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How about neo-noir from other countries? I think we could make this experiment even more interesting by finding noir films from all over the world. I'm looking into La demoiselle d'honneur (dir. Claude Chabrol) and El aura (dir. Fabián Bielinsky). Any other suggestions?

 

Good idea. I have five suggestions: four* which I have seen and one that I have wanted to see for some time.

 

1. Le Cercle Rouge              (1970) dir. Jean-Pierre Melville from France. (Subtitled)  Jewelry heist movie

   (The Red Circle)               Chicago Tribune: A classic of the clenched-fist, dark-skied, doom-laden world of noir.

 

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

 

3. Shallow Grave*              (1995) dir. Danny Boyle from United Kingdom

 

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

 

5. Cache*                           (2005) dir. Michael Haneke from France. (Subtitled)

 

The early tally:

 

France……………..4

Spain……………....1

United kingdom …..1

Canada…………….1

 

No doubt, other countries can join the list (Korea, Japan, Mexico, Australia). I'll continue to look.

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The early tally:

 

France……………..4

Argentina/Spain……………....1

United kingdom …..1

Canada…………….1

 

No doubt, other countries can join the list (Korea, Japan, Mexico, Australia). I'll continue to look.

 

I think El aura is actually an Argentine/French/Spanish collaboration.

 

†This is true of El aura, according to Wikipedia.

 

I read online, probably at Wikipedia, that it was submitted for the foreign-language category in the Academy Awards as an Argentine film, so I guess I would go with Argentine if I had to pick just one.*

 

*This is true about The Secret in Their Eyes, another Argentine film and another film to add to our list.

Edited by Marianne
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Se7en (1995)

dir. David Fincher

 

Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is due to retire in a week and recently transferred, Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) is assigned to work with him. Their first case involves an obese man found dead, his hands and feet tied. The medical examiner determines that the cause of death was forced-feeding.

A day later, another unusual death leads them to believe that a serial killer is responsible for both deaths and they anticipate five more.

 

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.

Se7en is a melancholy story and uses a gloomy palette to dull the colors. The cinematography certainly sets the right tone and mood as nothing ever shines or appears brilliant. Rooms with multiple lamps do not quite illuminate as they should.

 

2. Flashbacks N/A

3. Unusual narration N/A

 

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

The serial Killer, John Doe, meticulously plans each murder. One in particular takes him one year to see through with just the right affect.

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale N/A

 

6. The instrument of fate Yes.

Five of the victims (each with a particular trait and/or livelihood) were picked at random by the serial killer to fit his agenda.

Two were deliberate picks. No other two would do.

 

SOMERSET - He's only two murders away from finishing his masterpiece, right? Can you even conceive of what's going to happen next? I mean, can you even imagine how he'll try to finish it?

These victim never had a chance to control their fate.

 

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

Detective Mills is our anti-hero. His passion and angst in this case has blurred his moral compass. He insists on breaking and entering into a suspect’s home despite Somerset’s adamant pleas that it would hinder John Doe’s prosecution. Mills does not listen to reason and eventually breaks through the door. Moments later he knowingly participates in a witness giving a false statement to police thereby giving him probable cause for the break-in.

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes.

Torture

Murder

Mutilation

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings Yes.

Large spacious library, dirty city dwellings, dark wet alleys, heavy down pours, all greatly prevail over most of the film. There is a 20 minute scene which takes place in a desert-like terrain with high transmission towers. It’s the only time we see the sun and it’s a 7:00pm sun at that, casting long shadows.

 

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

 

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

John Doe is a disoriented individual what with deep-rooted beliefs. He tells the detectives that he was “chosen” and admits desiring to turn each sin against the sinner and further acknowledging, “I only took their sins to logical conclusions.

 

John Doe: Don't ask me to pity those people. I don't mourn them anymore than I do the thousands that died in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Somerset: Is that to say John, that what you were doing was God's good work?

John Doe: The lord works in mysterious ways.

 

Could you be any more alienated?

 

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

John Doe, brilliantly manipulates one of his victims into committing an act of violence that has long term consequences for some.

 

13. Greed Yes

Yes as it relates to one of the murders. Best not to say more.

 

14. Betrayal N/A

 

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

Detective Mills is a happily married man, newly transferred and working alongside a very experienced and soon to retire Detective Somerset. His angst to find the suspect, compels Detective Mills to naively asks to take over the case. Mills is hot-tempered, undisciplined, and at times insubordinate. Most troubling (to Somerset) is his intensity towards capturing this serial killer.

 

Somerset talks to Mills one night after work.

SOMERSET - Stop thinking it's good guys against bad guys. Don't try to focus on things as black and white, because you'll go blind. There's no winning and losing here.

A little later to Mills again

SOMERSET- Just know, that in this case there's not going to be any satisfaction. If we caught John Doe and he were the devil himself. . . that might live up to our expectations. No human being could do these things, right? But, this is not the devil. It's just a man. . . People don't want a champion. They just want to keep playing the lottery and eating hamburgers.

 

But no matter how Somerset tries to put the case in perspective, Mills remains resolved and angry.

 

MILLS- You want me to agree with you: "Yeah, you're right, Somerset. This is a **** place. Let's go live in a **** log cabin." Well, I don't agree with you. You're giving up, and it makes me sick. . .”

 

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

Detective Somerset begins cracking the case with an ingenious way of tracking behavioral practices and then using the list it generates to investigate suspects.

 

*****

 

A memorable moment in the film comes in the form of a montage shortly after the discovery of a second body. Somerset visit’s the library and as Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite No. 3 in D Major "Air" plays we see him walking the aisles looking at book titles, studiously reading them, taking notes, then getting up to get more books and returning to read some more. We see a list of books he’s carefully picked for Mills to read. These images are periodically interrupted to show Mills at home studying crime scene photos, reading Medical Examiner’s report, and reviewing the detectives notes. Both men looking for answers- Somerset finds them in history and well researched books; Mills seeks his in raw data and physical evidence.

 

A beautiful moment in an otherwise depressing, dark-themed film.

 

I would love to discuss the final 15 minutes of Se7en, but doing so would undoubtedly include many spoiler. Suffice to say that the music, editing, acting and directing is brilliant.

 

11 of 16 makes Se7en a wonderfully, thrilling neo-noir.

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La demoiselle d’honneur

(The Bridesmaid, 2004, dir. Claude Chabrol)

 

This French film (the first foreign film to be discussed in our neo-noir experiment) is definitely a neo-noir, even though I give it only 10 out of 16 on our list of neo-noir characteristics. The mood is unsettling from the start and gets more so until the final scene, when the credits are rolling over the shot of that bust named Flora. Flora actually plays a part in the film! Philippe’s haircut (the Julius Caesar bangs) is another giveaway, or maybe it seems obvious to me because Harry Roat was coiffed the same way in Wait Until Dark.

 

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.) The opening sequence starts bleached out, and as the credits roll, the film comes into full color. Great opening for a film with a female lead who takes an unbalanced approach to relationships. It’s almost the opposite of what happens in the film: Everything seems clear to Philippe at the start, but then he’s in too deep and everything is muddled for him. Light and shadow are not dominant themes, but the music and the filming create an uneasy mood that never quits. The first-person point-of-view filming later in the film emphasizes Philippe’s predicament.

2. Flashbacks Not applicable (N/A)

3. Unusual narration (N/A)

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) Murder, discussion of murder, disappearance of the woman at the start of the film. Senta tells Philippe that there are four things a person must do to be alive in the truest sense: One of them is to kill someone.

5. Femme fatale Senta is the femme fatale. Philippe is drawn to her because she reminds him of the bust (with the name Flora) that his father gave to his mother. Philippe may sound like the odd one (and he is odd), but just wait!

6. The instrument of fate Senta always knew that she would meet Philippe and she is drawn to him the minute she sees him. Philippe is drawn to her for his own reasons (see #5).

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Philippe is confused and anxious about Senta’s talk of murder. This feeling in him escalates as he uncovers more and more of the truth. He even starts to feel physically ill.

8. Violence or the threat of violence The mood, the music, Senta’s strange ideas about life and love and proving it by killing someone—the viewer is always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the threat to made good.

9. Urban and nighttime settings (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 Senta is alone in the world. I think she feels alone. She certainly has a very odd, really a frightening, outlook on life, and that sets her apart from everyone else.

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Senta is emotionally unbalanced. It’s clear to viewers almost immediately, even if Philippe is blind to it.

13. Greed (N/A)

14. Betrayal (N/A)

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) Senta may have some really odd ideas, but she doesn’t seem to be aware that she’s doing harm to others. Philippe falls in love with Senta and starts a relationship with her, and then realizes that he is in over his head as he gets to know her better.

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” The police are efficient in finding out the truth. It’s not that they are the good guys. They are just good at doing their job.

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How about neo-noir from other countries? I think we could make this experiment even more interesting by finding noir films from all over the world. I'm looking into La demoiselle d'honneur (dir. Claude Chabrol) and El aura (dir. Fabián Bielinsky). Any other suggestions?

 

I've always considered Amores Perros a type of neo-noir. It's an early Iñárritu film out of Mexico (he just won this year's Oscar for Birdman). Great film but also quite disturbing.

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I've always considered Amores Perros a type of neo-noir. It's an early Iñárritu film out of Mexico (he just won this year's Oscar for Birdman). Great film but also quite disturbing.

 

I haven't seen Amores Perros (and I may not--I was probably the only person who wasn't bowled over by Birdman), but that's part of the point of this experiment: to widen our perspectives. Here is an updated list of the foreign films that we have compiled thus far:

 

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

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

Cache (2005), dir. Michael Haneke, from France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I haven't seen Amores Perros (and I may not--I was probably the only person who wasn't bowled over by Birdman), but that's part of the point of this experiment: to widen our perspectives. Here is an updated list of the foreign films that we have compiled thus far:

 

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

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

Cache (2005), dir. Michael Haneke, from France

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add Pasqualino Settebellezze (1975) from Italy

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Brick (2006, dir. Rian Johnson)

 

***Spoilers***

 

Brick almost seemed like both a neo-noir wannabe and a funny parody of film noir, with a mixture of 1940s and 1970s cultural references. I wasn’t convinced that it was a neo-noir, in spite of all the evidence provided by the review quoted below. I can give it only 6 out of 16.

 

Here are my thoughts on why Brick could be considered a parody:

 

• The drug kingpin (aka The Pin) is described as “The old guy. He’s in his twenties.”

• The Pin lives with his mother in a suburban home that looks like it’s part of a tract development. His place of business is his mother’s basement! And the basement is finished in 1970s wood paneling complete with a lamp hanging by one of those chain extensions that was probably made of plastic.

• The Pin’s mother feeds The Pin’s visitors and associates around the dining room table. The first time we see The Pin’s mother, she is trying to feed Brendan but keeps mixing up what she has to offer from her refrigerator.

• At The Pin’s house, Tug almost clocks Brendan with a very colorful rooster pitcher; when he checks himself, he is careful to replace the pitcher on the table. Because who knows what Mrs. The Pin would say, I guess!

• Dode calls Brendan a shamus (common term for “detective” in the 1940s).

• Frisco Farr is found in a coma outside the Pinkerton Deli (a reference to the Pinkerton Detective Agency, one-time employer of Dashiell Hammett).

• The ending between Brendan and Laura struck me as a modern take on the ending to The Maltese Falcon, with Brendan playing the part of Humphrey Bogart playing Sam Spade and Laura playing the part of Mary Astor playing Brigid O’Shaughnessy (that was her last alias in the film).

• The brick that everyone talks about could just as well be the Maltese falcon.

• Emily is a confusing character. She calls Brendan begging for help, then later tells him, “You gotta let me go.” Maybe she’s another stand-in for Brigid O’Shaughnessy.

 

Brick wasn’t all fun and games and parody. One flashback bothered me a bit: It’s the one showing a conversation between Brendan and Emily on the high school athletic field. Brendan wants to keep Emily safe, but he throws her to the ground.

• Brendan: “You’re the only think I love! You’re the only thing I love! And this is how I do it. I wanna keep you safe.”

• Emily slaps Brendan. Brendan throws Emily to the ground.

• Emily: “You can’t keep me safe, Brendan, all right? I’m in a different world now. And you can’t keep me out of it, and you can’t beat it. Not if I don’t want you to.”

I guess Brendan’s version of keeping Emily safe is not allowing anyone except himself to toss Emily around.

 

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color Not applicable

2. Flashbacks Very few, maybe half

3. Unusual narration Not applicable

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

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Maybe half. Brendan was wary of Laura until the end, and then he guesses her role in everything from her cigarette brand.

6. The instrument of fate Not applicable

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Teenage angst, I guess. Maybe half. Brendan seemed more determined than angst-ridden.

8. Violence or the threat of violence Maybe half. Parodying film noir took all the threat out of “the bad guys.”

9. Urban and nighttime settings Not applicable

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional) Not applicable

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness Brendan didn’t work alone. He had his sidekick helping him throughout. His eating alone struck me as stubbornness, not loneliness. Not applicable

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Not applicable

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” Not applicable

 

BRICK (2005)

dir. Rian Johnson

 

This film wastes no time:

The body of a young girl lays near a tunnel, a stream of water gently flowing beneath her. A blue shapely bracelet draws our attention. Observing quietly, a few feet away, is Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) the protagonist in this mystery-noir.

 

In a flashback two days earlier, we see a hand with the same bracelet closing the door to a school locker. Later a note from the same locker directs Brendan to a phone booth. Once there, he answers the phone- it’s his ex-girlfriend Emily, who incoherently tells Brendan how she screwed up and needs his help- something about a bad brick, poor Frisco, tug and “the Pin’s on it now” ?!?! Their phone conversation abruptly ends.

 

Brendan then hears the roar of a car approaching and as he steps away from the booth, sees a black mustang speeding away, and a cigarette butt thrown from the passenger window. He suspects Emily was nearby and must have hung up having heard the roar as well. Brendan later meets up with Emily and comes across a note left for her suggesting a meeting with person unknown at a certain time with a symbol as to the location. That night Brendan figures out where the meeting will take place and rushes there only to find Emily’s body laying face down in water. End of flashback and the beginning of Brendan’s own private investigation into the murder.

 

Except for a brief scene involving a principal, the entire film comprises of high school teenagers.

 

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.

Concrete and green trees are prominent in this neo-noir. A bright sun often shines behind Brendan’s head. In one scene the sun is front-center between two characters in silhouette talking on the beach. Very scenic. Very bright.

 

2. Flashbacks Yes.

Briefly, albeit audio mostly.

 

3. Unusual narration N/A

 

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

A murder is carefully carried out

Kidnapping

Numerous assaults ending in unconsciousness

Heroin use and trafficking

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Yes.

Laura (Nora Zehetner) dressed in a red kimono, asks Brendan for a drink this way: “Quit your yapping and fix me one.” She has trouble at first getting the attention of the one she’s after, but at the end she gets her man. (Or does she?)

 

6. The instrument of fate ? Yes

A clue is thrown at us earlier in the flashback, in which Brendan picks up on towards the latter part of the film. Best to leave it there.

 

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

Brendan perhaps feeling responsible for not having helped sufficiently when Emily asked for his help, now becomes obsessed with wanting to know what or who put Emily “in the spot, who put her in front of the gun.”

 

BRENDAN: Brain, I can't let her go. I was set to, but I can't. I don't think I can.

THE BRAIN: You think you can help her?

BRENDAN: No.

THE BRAIN: You think you can get the straight, maybe break some deserving teeth?

BRENDAN: Yeah. I think I could.

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes.

Murders

Shootings

Brutal fistfights

Assaults

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings Yes.

The setting is a high school, always seen in the daytime with perhaps 2 or 3 nighttime scenes. We are reminded of the urban setting each time the sun shines brightly directly into the camera while a fight or a foot chase carries on atop a large area covered with concrete asphalt.

 

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

 

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

Every character seem alienated from each other, there aren’t any pairings. Laura and Brad seem to be an item but there are indications that she’s just using him.

 

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

 

13. Greed Yes.

Heroin is stolen and cut then returned- a way of skimming and making money.

 

14. Betrayal Yes.

Emily’s death is a result of someone who saw Emily as ‘an insecure little girl trying to get in with the Ivy-bound elite’ and who in order to cover up their involvement in a betrayal themselves, exposed Emily to the betrayal they committed.

 

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

Brendan briefly ran drugs at his school- (small scale). He’s not squeaky clean. He sets out to find who is responsible for the murder of his ex-girlfriend. Many assaults and fights follow. He even witnesses a cold-blood murder but never informs the authorities.

 

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

Brendan is no expert investigator - he is still in high school. But his street-smarts mentality together with he knowing the culture of high school teenagers and the drug-user crowd, makes him a suitable enough expert to solve the mystery.

 

13 of 16-  A neo-noir for sure.

 

Here are two samples of the noir dialect heard in Brick:

 

Brendan: You got a cigarette?

Tug: I don’t smoke.

Brendan: I’ve seen you smoke.

Tug: I don’t smoke cigarettes.

____________________________

 

Laura: I want to help you.

Brendan: Look, I can't trust you. You ought to be smart enough to know that. I didn't

shake the party up to get your attention, and I'm not heeling you to hook you. Your connections could help me, but the bad baggage they bring could make it zero sum game or even hurt me, so I'm better off coming at it clean.

Laura: I wouldn't have to lead you in by the hand-

Brendan: I can't trust you. Brad was a sap, you weren't, you were with him and so you

were playing him, so you're a player. With you behind me, I'd have to tie one eye up watching both your hands, and I can't spare it.

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Brick (2006, dir. Rian Johnson)

 

***Spoilers***

 

Brick almost seemed like both a neo-noir wannabe and a funny parody of film noir, with a mixture of 1940s and 1970s cultural references. I wasn’t convinced that it was a neo-noir, in spite of all the evidence provided by the review quoted below. I can give it only 6 out of 16.

 

Here are my thoughts on why Brick could be considered a parody:

 

• The drug kingpin (aka The Pin) is described as “The old guy. He’s in his twenties.”

• The Pin lives with his mother in a suburban home that looks like it’s part of a tract development. His place of business is his mother’s basement! And the basement is finished in 1970s wood paneling complete with a lamp hanging by one of those chain extensions that was probably made of plastic.

• The Pin’s mother feeds The Pin’s visitors and associates around the dining room table. The first time we see The Pin’s mother, she is trying to feed Brendan but keeps mixing up what she has to offer from her refrigerator.

• At The Pin’s house, Tug almost clocks Brendan with a very colorful rooster pitcher; when he checks himself, he is careful to replace the pitcher on the table. Because who knows what Mrs. The Pin would say, I guess!

• Dode calls Brendan a shamus (common term for “detective” in the 1940s).

• Frisco Farr is found in a coma outside the Pinkerton Deli (a reference to the Pinkerton Detective Agency, one-time employer of Dashiell Hammett).

• The ending between Brendan and Laura struck me as a modern take on the ending to The Maltese Falcon, with Brendan playing the part of Humphrey Bogart playing Sam Spade and Laura playing the part of Mary Astor playing Brigid O’Shaughnessy (that was her last alias in the film).

• The brick that everyone talks about could just as well be the Maltese falcon.

• Emily is a confusing character. She calls Brendan begging for help, then later tells him, “You gotta let me go.” Maybe she’s another stand-in for Brigid O’Shaughnessy.

 

Brick wasn’t all fun and games and parody. One flashback bothered me a bit: It’s the one showing a conversation between Brendan and Emily on the high school athletic field. Brendan wants to keep Emily safe, but he throws her to the ground.

• Brendan: “You’re the only think I love! You’re the only thing I love! And this is how I do it. I wanna keep you safe.”

• Emily slaps Brendan. Brendan throws Emily to the ground.

• Emily: “You can’t keep me safe, Brendan, all right? I’m in a different world now. And you can’t keep me out of it, and you can’t beat it. Not if I don’t want you to.”

I guess Brendan’s version of keeping Emily safe is not allowing anyone except himself to toss Emily around.

 

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color Not applicable

2. Flashbacks Very few, maybe half

3. Unusual narration Not applicable

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

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Maybe half. Brendan was wary of Laura until the end, and then he guesses her role in everything from her cigarette brand.

6. The instrument of fate Not applicable

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Teenage angst, I guess. Maybe half. Brendan seemed more determined than angst-ridden.

8. Violence or the threat of violence Maybe half. Parodying film noir took all the threat out of “the bad guys.”

9. Urban and nighttime settings Not applicable

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional) Not applicable

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness Brendan didn’t work alone. He had his sidekick helping him throughout. His eating alone struck me as stubbornness, not loneliness. Not applicable

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Not applicable

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” Not applicable

 

My biggest problem with Brick is that the High School kids don't really talk like High School kids, its a bit off for me in that respect.

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My biggest problem with Brick is that the High School kids don't really talk like High School kids, its a bit off for me in that respect.

 

I loved some of the dialogue in Brick. High school kids have their own lingo, especially today, with social media and cell phones. I think the dialogue is hard to understand at first, but I find that to be true of teenagers' talk sometimes. In fact, it was a realistic feature of the film.

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I loved some of the dialogue in Brick. High school kids have their own lingo, especially today, with social media and cell phones. I think the dialogue is hard to understand at first, but I find that to be true of teenagers' talk sometimes. In fact, it was a realistic feature of the film.

The dialog was very noir-ish, almost an homage, it didn't ring true. The director should have just gone for a full blown Noir, with older actors. There is a lot of discussion about this on it's IMDb board. 

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The dialog was very noir-ish, almost an homage, it didn't ring true. The director should have just gone for a full blown Noir, with older actors. There is a lot of discussion about this on it's IMDb board. 

 

Yet another point on which we disagree. No worries.

 

I just loved the dialogue between Brendan and the vice principal (principal?). I don't think you could have done the same with adults. The dialogue, for me, was the strongest point for Brick.

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Check out Shannon Clute’s and Richard Edwards’s podcast about Brick at http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/f/a/c/fac25a0716cf037b/OOTP_2008_02_01_B.mp3?c_id=2060301&expiration=1446651447&hwt=829d541ded30d3b79a7c8e64a10ca17d

In case the link is deleted, go to Out of the Past at outofthepast.libsyn.com/ and scroll down to Episode 44. Here is Clute’s and Edwards’s description of the episode:

 

Rian Johnson's superlative 2005 debut film BRICK is neither a nostalgic tribute nor a modern reaction to noir style. But due to the conditions surrounding its production, it has more in common with classic noir than most films that play overtly with noir tradition: stiletto-tongued hard-boiled dialogue, razor-sharp editing, on-location shooting, the creative use of ambient sound, and narratively-rich canted angle shots and high-contrast lighting allow BRICK to overcome the pitfalls of a small budget and limited crew–just as these same techniques allowed classic films such as DETOUR or THE HITCH-HIKER to do. In fact, financial constraints lend BRICK an artistic coherency it might otherwise lack, for Johnson was forced to write, direct, and edit the entire picture, and to use family to finance and score it. The resulting work is as disarmingly familiar as classic noir and as surprisingly fresh and inventive as its creator, who clearly understands how to borrow from the past where appropriate and innovate whenever possible. Like the work of all great artists, BRICK demonstrates that aesthetic leaps forward find their surest footing in the past.

 

I had a totally different take on the film, but I do think the director and writer Rian Johnson did a great job. My interpretation was completely different: I thought Brick was closer to a parody of film noir. I found the podcast interesting, especially because I listened to it right after seeing the movie.

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Brick (2006, dir. Rian Johnson)

 

***Spoilers***

 

Brick almost seemed like both a neo-noir wannabe and a funny parody of film noir, with a mixture of 1940s and 1970s cultural references. I wasn’t convinced that it was a neo-noir, in spite of all the evidence provided by the review quoted below. I can give it only 6 out of 16.

 

Here are my thoughts on why Brick could be considered a parody:

 

• The drug kingpin (aka The Pin) is described as “The old guy. He’s in his twenties.”

• The Pin lives with his mother in a suburban home that looks like it’s part of a tract development. His place of business is his mother’s basement! And the basement is finished in 1970s wood paneling complete with a lamp hanging by one of those chain extensions that was probably made of plastic.

• The Pin’s mother feeds The Pin’s visitors and associates around the dining room table. The first time we see The Pin’s mother, she is trying to feed Brendan but keeps mixing up what she has to offer from her refrigerator.

• At The Pin’s house, Tug almost clocks Brendan with a very colorful rooster pitcher; when he checks himself, he is careful to replace the pitcher on the table. Because who knows what Mrs. The Pin would say, I guess!

• Dode calls Brendan a shamus (common term for “detective” in the 1940s).

• Frisco Farr is found in a coma outside the Pinkerton Deli (a reference to the Pinkerton Detective Agency, one-time employer of Dashiell Hammett).

• The ending between Brendan and Laura struck me as a modern take on the ending to The Maltese Falcon, with Brendan playing the part of Humphrey Bogart playing Sam Spade and Laura playing the part of Mary Astor playing Brigid O’Shaughnessy (that was her last alias in the film).

• The brick that everyone talks about could just as well be the Maltese falcon.

• Emily is a confusing character. She calls Brendan begging for help, then later tells him, “You gotta let me go.” Maybe she’s another stand-in for Brigid O’Shaughnessy.

 

Brick wasn’t all fun and games and parody. One flashback bothered me a bit: It’s the one showing a conversation between Brendan and Emily on the high school athletic field. Brendan wants to keep Emily safe, but he throws her to the ground.

• Brendan: “You’re the only think I love! You’re the only thing I love! And this is how I do it. I wanna keep you safe.”

• Emily slaps Brendan. Brendan throws Emily to the ground.

• Emily: “You can’t keep me safe, Brendan, all right? I’m in a different world now. And you can’t keep me out of it, and you can’t beat it. Not if I don’t want you to.”

I guess Brendan’s version of keeping Emily safe is not allowing anyone except himself to toss Emily around.

 

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color Not applicable

2. Flashbacks Very few, maybe half

3. Unusual narration Not applicable

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

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Maybe half. Brendan was wary of Laura until the end, and then he guesses her role in everything from her cigarette brand.

6. The instrument of fate Not applicable

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Teenage angst, I guess. Maybe half. Brendan seemed more determined than angst-ridden.

8. Violence or the threat of violence Maybe half. Parodying film noir took all the threat out of “the bad guys.”

9. Urban and nighttime settings Not applicable

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional) Not applicable

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness Brendan didn’t work alone. He had his sidekick helping him throughout. His eating alone struck me as stubbornness, not loneliness. Not applicable

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Not applicable

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” Not applicable

 

Upon reading your points (all accurate and valid) on the film Brick and the quote by Clute and Edwards, I want to see the film again in order to determine if incorporating both our lists is feasible. But I have a feeling it will not be necessary.

 

You chose your words carefully, never implying that I was wrong or that you disagreed with my summation. Instead you said you were not convinced- “ I wasn’t convinced that it was a neo-noir, in spite of all the evidence provided by the review quoted below.”

 

Both our lists can co-exist side-by-side as is. One film. Two interpretations. A parody with a neo-noir undertone. Or a parody-neo-noir. Our lists are not outside the realm of possibility.

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Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

Dir. Carl Franklin

 

Easy Rawlins (Denzel Washington) a World War II veteran, finds himself unemployed and worried about how to meet his next mortgage payment. He soon meets Mr. Albright (Tom Sizemore) a local businessman who offers him $100 (the equivalent of two mortgage payments) to find Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals) fiancé to a local politician. What starts off as a simple missing person case soon becomes a double murder mystery.

 

Devil in a Blue Dress is based on the novel by Walter Mosley.

 

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.) N/A

 

2. Flashbacks Yes.

 

3. Unusual narration Yes.

First person narration. Very similar in style and tone to Jeff’s in Out of the Past.

 

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

Blackmail

Bribery

Assault

Police brutality

 

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

Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals) is an effective femme fatale until it turns out she is actually a faux femme fatale. At first, we are fooled by the lovely blue dress and the mystery of why so many men are looking for her until we realize that the façade of the character is actually a placebo. She proves fatal to no one.

 

6. The instrument of fate Yes.

Rawlins, unemployed, and having gone door to door all day looking for a job, finds himself at a friend’s bar where soon he encounters a man that would be the answers to his troubles or the cause of additional ones. A game changer.

 

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

Rawlins’ fear of losing his home leads him to take a seedy assignment from a man he just meets. Los Angeles segregation makes his job difficult as he must sneak into a segregated hotel and drive thru prohibited neighborhoods.

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes.

Murders

Kidnapping

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings Yes.

Late 1940’s Los Angeles streets and nighttime clubs are prominent.

 

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

Easy, having served in World War II, takes advantage of the G.I. bill by purchasing a home with a low-cost mortgage, very popular with returning soldiers.

 

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

 

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

The police forcefully manipulate Rawlins into proving his innocence in a double-murder rap. Also Mr. Albright coerces Rawlins into finding another person.

 

13. Greed N/A

 

14. Betrayal Yes.

The police betray the public trust when Rawlins is beaten while in custody. The businessman who hired him breaks into his home and threatens his life with a knife and gun.

 

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

Yes.

 

Rawlins: DeWitt Albright reminded me of somebody I knew back in Houston. His name was Raymond Alexander but we called him Mouse... Mouse called himself a businessman too. And I found out that I shouldn't be nowhere around when Mouse got down to his business. I learned that the hard way.

 

The coercion used on Rawlins by the police and Mr. Albright has forced him to go along with the violent ways of his friend, Mouse ( Don Cheadle) who shoots an unarmed man in order to extract information and kills another to avoid guarding him.

 

Mouse: Well how I'm gonna help you out if I’m back here fooling around with him?

 

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

 

11 of 16 . The story, narration and the suggestion of a femme fatale all reminds me of 1940s noir.

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Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

Dir. Carl Franklin

 

Easy Rawlins (Denzel Washington) a World War II veteran, finds himself unemployed and worried about how to meet his next mortgage payment. He soon meets Mr. Albright (Tom Sizemore) a local businessman who offers him $100 (the equivalent of two mortgage payments) to find Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals) fiancé to a local politician. What starts off as a simple missing person case soon becomes a double murder mystery.

 

Devil in a Blue Dress is based on the novel by Walter Mosley.

 

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.) N/A

 

I would give Devil in a Blue Dress another point -- for the cinematography. Muted color is used to enhance the mood of the sequence when Easy and Mouse go looking for Daphne in the cabin that I think Albright owns. The shots of them driving at night in the car that's tinted blue because of the dusky light are just wonderful.

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I would give Devil in a Blue Dress another point -- for the cinematography. Muted color is used to enhance the mood of the sequence when Easy and Mouse go looking for Daphne in the cabin that I think Albright owns. The shots of them driving at night in the car that's tinted blue because of the dusky light are just wonderful.

I went back and viewed the scene and found that you are correct. The tinted blue as you said with the dark trees in the foreground, reminds me of those night scene paintings by Bob Ross in “The Joy of Painting” PBS series. Here is a quote from professor Edwards’s second video lecture:

 

Painting was another medium that contributed to the look and meanings of film noir. Modernism, with its frequent emphasis on capturing a certain feeling of urban dislocation and isolation, was a popular art style during the early heyday of noir.

 

I have updated the post to include your observation.

 

Good catch. Thank you.

 

Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) (revised)

Dir. Carl Franklin

 

Devil in a Blue Dress gets 12 of 16 on our list of film noir/neo-noir characteristics.

 

Easy Rawlins (Denzel Washington) a World War II veteran, finds himself unemployed and worried about how to meet his next mortgage payment. He soon meets Mr. Albright (Tom Sizemore) a local businessman who offers him $100 (the equivalent of two mortgage payments) to find Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals) fiancé to a local politician. What starts off as a simple missing person case soon becomes a double murder mystery.

 

Devil in a Blue Dress is based on the novel by Walter Mosley.

 

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.

Muted color is used to enhance the mood of the sequence when Easy and Mouse go looking for Daphne in the cabin that I think Albright owns. The shots of them driving at night in the car that's tinted blue because of the dusky light are just wonderful.

 

2. Flashbacks Yes.

 

3. Unusual narration Yes.

First person narration. Very similar in style and tone to Jeff’s in Out of the Past.

 

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

Blackmail

Bribery

Assault

Police brutality

 

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

Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals) is an effective femme fatale until it turns out she is actually a faux femme fatale. At first, we are fooled by the lovely blue dress and the mystery of why so many men are looking for her until we realize that the façade of the character is actually a placebo. She proves fatal to no one.

 

6. The instrument of fate Yes.

Rawlins, unemployed, and having gone door to door all day looking for a job, finds himself at a friend’s bar where soon he encounters a man that would be the answers to his troubles or the cause of additional ones. A game changer.

 

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

Rawlins’ fear of losing his home leads him to take a seedy assignment from a man he just meets. Los Angeles segregation makes his job difficult as he must sneak into a segregated hotel and drive thru prohibited neighborhoods.

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes.

Murders

Kidnapping

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings Yes.

Late 1940’s Los Angeles streets and nighttime clubs are prominent.

 

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

Easy, having served in World War II, takes advantage of the G.I. bill by purchasing a home with a low-cost mortgage, very popular with returning soldiers.

 

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

 

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

The police forcefully manipulate Rawlins into proving his innocence in a double-murder rap. Also Mr. Albright coerces Rawlins into finding another person.

 

13. Greed N/A

 

14. Betrayal Yes.

The police betray the public trust when Rawlins is beaten while in custody. The businessman who hired him breaks into his home and threatens his life with a knife and gun.

 

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

Yes.

Rawlins: DeWitt Albright reminded me of somebody I knew back in Houston. His name was Raymond Alexander but we called him Mouse... Mouse called himself a businessman too. And I found out that I shouldn't be nowhere around when Mouse got down to his business. I learned that the hard way.

The coercion used on Rawlins by the police and Mr. Albright has forced him to go along with the violent ways of his friend, Mouse ( Don Cheadle) who shoots an unarmed man in order to extract information and kills another to avoid guarding him.

Mouse: Well how I'm gonna help you out if I’m back here fooling around with him?

 

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

 

12 of 16 . The story, narration and the suggestion of a femme fatale all reminds me of 1940s noir

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I went back and viewed the scene and found that you are correct. The tinted blue as you said with the dark trees in the foreground, reminds me of those night scene paintings by Bob Ross in “The Joy of Painting” PBS series. Here is a quote from professor Edwards’s second video lecture:

 

Painting was another medium that contributed to the look and meanings of film noir. Modernism, with its frequent emphasis on capturing a certain feeling of urban dislocation and isolation, was a popular art style during the early heyday of noir.

 

I have updated the post to include your observation.

 

Good catch. Thank you.

 

Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) (revised)

Dir. Carl Franklin

 

Devil in a Blue Dress gets 12 of 16 on our list of film noir/neo-noir characteristics.

 

Easy Rawlins (Denzel Washington) a World War II veteran, finds himself unemployed and worried about how to meet his next mortgage payment. He soon meets Mr. Albright (Tom Sizemore) a local businessman who offers him $100 (the equivalent of two mortgage payments) to find Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals) fiancé to a local politician. What starts off as a simple missing person case soon becomes a double murder mystery.

 

Devil in a Blue Dress is based on the novel by Walter Mosley.

 

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.

Muted color is used to enhance the mood of the sequence when Easy and Mouse go looking for Daphne in the cabin that I think Albright owns. The shots of them driving at night in the car that's tinted blue because of the dusky light are just wonderful.

 

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

 

The film opens on a painting by Works Progress Administration (WPA) artist Archibald Motley called Bronzeville at Night, which is a Chicago street scene but the director Carl Franklin on the DVD mentioned that he thought it worked well for Los Angeles, too. T. Bone Walker is singing on the soundtrack. The camera pans separate scenes in the painting as the credits roll, then zooms out to show the entire painting. Carl Franklin talks about how this technique sets up the tone and mood of the film really well, and I have to agree.

 

The painting, the music, and the cinematography bring the time and the setting to life. Even though the film is shot in color, it’s easy to see why it can be called neo-noir: Many of the shots are reminiscent of film noir techniques. In fact, Franklin points out many references to film noir during his commentary on the DVD.

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My partial review of Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) Director: Carl Franklin, Writers: Walter Mosley (book), Carl Franklin (screenplay), Stars: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals. Great film, a good Neo Noir/PI genesis flick (Easy Rawlins), finally got around to seeing it last night. The recreation of 48 LA was very believable, and the story was interesting. All actors involved were excellent I gave it an 8/10. If it had just turned the gritty sleaze factor up a notch, delved more into the jazz scene, and toned down the shiny "new penny" look of all the automobiles it would have been a 10/10. 

 

 

Additionally I'm updating my personal Visual Neo Noir List, includes Neo Films Soleil (those sun baked, light filled usually desert based) Neo Noirs.

 

New additions include Blink (1994) a neo noir in the Film Noir tradition, Natural Born Killers (1994) a Neo Film Soleil on acid, and The Pick-Up (1968) a very well done for it's budget Neo Noir/Film Soleil/Sexploitation/roughie (probably one of the very last B&W Noirs) that is really no worse than today's R-rated fare. Will do full reviews when I get time.

 

 

Blast Of Silence (1961) 

 

Underworld USA (1961) 

 

Something Wild (1961) 

 

Cape Fear (1962) 

 

Experiment In Terror (1962) 

 

Satan in High Heels (1962) 

 

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) 

 

Shock Corridor (1962) 

 

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) 

 

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

 

The Naked Kiss (1964) 

 

The Pawnbroker (1964) 

 

Brainstorm (1965) 

 

Once A Thief (1965) 

 

Harper (1966) 

 

Mr. Buddwing (1966) 

 

The Incident (1967)

 

In Cold Blood (1967) 

 

In The Heat Of The Night (1967) 

 

The Pick-Up (1968)

 

Marlowe (1969) 

 

The Honeymoon Killers (1970) 

 

Darker Than Amber (1970)

 

Shaft  (1971)

 

Across 110th Street (1971) 

 

The Getaway (1971) 

 

Get Carter (1971) 

 

Hickey & Boggs (1972) 

 

Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia (1974) 

 

The Nickel Ride (1974)

 

Chinatown (1974)

 

The Drowning Pool (1975) 

 

Farewell My Lovely (1975)

 

Night Moves (1975) 

 

Pasqualino Settebellzze (1975) 

 

Taxi Driver (1976) 

 

Dressed to Kill (1980) 

 

Union City (1980) 

 

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

 

Body Heat (1981) 

 

Thief (1981)

 

Blade Runner (1982) 

 

Hammett (1982) 

 

Blood Simple (1984) 

 

Tightrope (1984)

 

To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

 

After Hours (1985)

 

Blue Velvet (1986) 

 

Angel Heart (1987) 

 

Frantic (1988) 

 

Kill Me Again (1989)

 

The Grifters (1990) 

 

The Kill-Off (1990) 

 

The Hot Spot (1990) 

 

Wild At Heart (1990) 

 

Impulse (1990)

 

Dick Tracy (1990) 

 

Delicatessen (1991) 

 

Reservoir Dogs (1992) 

 

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) 

 

Romeo Is Bleeding (1993)

 

True Romance (1993) 

 

The Wrong Man (1993) 

 

The Last Seduction (1994) 

 

Natural Born Killers (1994)

 

Pulp Fiction (1994) 

 

Blink (1994)

 

Se7en (1995) 

 

Devil In A Blue Dress (1995)

 

Fargo (1996) 

 

Mulholland Falls (1996) 

 

Hit Me (1996)

 

Jackie Brown (1997) 

 

L.A. Confidential (1997) 

 

Lost Highway (1997) 

 

This World, Then the Fireworks (1997) 

 

Dark City (1998) 

 

A Simple Plan (1998) 

 

The Big Lebowski (1998) 

 

Payback (1999)

 

Night Train (1999) 

 

The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) 

 

Mulholland Drive (2001) 

 

Sin City (2005) 

 

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

 

No Country For Old Men (2007) 

 

Dark Country (2009)

 

The Killer Inside Me (2010)

 

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (2014)

 





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

 

What a great movie. Robert Mitchum is a joy to watch in the role of Eddie Coyle.

 

I give it 12 on our list of 16 noir characteristics. The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1) is a movie worth seeing and (2) would be a neo-noir even if I couldn’t give it 12 points on our list of neo-noir characteristics.

 

The film is based on the debut novel of George V. Higgins, who worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Boston. The parallels between the plot of this film and some of the stories surrounding Whitey Bulger and his reign of the Boston crime world in the 1970s are chilling. Anyone living in the greater Boston area will likely recognize the parallels from newspaper and television accounts of Bulger’s trial.

 

By the way, does that opening bank heist look and/or feel familiar? It should if you saw The Town or read The Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan.

 

***Spoilers***

 

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color The film takes place in the fall, and the fall is cold and drab, and it “feels” like winter (and maybe murder) is right around the corner.

2. Flashbacks (N/A)

3. Unusual narration There are several intertwining threads to this story that make the plot a bit difficult to follow. The film demands that the viewer pay attention, so I would count this one as a characteristic of The Friends of Eddie Coyle. The viewer, and Eddie Coyle, really cannot take anything for granted.

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) Corruption, gun running, murder, bank heists

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale (N/A)

6. The instrument of fate It seems that Eddie Coyle’s fate is determined from the beginning of the movie. He can’t catch a break from his fellow criminals or from the police officer to whom he gives his first tip.

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Eddie Coyle worries about his future now that he is no longer a young man. (“I’m almost 51 years old.”) He wants to retire from the life and be with his family. He is caught in a quandary about how to do just that.

8. Violence or the threat of violence It’s clear that violence is a constant threat in the gun-running business. And it’s a constant threat for bank employees in this film!

9. Urban and nighttime settings Some of the “work” takes place at night out of necessity, and these scenes are shot to make viewers feel like they are right there in the middle of the action and transactions. But some of the action takes place in broad daylight, as if to show that thieves and gun runners are just going about their normal, day-to-day business dealings.

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

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness Eddie is alone as far as his work as a gun runner is concerned. He’s abandoned by everyone, including the police officer who offered him a deal for his information. Eddie feels like he’s being abandoned, but the viewer, who has more information than Eddie does, can really feel his increasing isolation.

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

13. Greed I guess this one would have to be counted if we’re talking about bank heists!

14. Betrayal The whole film revolves around betrayal, but to say any more would be giving away the plot for those who haven’t yet seen the film.

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) Everyone seems corrupt in Eddie’s business except Eddie and the gun runner he’s working with. Just a little bit of honor among thieves. There’s no honor at all in the police officer looking for a snitch. I found myself rooting for Eddie throughout.

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” Nothing triumphs in this film, and that’s a good enough reason to count this one. Besides, “good” certainly doesn’t triumph.

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To encourage others to jump into the discussion, I (Marianne) am repeating the list of film noir and neo-noir characteristics (borrowings) we have been using to investigate neo-noir. Some (like cigarjoe) put much more emphasis on one characteristic, but 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 borrowings/characteristics) is the most up-to-date list of neo-noir films; we have been adding—and continue to add—titles to the list. (By the way, the colors don’t mean anything that I know of!)

 

Borrowings (characteristics) 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 neo-noir titles:

Underworld U.S.A. (1961), dir. Samuel Fuller
Cape Fear (1962), dir. J. Lee Thompson
Shock Corridor (1963) dir. Samuel Fuller
The Naked Kiss (1964), dir. Samuel Fuller
Point Blank (1967), dir. John Boorman

 

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 Suspects (1995), dir. Bryan Singer

Fargo (1996), dir. Joel Coen

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

 

After Hours (1985), dir. Martin Scorsese

Batman Begins (2005), dir. Christopher Nolan

Down by Law (1986), dir Jim Jarmusch

Following (1999), dir. Christopher Nolan

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

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

Irrational Man (2015), dir. Woody Allen

Killshot (2009), dir. John Madden

Memento (2000), dir. Christopher Nolan

Mulholland Drive (2001), dir. David Lynch

Not Forgotten (2009), dir. Dror Soref

The Town (2010), dir. Ben Affleck

Wait Until Dark (1967), dir. Terence Young

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

 

The Big Sleep (1978), dir. Michael Winner

Brick (2006), dir. Rian Johnson

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

Farewell My Lovely (1975), dir. Dick Richards

Hollywoodland (2006), dir. Allen Coulter

Jackie Brown (1997) dir. Quentin Tarantino

The Manchurian Candidate (1962), dir. John Frankenheimer

Mystic River (2003) dir. Clint Eastwood

Out of Time (2003), dir. Carl Franklin

Pulp (1972), dir. Mike Hodges

Sea of Love (1989) dir. Harold Becker

Shutter Island (2010), dir. Martin Scorsese

 

The Two Jakes (1990), dir. Jack Nicholson

Dark City (1998), dir. Alex Proyas

Mulholland Falls (1996), dir. Lee Tamahori

Bound (1996), dir. The Wachowski Brothers

The Black Dahlia (2006), dir. Brian DePalma

The Last Seduction (1994), dir. John Dahl

Palmetto (1998), dir. Volker Schlondorff

Angel Heart (1997), dir. Alan Parker

U-Turn (1997), dir. Oliver Stone

Deep Cover (1992), dir. Bill Duke

Manhunter (1986), dir. Michael Mann

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

Stormy Monday (1988), dir. Mike Figgis

Romeo Is Bleeding (1993), dir. Peter Medak

Silence of the Lambs (1991) dir. Jonathan Demme

Night Moves (1975) dir. Arthur Penn

A Better Tomorrow (1986), dir. John Woo

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

Branded to Kill (1967) dir. Seijun Suzuki

Hard Boiled (1992) dir. John Woo

King of New York (1990) dir. Abel Ferrara

Get Carter (1971) dir. Mike Hodges

The Long Good Friday (1980) dir. John Mackenzie

The Long Goodbye (1973) dir. Robert Altman

Marlowe (1969) dir. Paul Bogart

Sexy Beast (2000) dir. Jonathan Glazer

State of Grace (1990) dir. Phil Joanou

Collateral (2004) dir. Michael Mann

Heat (1995) dir. Michael Mann

The Sweeney (2012) dir. Nick Love

Training Day (2001) dir. Antoine Fugua

Jade (1995) dir. William Friedkin

True Romance (1993) Tony Scott

A Rage in Harlem (1991) dir. Bill Duke

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

Oldboy (2003) dir. Chan-wook Park

 

Reservoir Dogs (1992) dir. Quentin Tarantino

Stonehearst Asylum (2014), dir. Brad Anderson

The Big Easy (1986), dir. Jim McBride

Zodiac (2007), dir. David Fincher, with Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo

Derailed (2005), dir. Mikael Hafstrom, with Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston

Femme Fatale (2002), dir. Brian de Palma, with Rebecca Romijn and Antonio Banderas

 

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

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

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

Delicatessen (1991), dir. Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet

The Big Lebowski (1998), dir. Joel Coen

 

Pennies from Heaven (1981), dir. Herbert Ross

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

Something Wild (1986), dir. Jonathan Demme

Serial Mom (1994), dir. John Waters

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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To encourage others to jump into the discussion, I (Marianne) am repeating the list of film noir and neo-noir characteristics (borrowings) we have been using to investigate neo-noir. Some (like cigarjoe) put much more emphasis on one characteristic, but 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).

 

 

 

My reasoning behind putting the emphasis on the visual characteristics is because those characteristic are what separated Film Noir from ordinary Crime Genre films., The VISUAL characteristics, i.e.,  B&W film, Chiaroscuro, Dutch Angles, Depth of Field focus, are what got Film Noir noticed. When you remove the Black & White cinematography, the other visual aspects should be even more emphasized for a film to be considered a Neo Noir. But there are three "Neo" characteristics one visual, one audio, and one plot/story-line connected, that have replaced the loss of Black & White cinematography they are,  the use of clashing colors to enhance unease and anxiety. The use of amplified sound, scores and diegetic and non-diegetic music that can also manipulate emotions. The end of the Hayes Code provided the opportunity to delve into all sorts of bizarre subjects and behaviors which opened up a plethora of surreal plot twists which can sometimes trump all the other Neo Noir characteristics 

 

A token nod to the visual stylistics do not make a film "Noir". I think this characteristic check list approach giving equal weight to all characteristics is too broad a brush. A film that has, say a minute of chiaroscuro lighting, is getting equally rated with a "check" as one that is almost entirely filmed that way.

 

This approach is too inclusive, I believe there is a true vein of Visual Stylized Noirs that you can mine from 1960 to the present, (again see my list in progress) sometimes this vein advanced ahead of where the culture was at the given moment, ahead of what was acceptable, call them avant-garde noir, examples are Aroused (1967) and The Pick-Up (1968) both were independent features, made without studio restraints the first film was right on the cusp of the culture, the second went a tad too far, a little trimming would have been in order, they were originally labeled Sexploitation "roughies" (but there is no sex just some nudity) thought they are shot in a visually noir style,  both films would fit right in with the R rated fair of today.  These films have a realistic aesthetic that a modern film trying to depict the late 60's really can't recreate, they are a hoot to watch.

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My reasoning behind putting the emphasis on the visual characteristics is because those characteristic are what separated Film Noir from ordinary Crime Genre films., The VISUAL characteristics, i.e.,  B&W film, Chiaroscuro, Dutch Angles, Depth of Field focus, are what got Film Noir noticed. When you remove the Black & White cinematography, the other visual aspects should be even more emphasized for a film to be considered a Neo Noir. But there are three "Neo" characteristics one visual, one audio, and one plot/story-line connected, that have replaced the loss of Black & White cinematography they are,  the use of clashing colors to enhance unease and anxiety. The use of amplified sound, scores and diegetic and non-diegetic music that can also manipulate emotions. The end of the Hayes Code provided the opportunity to delve into all sorts of bizarre subjects and behaviors which opened up a plethora of surreal plot twists which can sometimes trump all the other Neo Noir characteristics 

 

A token nod to the visual stylistics do not make a film "Noir". I think this characteristic check list approach giving equal weight to all characteristics is too broad a brush. A film that has, say a minute of chiaroscuro lighting, is getting equally rated with a "check" as one that is almost entirely filmed that way.

 

This approach is too inclusive, I believe there is a true vein of Visual Stylized Noirs that you can mine from 1960 to the present, (again see my list in progress) sometimes this vein advanced ahead of where the culture was at the given moment, ahead of what was acceptable, call them avant-garde noir, examples are Aroused (1967) and The Pick-Up (1968) both were independent features, made without studio restraints the first film was right on the cusp of the culture, the second went a tad too far, a little trimming would have been in order, they were originally labeled Sexploitation "roughies" (but there is no sex just some nudity) thought they are shot in a visually noir style,  both films would fit right in with the R rated fair of today.  These films have a realistic aesthetic that a modern film trying to depict the late 60's really can't recreate, they are a hoot to watch.

 

Doesn't this concept of visual style work both ways?   A crime film with a very 'noir' visual style without the noir themes is just a crime film?  (just like a crime film full of noir themes withOUT the noir visual style is also just a crime film).

 

Anyhow if you wish for a weighed scoring model that is what I specialize in,  but I never applied this to movies!

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Doesn't this concept of visual style work both ways?   A crime film with a very 'noir' visual style without the noir themes is just a crime film?  (just like a crime film full of noir themes with the noir visual style is also just a crime film).

 

Anyhow if you wish for a weighed scoring model that is what I specialize in,  but I never applied this to movies!

 

How would a weighted scoring model work? How would you apply it to movies?

 

This sounds fascinating from a statistical point of view.

 

But would it change the emphases that are different for different people?

 

For instance:

1. cigarjoe has made it clear that he favors the visual. That works for him.

2. I tend to favor the writing, the books and stories on which movies are based, but I prefer to consider many other elements, too.

 

I'm sure other people have their own preferences, the factors they like to emphasize when thinking about noir (film, literature, neo-noir).

 

I wasn't really thinking of this discussion thread as an academic exercise. But I must admit, a statistical approach is interesting.

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How would a weighted scoring model work? How would you apply it to movies?

 

This sounds fascinating from a statistical point of view.

 

But would it change the emphases that are different for different people?

 

For instance:

1. cigarjoe has made it clear that he favors the visual. That works for him.

2. I tend to favor the writing, the books and stories on which movies are based, but I prefer to consider many other elements, too.

 

I'm sure other people have their own preferences, the factors they like to emphasize when thinking about noir (film, literature, neo-noir).

 

I wasn't really thinking of this discussion thread as an academic exercise. But I must admit, a statistical approach is interesting.

 

Well I was joking about the creation a noir scoring model (but scoring models are what I do).   It wouldn't be that difficult.

 

 

 

Each of the 16  factors would be assigned a weigh value;  e.g.    If #1 (Chiaroscuro for black and white films etc..),  is the most important factor it would have the highest weigh.  

 

Next on a per movie basis, each of those 16 factors are assign a value,  like 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) as it relates to that factor and the movie.

 

The final step is to multiply the factor value by the weigh value and add them all up for a final noir movie score.  The higher the score the more 'noir' the movie.

 

But like all models it is very subjective how the weigh values are assigned.   It appears cigarjoe and you wouldn't be able to agree on the same weigh values since he favors visuals while you favor story\theme\plot.    But it would be fun if both of you had your own model and compared scores between films.    The scores would reflect the factors each of you like to emphasize.

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