia (2006), dir. Brian DePalma

Blade Runner (1982), dir. Ridley Scott

Blink (1994), dir. Michael Apted

Blood Simple (1984), dir. Joel Coen

Blue Velvet (1986), dir. David Lynch

Body Heat (1981), dir. Lawrence Kasdan

Bound (1996), dir. The Wachowski Brothers

Branded to Kill (1967) dir. Seijun Suzuki

Brick (2006), dir. Rian Johnson

Bullitt (1968), dir. Peter Yates

 

Cape Fear (1962), dir. J. Lee Thompson

Chinatown (1974), dir. Roman Polanski

City of Hope (1991), dir. John Sayles

Collateral (2004), dir. Michael Mann

Criminal (2004), dir. Gregory Jacobs

 

Dark City (1998), dir. Alex Proyas

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), dir. Carl Reiner

Deep Cover (1992), dir. Bill Duke

Derailed (2005), dir. Mikael Hafstrom

Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), dir. Carl Franklin

Down by Law (1986), dir. Jim Jarmusch

Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), dir. Stanley Kubrick

Drive (2011), dir. Nicolas Winding Refn

 

The Equalizer (2014), dir. Antoine Fuqua

 

Farewell, My Lovely (1975), dir. Dick Richards

Fargo (1996), dir. Joel Coen

Femme Fatale (2002), dir. Brian de Palma

Following (1999), dir. Christopher Nolan

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), dir. Peter Yates

 

Gangs of New York (2002), dir. Martin Scorsese

Get Carter (1971) dir. Mike Hodges

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), dir. David Fincher

Gone Baby Gone (2007), dir. Ben Affleck

Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), dir. George Clooney

 

Hard Boiled (1992) dir. John Woo

Heat (1995) dir. Michael Mann

Hollywoodland (2006), dir. Allen Coulter

House of Games (1987), dir. David Mamet

 

The Ice Harvest (2005), dir. Harold Ramis

Insomnia (2002), dir. Christopher Nolan

Irrational Man (2015), dir. Woody Allen

 

Jackie Brown (1997) dir. Quentin Tarantino

Jade (1995) dir. William Friedkin

 

Killshot (2009), dir. John Madden

King of New York (1990) dir. Abel Ferrara

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), dir. Shane Black

Klute, (1971), dir. Alan J. Pakula

 

L.A. Confidential (1997), dir. Curtis Hanson

The Last Seduction (1994), dir. John Dahl

The Long Goodbye (1973) dir. Robert Altman

The Long Good Friday (1980) dir. John Mackenzie

 

The Manchurian Candidate (1962), dir. John Frankenheimer

Manhunter (1986), dir. Michael Mann

Marlowe (1969) dir. Paul Bogart
Memento (2000), dir. Christopher Nolan

Mickey One (1965), dir. Arthur Penn

Miller’s Crossing (1990), dir. Joel Coen

Mulholland Drive (2001), dir. David Lynch

Mulholland Falls (1996), dir. Lee Tamahori

Mystic River (2003) dir. Clint Eastwood

 

The Naked Kiss (1964), dir. Samuel Fuller

Night Moves (1975) dir. Arthur Penn

Nightcrawler (2014), dir. Dan Gilroy

Not Forgotten (2009), dir. Dror Soref

 

Oldboy (2003) dir. Chan-wook Park

Out of Time (2003), dir. Carl Franklin

 

Palmetto (1998), dir. Volker Schlondorff

Pennies from Heaven (1981), dir. Herbert Ross

Point Blank (1967), dir. John Boorman

The Public Eye (1992), dir. Howard Franklin

Pulp (1972), dir. Mike Hodges

 

A Rage in Harlem (1991) dir. Bill Duke

The Red Riding Trilogy (2009), dirs. Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, Anand Tucker

Red Rock West (1992), dir. John Dahl

Reservoir Dogs (1992) dir. Quentin Tarantino

Romeo Is Bleeding (1993), dir. Peter Medak

 

Sea of Love (1989) dir. Harold Becker

Serial Mom (1994), dir. John Waters

Se7en (1995), dir. David Fincher

Sexy Beast (2000), dir. Jonathan Glazer

Shock Corridor (1963) dir. Samuel Fuller

Shutter Island (2010), dir. Martin Scorsese

Silence of the Lambs (1991) dir. Jonathan Demme

Something Wild (1986), dir. Jonathan Demme

State of Grace (1990) dir. Phil Joanou

Stonehearst Asylum (2014), dir. Brad Anderson

Stormy Monday (1988), dir. Mike Figgis

The Sweeney (2012), dir. Nick Love

 

Taxi Driver (1976), dir. Martin Scorsese

The Town (2010), dir. Ben Affleck

Training Day (2001), dir. Antoine Fugua

True Romance (1993) Tony Scott

The Two Jakes (1990), dir. Jack Nicholson

 

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

The Usual Suspects (1995), dir. Bryan Singer

U-Turn (1997), dir. Oliver Stone

 

Wait Until Dark (1967), dir. Terence Young

Winter’s Bone (2010), dir. Debra Granik

 

Year of the Dragon (1985), dir. Michael Cimino

 

Zodiac (2007), dir. David Fincher

 

Neo-noirs from abroad:

Amores perros (2001) dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu, from Mexico

Animal Kingdom (2010), dir. David Michôd, from Australia

El aura (The Aura) (2005), dir. Fabián Bielinsky, from Argentina (France and Spain)

 

Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014), dir. Diao Yinan, from China

Blow-Up (1966), dir. Michelangelo Antonioni, from United Kingdom and Italy

 

Caché (Hidden) (2005), dir. Michael Haneke, from France

Le cercle rouge (The Red Circle) (1970), dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, from France

The Crimson Rivers (2000), dir. Mathieu Kassovitz, from France

 

Delicatessen (1991), dirs. Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, from France

La demoiselle d’honneur (The Bridesmaid) (2004 in France), dir. Claude Chabrol, from France

Le doulos (1962), dir Jean-Pierre Melville, from France

 

Flic Story (1975), dir. Jacques Deray, from France

Foreign Land (1996), dirs. Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas, from Brazil

 

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (2009), dir. Daniel Alfredson, from Sweden

The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009), dir. Daniel Alfredson, from Sweden

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009), dir. Niels Arden Oplev, from Sweden

 

La haine (2012), dir. Mathieu Kassovitz, from France

 

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (2003), dir. Mike Hodges, from the United Kingdom

In Bruges (2008), dir. Martin McDonagh, from Britain and the United States

Insomnia (1997), dir Erik Skjoldbjær, from Norway

 

Just Another Love Story (2007), dir. Ole Bornedal, from Denmark

 

Kill Me Three Times (2014), dir. Kriv Stenders, from Australia

 

Lantana (2001), dir. Ray Lawrence, from Australia

León: The Professional (1994), dir. Luc Besson, from France

 

Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One) (2006), dir. Guillaume Canet, from France

Nine Queens (2000), dir. Fabián Bielinsky, from Argentina

 

The Outside Man (Un homme est mort) (1972), dir. Jacques Deray, from France and Italy

 

Red Road (2006), dir. Andrea Arnold, from Scotland (United Kingdom)

 

The Secret in Their Eyes (2009), dir. Juan José Campanella, from Argentina

Shallow Grave (1995), dir. Danny Boyle, from the United Kingdom

The Square (2008), dir. Nash Edgerton, from Australia

 

Thirty-Sixth (36th) Precinct (2004), dir. Olivier Marchal, from France

Tirez sur le pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player) (1960), dir. François Truffaut, from France

 

Where the Truth Lies (2005), dir. Atom Egoyan, from Canada

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Mystic River (2003, dir. Clint Eastwood)

 

*****Spoilers*****

 

I thought I would do an almost side-by-side comparison because Mystic River was already discussed on this thread in January by HEYMOE. I give it 13 out of 16 on our list of noir characteristics. I’m repeating some of HEYMOE’s post from January; my notes are in purple.

 

Detective Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon) and his partner, Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne) are investigating the murder of a young teenage girl. The case reunites Det. Devine with two childhood friends, Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn) and Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins). It is inferred that each went their separate ways, after a heinous crime is committed against one of them.

 

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.) Yes. Yes.

Practically the entire film is picturesque. A prevailing hue, I believe, is green with different shades and blends and presented subtly. I noticed during the first 8 minutes a certain softness to the lighting, as if a slightly tinted lens were used to diffuse the sunlight. I noticed this, too. I kept thinking that the director managed to find cloudy days to film all the opening sequences. The softness of the lighting could be interpreted as a way to distort and to create doubt because memory, fear, and guilt are involved in the boys’ childhood story.

2. Flashbacks  Yes. Yes.

Used effectively, not to tell the story, but rather to show peeks of what happened.

3. Unusual narration No. One-half. I might give this one a half-point because the details are shown the way that Dave Boyle remembers them. These flashbacks are told from his point of view, which is filtered through his grief and pain.

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

Kidnapping

Sexual assault

Murder

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale No. One-half.

Maybe a half-point? Annabeth Markum (played by Laura Linney) could still be considered a femme fatale. She gives a chilling speech to her husband after they learn the truth and they are alone: that he should never doubt what he does, the lengths he goes to, or the consequences when he is protecting their family. We don’t learn what she is capable of until the final scenes of the film, but she is propping up her husband all the same. She admits to being aware of his activities when she gives her chilling speech.

6. The instrument of fate No. Yes. I would go with yes. Fate brought the two men to the boys’ street at the beginning of the film. Fate brought Katy to the street where the two boys were “playing” with the gun that belonged to the father of one of them. Fate hangs heavily over Dave Boyle.

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Yes. Yes.

Dave Boyle was sexually assaulted as a child and the trauma still haunts him. We get a sense that as an adult, he struggles with it each day.

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes. Yes.

Murder

Everyone is afraid of the Savage brothers. They do Jimmy Markum’s bidding and his dirty work. Jimmy Markum seems to run the neighborhood with the help of the Savage brothers.

9. Urban and nighttime settings Yes. Yes.

The story takes place in Boston, mostly during the day with a couple of night scenes.

Director Clint Eastwood shows us the city’s bridges, residential communities, and a tavern or two.

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional) No. N/A

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

Dave Boyle is joyless and showing lack of hope throughout the film. There appears a disconnect between himself and the outside world, we can see it in his talk, his walk and the empty look in his eyes. I do think Dave Boyle’s loneliness is unique because of his childhood experiences, but he seems close to his son, and he protects the boy from the pedophile behind McGill’s. It’s a heroic act, but it is misunderstood because he has trouble explaining it to others and it eventually brings him down. Jimmy Markum seems to be alone in his grief about his daughter. He had felt so close to her, but he really didn’t know her very well.

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

There are two investigations going on simultaneously; one is official, lead by Det. Sean Devine who uses proper procedural techniques to solve the case; the other is without merit and unauthorized, led by Jimmy Markum who uses coercion to solve the case. When both meet again, they and we discover that only one got it right.

-Celeste Boyle’s (Marcia Gay Harden) paranoia sees her reaching wrong conclusions and making unwise decisions.

-Dave Boyle suffers from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

13. Greed No. N/A

14. Betrayal  Yes. Yes.

Celeste Boyle betrays her husband twice. She suspects him of lying and of having committed a crime but she never fully engaged with him. Then, instead of telling the police what she suspects, she tells the person most likely to do him harm.

Everyone seems to betray Dave Boyle, not just his wife Celeste. His so-called friends and neighbors are willing to jump to conclusions about him because he suffers from PTSD, because he was the one attacked as a child. They find it hard to trust him, even though he’s done nothing to earn their mistrust. Jimmy Markum is the one who acts on his assumptions, before he has actual proof.

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

Jimmy Markum is a loving father, distraught by the loss of his daughter and we sympathize with him. But he is flawed in his lust for vengeance and his haste for justice. Celeste Boyle doesn’t know where to turn when she starts worrying about her husband’s state of mind. She makes a poor choice, but it’s not out of good or evil intentions.

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good”  Yes. Yes

Good old fashion police investigation solved the case except, as someone says: Maybe if you’d been a little faster.

No one triumphs in this film. Sean Devine and Whitey Powers may have solved the case, but no one seems happy by the end of the film. Everyone has more secrets to keep.

 

Mystic River is an excellent crime drama. It scores 11 of 16 on our template suggesting a valid neo-noir.

 

I give it 13 out of 16 on our list of noir characteristics. So we’re pretty close in our estimation of Mystic River as neo-noir. Plus it’s a great film—no matter how one chooses to categorize it.

 

Both Sean Penn and Tim Robbins won Oscars for their performances.

 

Thank you very much for your contributions to this post. You make excellent observations and I am in total agreement. Two yesses

I suggest we allow this post to stand as is: a collaboration.

 

I appreciate your diligent review. Great work.   

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Thank you very much for your contributions to this post. You make excellent observations and I am in total agreement. Two yesses

I suggest we allow this post to stand as is: a collaboration.

 

I appreciate your diligent review. Great work.   

 

A collaboration it is. Mystic River really is a good film. The more I think about it, the more I think that Dave Boyle's life and perspective is integral to all that happens in the story. I have never read the book, and I wonder if I would come away with the same impression after reading it.

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Chinatown (1974)

dir. Roman Polanski

 

*****Spoilers*****

 

I thought I would do another almost side-by-side comparison (the first one was for Mystic River) because Chinatown was already discussed on this thread in January by HEYMOE. I’m repeating some of HEYMOE’s post from January; my notes are in purple.

 

I give it 10½ out of 16 on our list of noir characteristics, but as we’ve said, the list is rather arbitrary. There’s no doubt in my mind that Chinatown is a neo-noir.

 

John Huston, who wrote and directed The Maltese Falcon is brilliant as the wealthy and powerful Noah Cross.

 

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.) Yes. Yes.

The cinematography by John A. Alonzo is stunning. There are bright contrasting colors throughout. A beautiful-looking neo-noir. The mise-en-scenes are made beautiful by deep focus cinematography (a technique which permits everything far-away to remain clearly in focus.)

 

2. Flashbacks No. No.

3. Unusual narration No. No.

 

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

Murder

Fraud

Conspiracy

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Yes. No.

At first, we see Evelyn Mulwray as being more a victim, if anything. But it does not take long before she shows her true colors. One lie leads to another. We can’t help but wonder; Is she a murderer? If not, why all the lies? What is her motive? Noir history tells us that Evelyn could be the femme fatale here. Then a revelation towards the end, makes us re-think; When is a femme fatale not a femme fatale.

The only person who sees Evelyn Mulwray as suspicious is Jake Gittes. Evelyn doesn’t try to manipulate Gittes; she simply doesn’t know who she can trust. Given her family history and her present family circumstances, she has every reason to be doubly cautious.

 

6. The instrument of fate Yes. Yes.

Gittes goes see Evelyn at her home and when told she is away, decides to have a look around. He sees the gardener, busy tending to his landscaping, muttering among other things, "Bad for the grass." Gittes, looking around, stops in his tracks. He has heard the gardener say the same thing previously, only now it turns out to be a significant clue; a turning point.  

Fate also plays a large part in Jake Gittes’s life in general. He is carrying around his past, specifically his past experiences in Chinatown. His past haunts him and it is inferred that it repeats itself in the current milieu of the film.

 

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Yes. Yes.

Evelyn Mulwray has them all: guilt, fear, shame, confusion. To explain this further would reveal a plot twist which I will not divulge.

I think Gittes suffers from angst because of his experiences in Chinatown, which haunts him. And it is reinforced by his experiences with the Crosses and Mulwrays. I think the ending causes some angst in viewers, too. It did for me.

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes. Yes.

Murder

Disfigurement

Gittes is often under the threat of attack because of his questions about water.

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings Yes. Yes.

The setting is Los Angeles in the 1930s with partial focus on the very urban L.A. Water and Power Company, once headed by William Mulholland.

 

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional) No. No.

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness No. Yes.

Evelyn Mulwray and Katherine Cross are isolated by their family circumstances. Gittes is alone in his attempt to do good in the face of overwhelming corruption and disregard for others.

 

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

A past emotional and psychological trauma left Evelyn Mulwray a high strung woman with a constant aura of nervousness. Her apprehension may explain her withdrawing a valid lawsuit, giving the impression she knows more than she’s telling, and lying to Mr. Gittes, who she knows wants to help her.

Noah Cross is manipulating everything and everyone around him.

 

13. Greed Yes. Yes.

 

14. Betrayal Yes. Yes.

The ultimate betrayal imaginable.

And it will be repeated.

 

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) Yes. Maybe a half-point.

The inference throughout the film is that Chinatown is corrupt. We learn that Gittes once worked there for the District Attorney. He tells Evelyn that you can’t always tell what’s going on and everyone working there, is bothered to talk about it. As for him, “I was trying to keep someone from being hurt and I ended up making sure that she was hurt.” He never explains this further, so we are left wondering; was it an accident or intentional. Did he leave (Chinatown) in order to get away from the corruption? Ambiguous.

While these points are true, I think of Gittes as being the only one who is awash in ambiguity. There’s nothing ambiguous about Noah Cross, for example. Even Evelyn Mulwray isn’t really ambiguous. She’s seen as such by Gittes, but he keeps making false assumptions about her.

 

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” Yes. No.

Gittes has a nose (excuse the pun) for spotting clues and then pursuing them. True, but he makes many erroneous assumptions, and no one and nothing triumphs in the end.

                                                                       

                                                                       * * * *

Chinatown resembles films of the classic noir era in so many ways. Watching it is a wonderful experience. 

It scores 12 of 16 on our template, suggesting a valid neo-noir.

I give it 10½ out of 16 on our list of noir characteristics, but as we’ve said, the list is rather arbitrary. There’s no doubt in my mind that Chinatown is a neo-noir.

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A collaboration it is. Mystic River really is a good film. The more I think about it, the more I think that Dave Boyle's life and perspective is integral to all that happens in the story. I have never read the book, and I wonder if I would come away with the same impression after reading it.

 

Saw a program on PBS a few days ago were the screenwriter of Mystic River and a neo-noir director (can't recall who) were discussing neo-noir films with much of the focus on Chinatown.     Sorry I don't have more info but it was very informative and explored much of what was discussed here about Chinatown (which shots from the movie),   the differences between 'classic' noir and neo-noir,   etc....

 

Maybe someone can provide more info so other can see this program.    

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Saw a program on PBS a few days ago were the screenwriter of Mystic River and a neo-noir director (can't recall who) were discussing neo-noir films with much of the focus on Chinatown.     Sorry I don't have more info but it was very informative and explored much of what was discussed here about Chinatown (which shots from the movie),   the differences between 'classic' noir and neo-noir,   etc....

 

Maybe someone can provide more info so other can see this program.    

 

Was it a show called On Story, and an episode called "A Conversation with Brian Helgeland"? He was the screenwriter of Mystic River.

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Was it a show called On Story, and an episode called "A Conversation with Brian Helgeland"? He was the screenwriter of Mystic River.

 

Sorry I don't know what the show was called.   In fact I was reading posts at this forum and than went to turn on the T.V. and just stumbled on this program in progress where they where showing a film clip from Chinatown and discussing the clip.    It was very mystic.  :D

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Sorry I don't know what the show was called.   In fact I was reading posts at this forum and than went to turn on the T.V. and just stumbled on this program in progress where they where showing a film clip from Chinatown and discussing the clip.    It was very mystic.  :D

 

Mystic.

 

And mysterious! :D

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Chinatown (1974, dir. Roman Polanski)

 

*****Spoilers*****

 

I already posted a response to HEYMOE’s post about Chinatown. However, I did have lots of questions about what I thought were holes in the plot. Here are some of the questions I have about the story:

 

If a two-bit private investigator like Gittes could find “the girl,” why couldn’t Noah Cross?

Evelyn Mulwray was easy for Gittes to follow. Surely Noah Cross could have found somebody to find out what Gittes found out.

And how did Noah Cross get into the Mulwray house to kill Hollis Mulwray if they weren’t on speaking terms? And how did a guy using a cane fight with Hollis and lose his bifocals in the saltwater pond?

 

If one assumes that Noah Cross did indeed fight with Hollis Mulwray and did lose his bifocals in the saltwater pond at Mulwray’s house, wouldn’t he have tried to fish them out?

They were easy to see in daylight. Even at night, he probably could have found them using a flashlight. Or he could have had his henchmen find them.

 

Why did Gittes phone Noah Cross and meet with him when he knew that Evelyn Mulwray and her daughter needed to get away from him? What did he hope to accomplish? And why didn’t Noah Cross kill him there and then?

Gittes could have been forced at gunpoint to tell Noah Cross where Evelyn and Katherine were hiding. Gittes was a rather large liability: He knew Noah Cross had killed Hollis Mulwray; he knew Noah Cross’s complicated relationship to Katherine. Gittes admitted knowing these facts to Noah Cross; Gittes confronted him about the bifocals and his relationship to his two daughters.

 

None of this detracts from Chinatown as a neo-noir. But my interest in writing and storytelling makes me wonder about the points I list above.

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this side-by-side format and for joining me in supporting this film as neo-noir. It looks like another collaboration. That makes two strong Yesses.

 

I have changed some Yesses and No’s, reworded some original text and combined some of our responses. If you are fine with this, I will or (you may) repost without the editorial comments, (in green fonts).

 

 Chinatown (1974)

dir. Roman Polanski

 

*****Spoilers*****

 

I thought I would do another almost side-by-side comparison (the first one was for Mystic River) because Chinatown was already discussed on this thread in January by HEYMOE. I’m repeating some of HEYMOE’s post from January; my notes are in purple.

 

I give it 10½ out of 16 on our list of noir characteristics, but as we’ve said, the list is rather arbitrary. There’s no doubt in my mind that Chinatown is a neo-noir.

 

John Huston, who wrote and directed The Maltese Falcon is brilliant as the wealthy and powerful Noah Cross.

 

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.) Yes. Yes.

The cinematography by John A. Alonzo is stunning. There are bright contrasting colors throughout. A beautiful-looking neo-noir. The mise-en-scenes are made beautiful by deep focus cinematography (a technique which permits everything far-away to remain clearly in focus.)

 

2. Flashbacks No. No.

3. Unusual narration No. No.

 

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

Murder

Fraud

Conspiracy

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Yes. No.

Gittes wants to know who hired him to follow Hollis Mulwray (Evelyn’s Husband) under false pretense; for what purpose? He suspects there may be a connection between “that” person and Hollis’s disappearance, but Evelyn is not forthcoming to his inquiries then nor later on. Why? Because she is holding on to a secret she fears Gittes may get to, the further he probes. At the end of the day (when all is said and done) Evelyn is not a femme fatale because her revelation near the end of the film, fully explains and justifies her conduct with Gittes throughout. Evelyn is a victim, multiple times even, only we are not aware of it for most of the film. - Overhauled from original post 01/29/16 by HEYMOE

The only person who sees Evelyn Mulwray as suspicious is Jake Gittes. Evelyn doesn’t try to manipulate Gittes; she simply doesn’t know who she can trust. Given her family history and her present family circumstances, she has every reason to be doubly cautious.

My change is due to the math: I said yes as to most of the film and no when we finally learn her secret. Your position is unequivocally no. Two nays; One yea.

 

6. The instrument of fate Yes. Yes.

Gittes goes see Evelyn at her home and when told she is away, decides to have a look around. He sees the gardener, busy tending to his landscaping, muttering among other things, "Bad for the grass." Gittes, looking around, stops in his tracks. He has heard the gardener say the same thing previously, only now it turns out to be a significant clue; a turning point.  

Fate also plays a large part in Jake Gittes’s life in general. He is carrying around his past, specifically his past experiences in Chinatown. His past haunts him and it is inferred that it repeats itself in the current milieu of the film.

 

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Yes. Yes.

Evelyn Mulwray has them all: guilt, fear, shame, confusion. To explain this further would reveal a plot twist which I will not divulge.

I think Gittes suffers from angst because of his experiences in Chinatown, which haunts him. And it is reinforced by his experiences with the Crosses and Mulwrays. I think the ending causes some angst in viewers, too. It did for me.

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes. Yes.

Murder

Disfigurement

Gittes is often under the threat of attack because of his questions about water.

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings Yes. Yes.

The setting is Los Angeles in the 1930s with partial focus on the very urban L.A. Water and Power Company, once headed by William Mulholland.

 

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional) No. No.

 

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness No. Yes.

Evelyn Mulwray and Katherine Cross are isolated by their family circumstances. Gittes is alone in his attempt to do good in the face of overwhelming corruption and disregard for others.

Excellently deduced. Good catch! I agree.

 

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

A past emotional and psychological trauma left Evelyn Mulwray a high strung woman with a constant aura of nervousness. Her apprehension may explain her withdrawing a valid lawsuit, giving the impression she knows more than she’s telling, and lying to Mr. Gittes, who she knows wants to help her.

Noah Cross is manipulating everything and everyone around him.

Another excellent observation here. I agree.

 

13. Greed Yes. Yes.

 

14. Betrayal Yes. Yes.

The ultimate betrayal imaginable.

And it will be repeated.

 

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) Yes. Maybe a half-point.

The inference throughout the film is that Chinatown is corrupt. We learn that Gittes once worked there for the District Attorney. He tells Evelyn that you can’t always tell what’s going on and everyone working there, is bothered to talk about it. As for him, “I was trying to keep someone from being hurt and I ended up making sure that she was hurt.” He never explains this further, so we are left wondering; was it an accident or intentional. Did he leave (Chinatown) in order to get away from the corruption? Ambiguous.

While these points are true, I think of Gittes as being the only one who is awash in ambiguity. There’s nothing ambiguous about Noah Cross, for example. Even Evelyn Mulwray isn’t really ambiguous. She’s seen as such by Gittes, but he keeps making false assumptions about her.

I am fine with both of our summations here.

 

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” Yes. No. (Let’s combine both responses into one.)

[Although] Gittes has a nose (excuse the pun) for spotting clues and then pursuing them, [True, but] he makes many erroneous assumptions, and no one and nothing triumphs in the end.

I agree. No one triumphs. Deleted words in order to combine both our sentences.

 

* * * *

Chinatown resembles films of the classic noir era in so many ways. Watching it is a wonderful experience. 

It scores 12 of 16 11 of 16 on our template, suggesting a valid neo-noir. Updated from original post 01/29/16 by HEYMOE

I give it 10½ out of 16 on our list of noir characteristics, but as we’ve said, the list is rather arbitrary. There’s no doubt in my mind that Chinatown is a neo-noir.

Two Yesses

 

 

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Chinatown (1974, dir. Roman Polanski)

 

*****Spoilers*****

 

I already posted a response to HEYMOE’s post about Chinatown. However, I did have lots of questions about what I thought were holes in the plot. Here are some of the questions I have about the story:

 

If a two-bit private investigator like Gittes could find “the girl,” why couldn’t Noah Cross?

Evelyn Mulwray was easy for Gittes to follow. Surely Noah Cross could have found somebody to find out what Gittes found out.

 

Noah Cross was in the process of framing Evelyn Mulwray for her husband's death so why not use Gittes?  He was likely waiting for Evelyn to be arrested so "the girl" could fall in his lap but then comes Gittes, who Cross could also implicate (and does) in the coverup of Hollis' death in addition to getting a location on the girl. 

 

And how did Noah Cross get into the Mulwray house to kill Hollis Mulwray if they weren’t on speaking terms? And how did a guy using a cane fight with Hollis and lose his bifocals in the saltwater pond?

 

If you saw the photographs of Cross and Mulwray arguing about "applecore", then you'd realize that they were forced into speaking terms, talking about the fact that tons of water was being dumped into the ocean and the fact that Cross' club was facilitating the corrupt scheme.  We have no idea if Cross brought another associate with him to murder Hollis Mulwray or if it was simply Cross killing Mulwray himself.

 

If one assumes that Noah Cross did indeed fight with Hollis Mulwray and did lose his bifocals in the saltwater pond at Mulwray’s house, wouldn’t he have tried to fish them out?

They were easy to see in daylight. Even at night, he probably could have found them using a flashlight. Or he could have had his henchmen find them.

Why do we have to assume that he wasn't capable of making a mistake in forgetting to retrieve them from the pond, as the writer intended for the audience to realize?  It certainly helps to underscore Jake Gittes' most notable attribute of misreading evidence and clues throughout the course of the film.

 

Why did Gittes phone Noah Cross and meet with him when he knew that Evelyn Mulwray and her daughter needed to get away from him? What did he hope to accomplish? And why didn’t Noah Cross kill him there and then?

Gittes could have been forced at gunpoint to tell Noah Cross where Evelyn and Katherine were hiding. Gittes was a rather large liability: He knew Noah Cross had killed Hollis Mulwray; he knew Noah Cross’s complicated relationship to Katherine. Gittes admitted knowing these facts to Noah Cross; Gittes confronted him about the bifocals and his relationship to his two daughters.

 

None of this detracts from Chinatown as a neo-noir. But my interest in writing and storytelling makes me wonder about the points I list above.

 

Since when does Chinatown suggest that Jake Gittes is an adept detective?  If anything Chinatown suggests not to place your confidence in the hardboiled detective, unlike every classic film noir.  Gittes obviously confronted Cross because he wanted to demonstrate that he "solved" the case,  something he admitted he wanted to do ever since he was "caught with his pants down" and also something  every classic film noir detective did before him, except that in Chinatown, it is one of his numerous mistakes.  Even if he had gone with Evelyn and Catherine to Chinatown it wouldn't have mattered as the police would have also been there since he previously(and mistakenly) misdirected law enforcement to Curly's house, which was obviously a crime.   Cross didn't kill Gittes since Gittes could lead him to Catherine's location.

 

If you're truly interested in the storytelling of Chinatown, pay attention to Jake Gittes' last words of the film.

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Just Another Love Story (2007, dir. Ole Bornedal)

 

*****Spoilers*****

 

To be honest, our list is too confining to describe this neo-noir. The writing, the dialogue, and the editing are just wonderful. I fear that this Danish film will be ruined by a Hollywood remake in the too-soon future. But I give it 12 out of 16 on our list.

 

Just Another Love Story has a strong female lead, but it’s hard to describe why this is so without giving details away. Everyone in this film suffers, and she doesn’t escape the suffering either. She may triumph and she achieves her goal, but it comes at a heavy price.

 

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color (cinematography in general)

• The opening and closing shots of the main character Jonas in the pouring rain.

• The closing credits over shots from what I think are Vietnam.

• The unique use of a process shot during the scene at the car accident.

• The splicing together of scenes and dialogue to show Jonas’s confused state of mind.

2. Flashbacks Flashbacks come in the form of returning memories for Julia. She’s suffering from amnesia after a car accident.

3. Unusual narration The opening sequence consists of three “love scenes” numbered by the director as “Love scene no. 1,” “Love scene no. 2,” and “Love scene no. 3.” They lay out the intertwining threads in the story to come in the film.

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) Where to begin? Murder, gem smuggling, domestic violence.

5. Femme fatale There’s a femme fatale but not in the usual sense. Jonas gets swept away but not because Julia is trying to seduce him. In fact, she’s just been injured in a car crash, and the viewer wonders about Jonas’s good sense from the beginning. Even his friends, Frank and Poul, can’t understand what he’s doing. They know he is married (to Mette), but Julia doesn’t.

6. The instrument of fate The fateful car crash, Jonas getting swept away by Julia at the accident scene. He seems to be the perfect victim of fate. (Or did fate just give him an unhealthy lack of judgment?)

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Again, where to begin? The cheating, the lying, the betrayal. Everyone is on edge for different reasons. And who the heck is the Bandaged Man?! Even the viewer is caught up in the angst and suspense.

8. Violence or the threat of violence One of the characters is a constant threat. Saying anything more will give away plot details.

9. Urban and nighttime settings Not applicable (N/A)

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional) (N/A)

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness Jonas’s friend Frank poses several questions, some of which present philosophical musings in the film:

“Beautiful woman and a mystery. Isn’t that how all film noirs begin?”

“Have you seen the light?”

And then there’s the one he poses about love in the autopsy room. . . . It’s a great scene.

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Julia suffers from amnesia after the car accident. The rest of the story hinges on her amnesia and her returning memories.

13. Greed (N/A, that is, only tangentially)

14. Betrayal Betrayal comes in many forms in this film: marital infidelity, dishonor among thieves, the betrayal that saves a life.

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) This one is hard to describe because some of the characters don’t seem to have any redeeming qualities. But then there’s Jonas, who is neither good nor bad. I’m going to count this one because of Jonas.

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” (N/A)

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Two_guns_poster.jpg


2 Guns


 


Directed by Baltasar Kormakur


 


 


I just happened upon this film. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had many elements of a neo-noir; 15/16 In a way, it kind of reminded me a bit of a classic Tarantino film mixed with Breaking Bad. It's the story of an undercover DEA agent who is partnered with an undercover Navy officer (unbeknownst to each other) to infiltrate a drug cartel. They stake out and rob a bank expecting only $3 million only to find that the total take was over $43 million. It sets in motion a wild chase where four-five different groups are after the funds. The film is also peppered with witty, comedic elements. 


 


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.)


Yes. It's a color film but there is definitely some muted colors that create the chiaroscuro. I've also noticed the heavy use of  dark brown/white.


 


2. Flashbacks


Yes. There is a scene where we are at the present, yet it does flash back to a few weeks earlier. Afterward, the film remains linear.


 


3. Unusual narration


Yes. The plot is multi-faceted showing different perspectives and granting equal screen time to each perspective.


 


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


Lots of crime and lots of murder. It starts off with a drug deal, followed by a bank heist. Four different groups are after the money claiming their rightful ownership of the funds and the body count increases.


 


5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale


Yes on both. One former girlfriend and double-crossing friends


 


6. The instrument of fate


Yes. The bank heist was supposed to be a collection of a mere $3million but they end up with $43.125 million much to their surprise and confusion. Also, our protagonist has a chance encounter with his ex-girlfriend at a hotel. We learn, later, that it answers all the questions near the film's end. 


 


7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst)


Yes for two main protagonists. They have a heightened distrust of each other and for good reason.


 


8. Violence or the threat of violence


Yes. Russian Roulette. Blackmail. Bank Heist. Mexican Standoffs. People getting shot (including innocents). 


 


9. Urban and nighttime settings


Yes and no. Lots of nighttime settings but not urban. Most of the action is either the Sonoran desert or Texas.


 


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


n/a


 


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


This sort of relates to question 7. The two protagonists often engage in discussion about trust, friendship and brotherhood.


 


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


Yes. Manipulation.


 


13. Greed


Definitely Yes. Four different groups are after the $43.125 million; the DEA, the Navy, the CIA and the Mexican drug lord.


 


14. Betrayal


Yes. We have not only double crossing but also triple and quadruple crossing.


 


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


None whatsoever. The good are bad and the bad are evil.


 


16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good”


Indeed it does. It all boils down to who has the greater forethought and expertise to whoever ultimately walks away with the cash.


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2 Guns

 

Directed by Baltasar Kormakur

 

 

I just happened upon this film. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had many elements of a neo-noir; 15/16 In a way, it kind of reminded me a bit of a classic Tarantino film mixed with Breaking Bad. It's the story of an undercover DEA agent who is partnered with an undercover Navy officer (unbeknownst to each other) to infiltrate a drug cartel. They stake out and rob a bank expecting only $3 million only to find that the total take was over $43 million. It sets in motion a wild chase where four-five different groups are after the funds. The film is also peppered with witty, comedic elements. 

 

 

An intriguing write-up.

 

Not only does this film have the highest rating (15 out of 16) for a neo-noir so far, I do believe, but you've noted that it has "witty, comedic elements," and I really enjoy my noir mixed with comedy!

 

I'm adding 2 Guns to my list of must-sees.

 

And it's new to our list of suggested neo-noirs.

 

And it has Denzel Washington!

Edited by Marianne
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Leon: The Professional (1994)

dir. Luc Besson

 

Luc Besson’s film about a dysfunctional family, a psychopath DEA agent, a cold-blooded assassin, and a sometimes delusional 12-year-old, is technical wise, near perfect.

The credit goes to him, his cinematographer, and the three lead actors, who collectively made an exceptional neo-noir.

 

Mathilda- (Natalie Portman) a 12 year old wanting to avenge her little brother’s murder.

Mathilda: They killed my brother. What the hell did he do? He was four years old. He never used to cry. He just used to sit next to me and cuddle.

Leon- (Jean Reno) a professional hit man (Cleaner) who Mathilda goes to for help.

Leon: You’ve had a rough day today, go to sleep and we’ll see tomorrow.

Stansfield- (DEA agent)- (Gary Oldman) -an out of control, drug addicted, psychopath, looking to cover his tracks.

Stansfield: I take no pleasure in taking life, if it’s from a person who doesn’t care about it.  

 

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.) Yes.

Cinematographer Thierry Arbogast’s work here is excellent. (He won a César in France for this film.) He enhances the intrigue and tension in the opening two scenes when Leon is asked to deliver a message and then, when he delivers it. The colors and tones are never overly presented, yet they bring attention to each scene. He captures the unique natural beauty in almost every scene.

 

2. Flashbacks ½ (because its used only once- very limited)

A subordinate describes a fellow cop’s murder by a hit man and we see it as described. Very effective.

 

3. Unusual narration ½ (because its used only once- very limited)

Leon reads a letter from Mathilda as we hear her voice speaking the words.

 

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

Child abuse

Drug sale

Conspiracy

Police corruption

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Yes.

Perhaps the youngest and unlikeliest femme fatale ever. Mathilda wants help in avenging her brother’s senseless murder. Who better than professional assassin, Leon. She cries, charms him, cajoles him, tells him she loves him, threatens to kill herself, and even insists that they share a bed. She needs him and manipulates him.

 

6. The instrument of fate Yes.

A smiling Mathilda is instantly shocked and in tears, when she happens upon the brutal murders of her family. Thinking quickly, she walks to the nearest door and begs to be let in. As fate would have it, and unbeknownst to her, a professional assassin lets her in.

 

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Yes.

Both Mathilda and Leon find themselves in separate quandaries. Mathilda’s is a social quandary as she finds herself newly orphaned, homeless, without family, and no one to turn to but, Leon. Leon’s is a moral one, and all the angst that comes with being a hired gun, while at the same time, training an under aged Mathilda to be an assassin, at her insistence. The fact the he’s a loner and enjoys working alone, and now finds himself with an unwanted partner with demands and surprises, only adds to his anxiety.

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes.

Assassinations

Russian roulette

Lawless Murders by corrupt agents

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings ½ (no, nighttime setting)

Film is set in New York City

City tenements and streets are showcased.

 

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional) No.

 

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

The loss of her little brother has left Mathilda feeling alienated and with but one purpose in life- revenge. So much so, that in discussing the matter with Leon, she tells him, “I don’t give a #$@&%*! about sleeping, Leon. I want love or death,” and immediately sets out to prove her resolve in a terrorizing manner.

 

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

Mathilda as manipulator

Mathilda tells Leon she wants to be a Cleaner. He gives her guns and ammunitions.

Leon: Take it. It’s a good-bye gift. Go clean, but not with me. I work alone.

Mathilda: Bonnie and Clyde didn’t work alone. Thelma and Louise didn’t work alone. And they were the best.

Leon: Why are you doing this to me? I’ve been nothing but nice to you. I even saved your life yesterday, right outside your door.

Mathilda: So now you are responsible for it. You saved my life, you must have saved it for a good reason. Throw me out now, it’s like you never opened your door, like you let me die right there in front of it. But you did open it… If you don’t help me, I’ll die tonight. I can feel it. I don’t want to die tonight.

 

Stansfield as a psychopath

Norman Stansfield's discovery that his cocaine has been cut into, leads to a grossly disproportional attack akin to a psychopath’s. Moments before the attack he says, “I like these calm little moments before the storm. It reminds me of Beethoven. Can you hear it? It’s like when you put your head to the grass- you can hear it growing. . .”

 

13. Greed Yes.

Mathilda’s father is suspected of diluting cocaine which he’s holding for DEA agents. This “cutting” is a way to shortchange both buyers and dealers who expect their money’s worth.

 

14. Betrayal Yes.

Mathilda’s Father (Michael Badalucco) neglects his parental duties in many ways:

Child abuse (slaps and bruises Mathilda)

Failure to protect family (allowing corrupt agents in his home)

Drug trafficking and usage (a bad influence on the children)

Poor supervision (Mathilda has left school for two weeks and it goes unnoticed)

Also

Corrupt DEA police betray their oath to protect and serve and engage in criminal activities.

In this film the victims of these betrayals include children.

 

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

Leon is a cold-blooded assassin with no remorse but he has his limits:

Leon: No women, no kids, that’s the rule.

He is anti-social, yet welcomes Mathilda into his world.

He kills with ease, yet handles and cares for a plant with much devotion.

 

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” N/A

 

There are two versions of this film; the uncut international version running 133 minutes and a shorter version running 110 minutes. This evaluation is based on the uncut 133 minutes release.

 

This neo-noir garners 12 ½ of 16 in our template. There are three areas where this film excels: Cinematography; Directing; Music. All outstanding. Natalie Portman's performance is amazing.

 

 

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The problem with the alternative way of viewing this particular film is critical missing of key points.  Jake Gittes is not a hero; just the protagonist  That's not my perspective, that's in the film  Sure, he has "good intentions" but that can't make him a hero.  He doesn't take one constructive action in the entire film.  

 

His last words at the end of the film confirm his mistakes, his flawed vision, and above all, his culpability.  I think you miss all of that if you don't watch the film from the vantage point of the ending.  

 

You asked that we draw our attention to the last words spoken by Gittes, because they are evident of his failure as a detective. I recently saw Chinatown and did just that and came away with this.

 

In Chinatown, Jack once did as little as possible because that’s what the District Attorney advised all his men to do. Now that he’s returned to Chinatown, he sees how Evelyn, who he thought he was keeping [safe], actually ends up dead- and it all comes back to him. As little as possible- that is what Lt. Lou Escobar does when Gittes tries to explain to him, of Cross’s involvement in Hollis’s murder. Instead, Escobar orders Gittes arrested for withholding evidence, extortion, and accessory after the facts. As Gittes sees Evelyn’s listless body in the car, it could be that her last words come to him: “He (Noah Cross) owns the police,” thereby giving meaning to the film’s final words: Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown,”- a town where police are expected to do little because men such as Noah Cross, own them.

 

J.J. Gittes is not as bad a P.I. as he’s made out to be. His review of county records along with his visit to the Mar Vista Rest Home, helps confirm the motive to the murder, which he shares with the Lieutenant.

Gittes: Mulwray was murdered and moved because. . . he found out somebody was dumping water [in the ocean]. That’s what they were trying to cover up.

 

He finds the key evidence- the bifocal eye glasses. Evelyn weakly confirms they were Hollis’s. A little while later, she corrects herself and tells him the glasses are not Hollis’s because he did not wear bifocals. He then goes and confronts the man they belong to. He figured out the motive then identified the murderer. I would suggest his actions prove worthy.

 

Yes, Gittes’s client dies at the end, the murderer he identified, literally walks away, and although he may not be a hero, neither should he be made to take the blame.

 

After all, it is Noah Cross who started it all by having Ida Sessions (under false pretense) go to Gittes and ask him to follow Hollis Mulwray. He had the motive to have the pictures taken of Hollis and Katherine published, thereby forcing Evelyn to risk exposure to her daughter, should she travel back to Mexico. He once bragged to Gittes, “I’ve still got a few teeth in my head, Mr. Gittes, and a few friends in town.” Perhaps he speaks of the police he owns.

 

Mr. Cross is to blame for having destroyed Evelyn’s life when he took away her dignity, and it is he who is solely responsible for her demise, not Gittes.

 

This is how I perceive it.

Ours has been a good discussion. Thank You.

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