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

Recommended Posts

The thread's creator, Marianne, appropriately answered your second question, regarding removing films from the list.

 

As to your first question, regarding the percentage required to meet the definition of neo-noir, the simple answer is- a simple majority. Although, I think it is a bit more than that.

 

The thread wishes to define and recognize neo-noir films and allow its followers to assess the lists of 16 and encourage participation.

 

The lists are each individual's observations and opinion and never meant to be an authoritative declaration.

 

A 13 of 16 rating for example, is not proof positive that a film is neo-noir, but it is the first step towards identifying it as such. . . .

 

I actually think even the numbers don't have to be rigid. I gave Down by Law 6 out of 16 on our list of characteristics; The Criterion Collection calls Down by Law a “neo-beat-noir-comedy.” I’m willing to be persuaded! Our list doesn't include factors like writing, prison breaks, prisoners on the run, musical score—all factors for Down by Law. Maybe other films, too.

 

I would rather not use arbitrary cut-off points for our list of characteristics. I am using the list simply as a helpful guide. But if others want to use cut-off points, that’s fine, too.

 

I am enjoying learning about these films any way that I can, really.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I actually think even the numbers don't have to be rigid. I gave Down by Law 6 out of 16 on our list of characteristics; The Criterion Collection calls Down by Law a “neo-beat-noir-comedy.” I’m willing to be persuaded! Our list doesn't include factors like writing, prison breaks, prisoners on the run, musical score—all factors for Down by Law. Maybe other films, too.

 

I would rather not use arbitrary cut-off points for our list of characteristics. I am using the list simply as a helpful guide. But if others want to use cut-off points, that’s fine, too.

 

I am enjoying learning about these films any way that I can, really.

 

Also as discussed before each of the 16 criteria are not 'equal';   e.g. a film might have 6 out of 16 and another 5 out of 16 but the latter be more 'noir' depending on which criteria earned the points and what factors matter more (e.g. visual style verses character motive \ development) etc... 

 

So keep this up.  It is a fun read and there are no loser (films or folks), only winners!

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Also as discussed before each of the 16 criteria are not 'equal';   e.g. a film might have 6 out of 16 and another 5 out of 16 but the latter be more 'noir' depending on which criteria earned the points and what factors matter more (e.g. visual style verses character motive \ development) etc... 

 

So keep this up.  It is a fun read and there are no loser (films or folks), only winners!

 

True enough. And even the criteria are weighted differently depending on who is doing the weighing.

 

It might be true that we learn a lot about what we as viewers think is important when watching films, whether the films are noir, neo-noir, or any other genre.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Mystic River (2003)

dir. Clint Eastwood

 

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.

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.

 

2. Flashbacks  Yes.

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

 

3. Unusual narration No.

 

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

Kidnapping

Sexual assault

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale No.

 

6. The instrument of fate No.

 

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

Murder

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings 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.

 

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

 

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

 

DAVE: Know what I was thinking about? Vampires.

CELESTE: What about them?

DAVE: They’re undead, but I think maybe there’s something beautiful about it. Maybe one day you wake up and you forget what it’s like to be human.

CELESTE: What are you talking about Dave?

DAVE: Vampires, sweetie. Werewolves.

CELESTE: You’re not making any sense.

A little later:

DAVE: I can’t trust my mind anymore, Celeste. I’m warning you. I can’t trust my mind.

 

13. Greed No.

 

14. Betrayal  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.

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

There is a semblance of noir-talk in this exchange with the two detectives questioning Brendan (Tom Guiry), the victim's boyfriend, and his mother, Mrs. Harris:

Det Power: So, where were you between twelve-thirty and two am on Sunday morning?

Brendan: I was asleep.

Det. Devine: Can you confirm that, Mrs. Harris?

Mrs. Harris: I can confirm that he closed his door at ten O‘clock. He came down for breakfast at nine. I can’t confirm that he didn’t open his window and go down the fire escape.

Det Power: Brendan, we’re going to ask you to take a polygraph. You think you’d be up for that?

Brendan: I loved her so much. I’m never gonna feel that again. It doesn’t happen twice.

Det. Devine: It doesn’t happen once, most times.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember enjoying Mystic River when I saw it. In fact, this post makes me want to see it again, and I have moved it up in my movie queue. (The fact that it takes place in the Boson area doesn’t hurt!)

 

It’s been a long while since I have seen Mystic River, and my second viewing will confirm—or not—what I suggest below in response to your observations about particular noir characteristics for the film.

 

 

 

Mystic River (2003)

dir. Clint Eastwood

 

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.

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 remember the lighting and the other elements in the opening of the film being used to create uncertainty for the three boys, for their families and neighbors, and for the viewers. 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 their childhood story?

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale No.

 

(Change to yes?)

 

Could Annabeth Markum (played by Laura Linney) be considered a femme fatale? I recall her being the force and encouragement behind her husband’s search for their daughter’s killer. And there’s that chilling speech that she gives 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.

 

6. The instrument of fate No.

 

(Change to yes?)

 

What about fate determining the outcome in the film for Dave Boyle (played by Tim Robbins)? He suffers abuse as a child, and he seems marked for the rest of his life, not only by his own suffering as a survivor but in the eyes of everyone he knows. This fate seems to drive everyone to suspect him from the outset. I’m not sure that all his hopelessness is self-derived, that maybe circumstances and fate determined his life as an adult and the way others viewed him.

 

14. Betrayal  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.

 

Does everyone 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?

 

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

 

These points that I wonder about could change the total to 13 out of 16 on our list of noir characteristics (while reinforcing others), which would make an even more solid case for Mystic River being a neo-noir. I’m looking forward to seeing the film again in the next few weeks. It will be interesting (to me, at any rate!) to see if my memory of the film matches its diegesis (can’t believe I get to use that word again!).

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Mystic River (2003)

dir. Clint Eastwood

 

. . . There is a semblance of noir-talk in this exchange with the two detectives questioning Brendan (Tom Guiry), the victim's boyfriend, and his mother, Mrs. Harris:

Det Power: So, where were you between twelve-thirty and two am on Sunday morning?

Brendan: I was asleep.

Det. Devine: Can you confirm that, Mrs. Harris?

Mrs. Harris: I can confirm that he closed his door at ten O‘clock. He came down for breakfast at nine. I can’t confirm that he didn’t open his window and go down the fire escape.

Det Power: Brendan, we’re going to ask you to take a polygraph. You think you’d be up for that?

Brendan: I loved her so much. I’m never gonna feel that again. It doesn’t happen twice.

Det. Devine: It doesn’t happen once, most times.

 

 

I just love this exchange from Mystic River, and I believe that it is more than a semblance of noir-talk: It's very "noir"!

 

I think of the angst that the boyfriend feels, the rather cynical observation by the detective, the lack of complete support from the boyfriend's mother.

 

Rereading this has made me want to see the film even more, by the way. Your observations are understated maybe? I expect to find that Mystic River is thoroughly noir and neo-noir!

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

These points that I wonder about could change the total to 13 out of 16 on our list of noir characteristics (while reinforcing others), which would make an even more solid case for Mystic River being a neo-noir. I’m looking forward to seeing the film again in the next few weeks. It will be interesting (to me, at any rate!) to see if my memory of the film matches its diegesis (can’t believe I get to use that word again!).

 

I thankfully welcome and appreciate your enthusiasm in presenting additional evidence to Mystic River's strong scoreI remain on the bubble regarding femme fatale. Since you say you will shortly view the film again, I will withhold updating the list at this time, so that I may include any additional observations you may present. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I just love this exchange from Mystic River, and I believe that it is more than a semblance of noir-talk: It's very "noir"!

 

I think of the angst that the boyfriend feels, the rather cynical observation by the detective, the lack of complete support from the boyfriend's mother.

 

Rereading this has made me want to see the film even more, by the way. Your observations are understated maybe? I expect to find that Mystic River is thoroughly noir and neo-noir!

 

I sometimes have the tendency to understate with these noir characteristics because I feel uncomfortable pushing what some may not see.

I come to my conclusions, I want other to come to their own.

 

The exchange that you highlight is my favorite in the film. The purpose for quoting it, was to generate either discussion or interest in the film.

By semblance I meant a likeness, because the exchange was between four people, saying little, but packing a punch.

Whereas in classic noir we are accustom to the noir banter happening between two people, as with Jeff and Whit in Out of the Past.

Your are correct, it is more than a semblance. Good catch.

 

You also mention the angst that the boyfriend feels. Next time you see the film, I call your attention to what the mother further says. It does not excuse, but does explain, the angst this family suffers.

 

I’m looking forward to updating the list with any new observations you should propose, just as soon as you see Mystic River again.

 

Thank you for sharing you thoughts.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I sometimes have the tendency to understate with these noir characteristics because I feel uncomfortable pushing what some may not see.

I come to my conclusions, I want other to come to their own.

 

The exchange that you highlight is my favorite in the film. The purpose for quoting it, was to generate either discussion or interest in the film.

By semblance I meant a likeness, because the exchange was between four people, saying little, but packing a punch.

Whereas in classic noir we are accustom to the noir banter happening between two people, as with Jeff and Whit in Out of the Past.

Your are correct, it is more than a semblance. Good catch.

 

You also mention the angst that the boyfriend feels. Next time you see the film, I call your attention to what the mother further says. It does not excuse, but does explain, the angst this family suffers.

 

I’m looking forward to updating the list with any new observations you should propose, just as soon as you see Mystic River again.

 

Thank you for sharing you thoughts.

 

Perhaps I should have waited until I have seen Mystic River again to comment on the dialogue you highlighted. The film is in the queue; it shouldn't be more than a week now.

 

This exchange has piqued my interest in seeing the film again, so I thank you for that.

 

It has also inspired me to reread Chuck Hogan's Prince of Thieves and to see again The Town. I'm pretty sure Chuck Hogan borrowed some ideas from The Friends of Eddie Coyle for his novel.

 

All these films (Mystic River, The Town, The Friends of Eddie Coyle) and the book (Prince of Thieves) take place in the Boston area, which adds another incentive for me.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
. . .

 

 

I’m looking forward to updating the list with any new observations you should propose, just as soon as you see Mystic River again.

 

Thank you for sharing you thoughts.

 

I started watching Mystic River last night and the DVD stopped on me -- twice. Arghhhhh! I don't know when I'll be able to get another copy. But I know I will, at some point.

 

Somewhat related point: Twice now, I've tried to watch Nine Queens (Argentine film) and twice now I couldn't get the English-language subtitles to work. I'm not having much luck with DVDs lately.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Chinatown (1974)

dir. Roman Polanski

 

Mrs. Mulwray (Diane Ladd) tells private investigator J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson), “My husband, (a city official) is seeing another woman.” Gittes is hired and immediately begins his investigation. He confirms Mrs. Mulwray’s suspicions, even taking pictures of Mr. Mulwray with another woman. The next day, to Mr. Gittes’s surprise, the photos appear in the newspaper. Then this exchange:

YOUNG WOMAN: Mr. Gittes?

GITTES: Yes?

YOUNG WOMAN: Do you know me?

GITTES: I think I would've remembered.

YOUNG WOMAN: Have we ever met?

GITTES: Well, no.

YOUNG WOMAN: Never?

GITTES: Never.

YOUNG WOMAN: That's what I thought. You see, I'm Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray - you know, Mr. Mulwray's wife.

GITTES: Not that Mulwray?

EVELYN (Faye Dunaway): Yes, that Mulwray, Mr. Gittes. And since you agree with me we've never met, you must also agree that I haven't hired you to do anything - certainly not spy on my husband. I see you like publicity, Mr. Gittes. Well, you're going to get it.

 

Mr. Gittes contends that he and Mr. Mulwray, L.A.’s chief engineer for the Dept. of Water and Power, were set up, and wants to find out by whom.

GITTES: . . .this phony broad, excuse the language, she tells me she's you, she hires me. Now, whoever put her up to it, doesn’t have anything against me. They’re out to get your husband. If I can see him, I can help him.

 

Chinatown is a dark film that tells several stories featuring people who find themselves involved in lies, corruption, family scandal, deceit and moral wrongs.

 

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

How ironic that he is often credited for making the first film noir and here appears in what some suggest is the first 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.) 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.

3. Unusual narration No.

 

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

Murder

Fraud

Conspiracy

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Yes.

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.

 

6. The instrument of fate 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.  

 

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

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

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes.

Murder

Disfigurement

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings Yes.

The setting is Los Angeles in the 1930’s 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.

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

 

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

 

13. Greed Yes.

Best illustrated with this exchange between Gittes and a gentleman of interest:

 

Gentleman: . . . He figured, that if you dumped water onto desert sand and let it percolate down into the bedrock and stay there, instead of evaporating, the way it does in most reservoirs, you'd only lose only twenty percent instead of seventy or eighty. He made this city.

GITTES: And that's what you were going to do in the Valley?

Gentleman: Its what I am doing! The bond issue passes Tuesday - there'll be eight million dollars to build an aqueduct to the reservoir. I'm doing it.

GITTES: There's going to be a lot of irate citizens when they find out that they're paying for water that they're not going to get.

Gentleman: That's all taken care of. You see, Mr. Gittes, either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water.

GITTES: How are you going do that?

Gentleman: By incorporating the Valley into the city. Simple as that.

GITTES: How much are you worth?

Gentleman: I have no idea. How much do you want?

GITTES: I just want to know what you're worth- over ten million?

Gentleman: Oh, my, yes.

GITTES: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What can you buy

that you can't already afford?

Gentleman: The future, Mr. Gittes. The future.

 

14. Betrayal Yes.

The ultimate betrayal imaginable.

 

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

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.

 

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

Gittes has a nose (excuse the pun) for spotting clues and then pursuing them.

                                                                       

                                                                       * * * *

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.

 

* Where [neo-noir] might begin in the '60s with films like Le Samourai and Point Blank for one person, another might argue that the genre didn't find its roots until 1974's Chinatown.” - Village Voice August 2014

 

** This web page covers the early history of the waterways in and around Los Angeles and serves as a background for the film’s politics. (PBS)

https://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/ or

New Perspectives on The West (Copy and paste title to a search engine.

Look for William Mulholland under People.)

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Chinatown (1974)

dir. Roman Polanski

 

. . .

 

 

* Where [neo-noir] might begin in the '60s with films like Le Samourai and Point Blank for one person, another might argue that the genre didn't find its roots until 1974's Chinatown.” - Village Voice August 2014

 

** This web page covers the early history of the waterways in and around Los Angeles and serves as a background for the film’s politics. (PBS)

https://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/ or

New Perspectives on The West (Copy and paste title to a search engine.

Look for William Mulholland under People.)

 

 

So some would argue that Chinatown starts the neo-noir period in 1974. Shows again how fluid all these categories of noir (proto-noir, film noir, neo-noir) can be.

 

And that link to the PBS site was a great bonus. The PBS site gives a lot of background information on what I've started thinking of as the "water wars of California." William Mulholland was the featured character in the story at that link, but some of the people whose water was diverted probably have descendants who still speak of it. No wonder the information made such a great background story to the film Chinatown.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

The_Public_Eye.jpg

 

The Public Eye (1992)

dir: Howard Franklin

 

 

Summary: Leon "Bernzy" Bernstein is a freelance crime and street photographer for the New York City tabloids. With a police radio under the dashboard of his car and a makeshift darkroom in his trunk, he quickly races to the scene of horrific crimes and accidents in order to snap exclusive photographs. He is meets with Kay Levitz, a recently widowed nightclub owner who asks him to investigate a man who has been hassling her. When Bernzy arrives at this man’s apartment, he finds him murdered and is soon a suspect in the death.

 

The character of Bernzy is loosely based on NY Daily News photographer Weegee, and some of his photos appear in this film.

 

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 film is in both muted color and B/W chiaroscuro particularly during Bernzy’s photographing of life on the city streets.

 

2. Flashbacks  No.

 

3. Unusual narration No.

 

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

Mob

Blackmail

Corruption

Murder

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Yes.

 Kay Levitz is somewhat of a sultry widow who runs a snazzy nightclub.

 

6. The instrument of fate Yes.

 It is Bernzy’s photos that brings down both the mob and corrupt government officials.

 

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

There are times when Bernzy has feelings of self-doubt particularly when his proposal to publish an anthology of his photos gets rejected. Secondary character Sal also has feelings of guilt in his double crossing of mob superiors.

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes.

Murder

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings Yes.

The story is set in early 1940s New York.

 

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

 The film is set in the midst of WWII and it’s a particular plot point with the attention to illegal gas rationing.

 

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

Bernzy is a bit of a hermit who lives only for his photography. He often feels alienated during his candid pictorials of life on the street.

 

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

The FBI attempts to manipulate Bernzy into revealing answers they want to hear by denying him medical attention. Kay is strong armed and manipulated by the mob.

 

13. Greed Yes of course.

It’s the mob and corrupt government officals.

 

14. Betrayal  Yes.

Lots of double crossing by Sal as well as femme fatale, Kay.

 

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

I find there to be minimal contrast between good/evil when it comes to authorities, especially government officials.

 

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

It is Bernzy’s photographs that brings down the mob and corrupt government officials. He is ultimately rewarded for his efforts.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

The Public Eye (1992)

dir: Howard Franklin

 

 

 

The Public Eye looks like a good one. Barbara Hershey was great in another neo-noir, Lantana.

 

Did you see The Public Eye (or any other films on the program) at the Noir City festival? It wasn't (but is now) on our list of films. I'll post that updated list in another day or two.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

The Public Eye looks like a good one. Barbara Hershey was great in another neo-noir, Lantana.

 

Did you see The Public Eye (or any other films on the program) at the Noir City festival? It wasn't (but is now) on our list of films. I'll post that updated list in another day or two.

 

Yes, I did see it at Noir City. I only attended night one and didn't get a chance to go any other night, but I had already seen most of the films before.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

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 list is broken down by decade, and alphabetized within each decade.

 

In the future, I’ll alternate between the neo-noir 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 neo-noir titles alphabetized by decade:

Blow-Up (1966), dir. Michelangelo Antonioni

Branded to Kill (1967) dir. Seijun Suzuki

Bullitt (1968), dir. Peter Yates

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

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

The Manchurian Candidate (1962), dir. John Frankenheimer

 Marlowe (1969), dir. Paul Bogart

Mickey One (1965), dir. Arthur Penn
The Naked Kiss (1964), dir. Samuel Fuller
Point Blank (1967), dir. John Boorman

Shock Corridor (1963) dir. Samuel Fuller

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

Wait Until Dark (1967), dir. Terence Young

 

The Big Sleep (1978), dir. Michael Winner 

Chinatown (1974), dir. Roman Polanski

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

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

Get Carter (1971) dir. Mike Hodges

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

The Long Goodbye (1973) dir. Robert Altman

Night Moves (1975) dir. Arthur Penn

Pulp (1972), dir. Mike Hodges

Taxi Driver (1976), dir. Martin Scorsese

 

After Hours (1985), dir. Martin Scorsese

A Better Tomorrow (1986), dir. John Woo

The Big Easy (1986), dir. Jim McBride

Blade Runner (1982), dir. Ridley Scott

Blood Simple (1984), dir. Joel Coen

Blue Velvet (1986), dir. David Lynch

Body Heat (1981), dir. Lawrence Kasdan

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

Down by Law (1986), dir. Jim Jarmusch

House of Games (1987), dir. David Mamet

The Long Good Friday (1980) dir. John Mackenzie

Manhunter (1986), dir. Michael Mann

Pennies from Heaven (1981), dir. Herbert Ross

Sea of Love (1989) dir. Harold Becker

Something Wild (1986), dir. Jonathan Demme

Stormy Monday (1988), dir. Mike Figgis

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

 

Angel Heart (1997), dir. Alan Parker

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

The Big Lebowski (1998), dir. Joel Coen

Blink (1994), dir. Michael Apted

Bound (1996), dir. The Wachowski Brothers

City of Hope (1991), dir. John Sayles

Dark City (1998), dir. Alex Proyas

Deep Cover (1992), dir. Bill Duke

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

Fargo (1996), dir. Joel Coen

Following (1999), dir. Christopher Nolan

Hard Boiled (1992) dir. John Woo

Heat (1995) dir. Michael Mann

Jackie Brown (1997) dir. Quentin Tarantino

Jade (1995) dir. William Friedkin

King of New York (1990) dir. Abel Ferrara

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

The Last Seduction (1994), dir. John Dahl

Mulholland Falls (1996), dir. Lee Tamahori

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

Palmetto (1998), dir. Volker Schlondorff

The Public Eye (1992), dir. Howard Franklin

A Rage in Harlem (1991) dir. Bill Duke

Red Rock West (1992), dir. John Dahl

Reservoir Dogs (1992) dir. Quentin Tarantino

Romeo Is Bleeding (1993), dir. Peter Medak

Serial Mom (1994), dir. John Waters

Se7en (1995), dir. David Fincher

Silence of the Lambs (1991) dir. Jonathan Demme

State of Grace (1990) dir. Phil Joanou

True Romance (1993) Tony Scott

The Two Jakes (1990), dir. Jack Nicholson

The Usual Suspects (1995), dir. Bryan Singer

U-Turn (1997), dir. Oliver Stone

 

Batman Begins (2005), dir. Christopher Nolan

The Black Dahlia (2006), dir. Brian DePalma

Brick (2006), dir. Rian Johnson

Collateral (2004) dir. Michael Mann

Criminal (2004), dir. Gregory Jacobs

Derailed (2005), dir. Mikael Hafstrom

Femme Fatale (2002), dir. Brian de Palma

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

Gone Baby Gone (2007), dir. Ben Affleck

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

Hollywoodland (2006), dir. Allen Coulter

The Ice Harvest (2005), dir. Harold Ramis

Insomnia (2002), dir. Christopher Nolan

Killshot (2009), dir. John Madden

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

Memento (2000), dir. Christopher Nolan

Mulholland Drive (2001), dir. David Lynch

Mystic River (2003) dir. Clint Eastwood

Not Forgotten (2009), dir. Dror Soref

Oldboy (2003) dir. Chan-wook Park

Out of Time (2003), dir. Carl Franklin

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

Sexy Beast (2000), dir. Jonathan Glazer

The Sweeney (2012), dir. Nick Love

Training Day (2001), dir. Antoine Fugua

Zodiac (2007), dir. David Fincher

 

Drive (2011), dir. Nicolas Winding Refn

The Equalizer (2014), dir. Antoine Fuqua

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

Irrational Man (2015), dir. Woody Allen

Nightcrawler (2014), dir. Dan Gilroy

Shutter Island (2010), dir. Martin Scorsese

Stonehearst Asylum (2014), dir. Brad Anderson

The Town (2010), dir. Ben Affleck

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

 

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

 

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

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Wait Until Dark (1967, dir. Terence Young)

 

***Spoilers***

Great movie that really stands up to the test of time. Definitely a neo-noir, with 12 out of 16 on our list. I especially like the fact that Susy Hendrix (a blind woman), with the help of Gloria (the young child who is Susy’s neighbor), works out a plan to beat Harry Roat at his own game. I also like how Mike Talman and Susy come to respect one another, even though Talman has lied to her and tried to get the doll from her.

 

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color Lighting is used to heighten the suspense and tension, and to emphasize Susy’s experience as a blind woman navigating the situation with Harry Roat.

2. Flashbacks Not applicable (N/A)

3. Unusual narration N/A

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) Murder, heroin smuggling

5. Homme fatale Harry Roat might be a bit beyond the scope of an homme fatale, but he does charm/trap Carlino and Talman into going along with his scheme to get the doll stuffed with heroin back.

6. The instrument of fate Lisa just happens to pick Sam Hendrix to give the doll to. That simple act sets everything else into motion.

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Susy is terrorized by Harry Roat. She has been blind for only a year and doesn’t know if she can adjust to her new situation.

8. Violence or the threat of violence Harry Roat threatens violence any time he is on the screen. Carlino and Talman call him trouble almost from the moment that they meet him, and he lives up to the designation. Psychological and threatened physical violence against a blind person.

9. Urban and nighttime settings N/A

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional) Sam Hendrix is a Korean War veteran. Mike Talman wins Susy Hendrix’s confidence by claiming to be a war buddy of her husband, Sam.

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

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Roat, Carlino, and Talman manipulate Susy into believing that Sam is cheating on her and that she has to give them the doll.

13. Greed Lisa wants to steal some of Roat’s drug business; Roat won’t give up any of his drug business to Lisa (although he seems more like the kind of person who is using the theft of his business as an excuse for violence).

14. Betrayal Lisa tries to betray Roat and starts the fateful chain of events. The older man sewing the heroin into the doll betrays Lisa; Carlino and Talman try to betray Roat; Roat tries to betray Carlino and Talman.

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) Gloria acts out with Susy, and Susy admits to Sam that she really doesn’t like Gloria, but they come to depend on one another. Gloria helps Susy with her plan to get the better of Harry Roat. Talman and Susy come to respect one another, even though Talman has lied to her and tried to get the doll from her.

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” Expertise and good triumph: Susy uses her blindness to her advantage when Roat comes back to her apartment to terrorize her.

 

 

I saw Wait Until Dark, and thought Alan Arkin’s performance, as Roat, Roat Jr., and Roat Sr., was excellent. Having seen her in Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady, it was difficult at first to envision Audrey Hepburn playing a blind woman in a thriller, but she pulled it off, and more particularly during the last 15 minutes of the film, when its her vs. Roat.

 

I would not change any characteristics listed. I am in agreement- Wait Until Dark is a neo-noir. This makes two Yeses.

 

Whether intended or not, I believe the aura and mood we sometimes see on urban streets, in classic noir, emulate inside Suzy’s apartment; dark corners in the kitchen, instead of dark alleys; lit match instead of the lone street lamp or post; minimum lighting, instead of shadows. I’m not proposing we equate urban setting with an apartment’s interior, but certainly the ambiance are similar near the end of the film.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw Wait Until Dark, and thought Alan Arkin’s performance, as Roat, Roat Jr., and Roat Sr., was excellent. Having seen her in Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady, it was difficult at first to envision Audrey Hepburn playing a blind woman in a thriller, but she pulled it off, and more particularly during the last 15 minutes of the film, when its her vs. Roat.

 

I would not change any characteristics listed. I am in agreement- Wait Until Dark is a neo-noir. This makes two Yeses.

 

Whether intended or not, I believe the aura and mood we sometimes see on urban streets, in classic noir, emulate inside Suzy’s apartment; dark corners in the kitchen, instead of dark alleys; lit match instead of the lone street lamp or post; minimum lighting, instead of shadows. I’m not proposing we equate urban setting with an apartment’s interior, but certainly the ambiance are similar near the end of the film.

 

I’ve been thinking about your comments, and I wonder if maybe we should change the count from 12 to 13 out of 16.

 

You make a good point about the sequence in Suzy’s apartment when she and Roat are in a battle of wits. The effective use of lighting could be a variation on characteristic #1, and the entire film takes place in New York City, with some nighttime scenes when Roat, Talman, and Carlino hatch their plans and then put them into action, also often at night. This would add characteristic #9 to the list as a yes for Wait Until Dark.

 

Maybe change to 13, or even 12.5?

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I’ve been thinking about your comments, and I wonder if maybe we should change the count from 12 to 13 out of 16.

 

You make a good point about the sequence in Suzy’s apartment when she and Roat are in a battle of wits. The effective use of lighting could be a variation on characteristic #1, and the entire film takes place in New York City, with some nighttime scenes when Roat, Talman, and Carlino hatch their plans and then put them into action, also often at night. This would add characteristic #9 to the list as a yes for Wait Until Dark.

 

Maybe change to 13, or even 12.5?

 

I never thought how [lighting could be a variation on characteristic #1], but I see now, how incorporating the cinematography of # 1 into # 9 allows it to be a factor in this unique urban-setting situation. It works. That being the case, changing # 9 to Yes, would certainly be effective.

 

We worked well here. Thank you for the opportunity.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Cape Fear (1962)

dir. J. Lee Thompson

 

Max Cady (Robert Mitchum), recently released from prison, goes to the courthouse to confront trial lawyer, Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck) whose testimony helped land Cady in jail eight years ago.

Cady smugly tells him, “I hear you got a good-looking wife and a daughter going to be just like her. Give my love to the family, Counselor.”

Later that evening, Bowden tells police chief Mark Dutton, (Martin Balsom): “There's an ex-convict in town, name of Max Cady. I think he's starting a war of nerves with me.”

 

Cape Fear is a tense-filled, psychological thriller, enhanced by Bernard Herrmann’s bone-chilling score. It scores 10 of 16 on our template.

 

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

Filmed in black and white with high contrast shadows and lights. Very reminiscent of so many classic noir films. A Great-looking b&w film.

 

2. Flashbacks No.

3. Unusual narration No.

 

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

Assault

Breaking and entering

Intimidation and harassment

Attempted murder

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale No.

 

6. The instrument of fate Yes.

Bowden: One night. . . I heard a commotion in the rear of a dark parking lot. Sounded like someone whimpering. I ran over. A girl was being attacked, so I grappled with the man. She suddenly got her breath back and started screaming. When he saw the police... he went completely berserk. Put the girl in the hospital for over a month. That was Max Cady. Later on, I had to go back up and appear against him as a witness.

Cady served 8 years and now is after Bowden and his family. What might have been, had Bowden not stopped to help? In Detour (1945), the character Al Roberts muses the same: I keep trying to forget what happened and wonder what my life might have been if that car of Haskell's hadn't stopped.

 

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

Everyone that crosses Cady’s path becomes a victim of intimidation and terror.

A terrorized, rape victim leaves town rather than cooperate with police. She tells them: When he walked out of this room he said to consider this (bruised face) only a sample. And from my limited knowledge of human nature, Max Cady isn't a man who makes idle threats.

Bowden, realizing Cady cannot be stopped by the police, worries about protecting his family from this vicious sadist.

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes.

Murder

Sexual assault

Rape

Canicide

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings Yes.

The city may be unnamed, but we see its streets lined with parked cars, foot traffic, municipal park with trees and benches, a plaza near the courthouse and a busy marina. The final twenty minutes takes place at nighttime.

 

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

 

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

How ironic that Sam Bowden who practices law, now feels abandoned by it as it cannot protect him from Cady. Robert G. Porfirio wrote: “. . . man stands alone, alienated from any social or intellectual order, and is therefore totally self-dependent.” Bowden then resolves to protect his family himself. Porfirio again: “. . .each individual assumes responsibility for his life through the act of choosing between two alternatives. And since man is his own arbiter, he literally creates good and evil.

 

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

Cady wages a ‘psychological’ campaign against Bowden and his family in order to torment them; first by intimidation, then with menacing threats and finally with an all out assault.

Max Cady represents pure evil. He tells Bowden this story, . . .all I could think about was busting out and killing somebody. I wanted to kill him with my bare hands, slow. Every single night for seven years, I killed that man. And on the eighth year, I said, "Oh, no. That's too easy. That's too fast." You know the Chinese death of a thousand cuts? First they cut off a little toe, then a piece of your finger, piece of your ear, your nose. I liked that better.”

 

13. Greed No.

 

14. Betrayal-Yes/No Net zero.

Bowden does break the law and his oath to defend the constitution, when he conspires to have Cady assaulted. But does this rise to the level of noir in this film or is it simply a story line and not a trait of the character. I suggest the latter. I give this a net zero and solicit others to help here.

 

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

Bowden is a good, kind and gentle man, wanting very much to protect his family. In a moment of desperation, he has several young thugs attack Cady. All end up in in the hospital; one confesses. Still, Bowden can’t worry about pending criminal charges or ethic violations with the bar, just yet; First he must deal with a madman set on destroying his family.

 

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

Cady to Bowden (on the phone): You just put the law in my hands and I'm going to break your heart with it. I got something planned for your wife and kid. . .

When Sam Bowden reaches his limit, he uses his expertise in the law to ambush Cady. The counselor comes up with a plan to have Cady think he went away and left his family alone in their boathouse. If the unsuspecting Cady bites, Bowden hopes to do away with him- all against the advice of Police Chief Mark Dutton.

 

Director Thompson does excellent in moving the story forward, thus never a dull moment.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I never thought how [lighting could be a variation on characteristic #1], but I see now, how incorporating the cinematography of # 1 into # 9 allows it to be a factor in this unique urban-setting situation. It works. That being the case, changing # 9 to Yes, would certainly be effective.

 

We worked well here. Thank you for the opportunity.

 

Wait Until Dark (1967, dir. Terence Young)

 

I originally posted about Wait Until Dark on October 16, 2015, but some online discussion has prompted some changes (in green). It’s an even stronger neo-noir than originally thought. See especially number 9 below.

 

***Spoilers***

Great movie that really stands up to the test of time. Definitely a neo-noir, with now 13 out of 16 on our list. I especially like the fact that Susy Hendrix (a blind woman), with the help of Gloria (the young child who is Susy’s neighbor), works out a plan to beat Harry Roat at his own game. I also like how Mike Talman and Susy come to respect one another, even though Talman has lied to her and tried to get the doll from her.

 

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color Lighting is used to heighten the suspense and tension, and to emphasize Susy’s experience as a blind woman navigating the situation with Harry Roat. Note especially the sequence in Suzy’s apartment when she and Roat are in a battle of wits.

2. Flashbacks Not applicable (N/A)

3. Unusual narration N/A

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) Murder, heroin smuggling

5. Homme fatale Harry Roat might be a bit beyond the scope of an homme fatale, but he does charm/trap Carlino and Talman into going along with his scheme to get the doll stuffed with heroin back.

6. The instrument of fate Lisa just happens to pick Sam Hendrix to give the doll to. That simple act sets everything else into motion.

7. Angst (for example, guilt, fear, self-doubt, confusion, and so on; in other words, anything that contributes to angst) Susy is terrorized by Harry Roat. She has been blind for only a year and doesn’t know if she can adjust to her new situation.

8. Violence or the threat of violence Harry Roat threatens violence any time he is on the screen. Carlino and Talman call him trouble almost from the moment that they meet him, and he lives up to the designation. Psychological and threatened physical violence against a blind person.

9. Urban and nighttime settings (now Yes) The effective use of lighting could be a variation on characteristic #1, and the entire film takes place in New York City, with some nighttime scenes when Roat, Talman, and Carlino hatch their plans and then put them into action, also often at night. This would add characteristic #9 to the list as a yes for Wait Until Dark.

10. Allusion to post–World War II (or any postwar) themes (optional) Sam Hendrix is a Korean War veteran. Mike Talman wins Susy Hendrix’s confidence by claiming to be a war buddy of her husband, Sam.

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

12. Psychology (hypnosis, brainwashing, manipulation, amnesia) Roat, Carlino, and Talman manipulate Susy into believing that Sam is cheating on her and that she has to give them the doll.

13. Greed Lisa wants to steal some of Roat’s drug business; Roat won’t give up any of his drug business to Lisa (although he seems more like the kind of person who is using the theft of his business as an excuse for violence).

14. Betrayal Lisa tries to betray Roat and starts the fateful chain of events. The older man sewing the heroin into the doll betrays Lisa; Carlino and Talman try to betray Roat; Roat tries to betray Carlino and Talman.

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) Gloria acts out with Susy, and Susy admits to Sam that she really doesn’t like Gloria, but they come to depend on one another. Gloria helps Susy with her plan to get the better of Harry Roat. Talman and Susy come to respect one another, even though Talman has lied to her and tried to get the doll from her.

16. Expertise triumphs, perhaps rather than “good” Expertise and good triumph: Susy uses her blindness to her advantage when Roat comes back to her apartment to terrorize her.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Since I added this post about Down by Law, I learned that the film's title is an expression taken from the world of jazz. The phrase down by law is used to refer to someone who has great talent and has earned his or her reputation by dint of hard work. Definition is courtesy of the PBS radio game show Says You! on February 6, 2016.

 

I don't know if knowing this information would have changed my view of the film as neo-noir, but I will keep it mind when I see the film a second time. And it's still what an old friend of mine used to call "a tasty tidbit of trivia."

 

 

Down by Law (1986, dir. Jim Jarmusch)

 

The blurb on the back of the DVD from the Criterion Collection states, in part, “Described by director Jim Jarmusch as a ‘neo-beat-noir-comedy,’ Down by Law is part nightmare and part fairy tale . . . .” The film does start out a bit nightmarish, but by the end, I was completely charmed by Roberto and the story. I can’t call Down by Law a neo-noir. I cannot give it more than a 6 on our list of 16 noir characteristics!

 

The film does include some extended time in a cramped prison cell. It does include a jail break. The main characters are on the run from the law for about half the film. Maybe it really is a neo-noir. None of these items are on our list, and I’d be happy to let others convince me!

 

Down by Law is a great film; I can recommend it wholeheartedly. The characters, the plot, the dialogue—all are fantastic. I couldn’t even guess where the plot was headed, and that is a plus for this film.

 

*****Spoilers*****

 

Roberto’s difficulty with the English language is the basis for most of the humor. For example, there’s a very funny scene in the prison cell when he takes out his notepad of English phrases and points out that he knows the word scream in English: I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. He starts chanting the phrase, Jack and Zack join him, and then all the inmates start chanting the same line over and over again.

 

After the escape from the Orleans Parish Prison, Roberto looks for food in Luigi’s Tin Top and meets Nicoletta. He and Nicoletta fall in love instantly, and Roberto forgets that his two friends Jack and Zack are waiting outside to make sure that the coast is clear (that is, no cops around). They’ve seen nothing but cypress trees and swamp water for days, but they’re worried cops are lurking in this eatery that’s propped by the side of a dirt road. Roberto and the situation are very funny and charming.

 

1. Chiaroscuro for black and white films, intense or muted color in movies filmed in color N/A The film is shot in black and white, but it doesn’t use any other noir film techniques.

2. Flashbacks N/A

3. Unusual narration N/A

4. Crime/planning a crime (usually—but not always—murder) Prostitution, murder, police corruption, auto theft

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

6. The instrument of fate Jack, Zack, and Roberto are bumbling through life. Jack is the victim of fate: He believes Gig wants to make it right between them, and he does go see the new girl that Gig has lines up for Jack’s prostitution business—and gets arrested. Zack is also the victim of fate: He drives a stolen car for a friend and is arrested for murder because there’s a dead body in the trunk, which the police seem to be expecting when they stop him.

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

8. Violence or the threat of violence N/A

9. Urban and nighttime settings The film was shot on location in Louisiana, and the setting is as much a character as any of the people. It takes place in New Orleans and in the Louisiana bayou. When Gig walks up that long flight of stairs to Jack’s apartment in New Orleans and mops his neck, I swore I could feel the Louisiana heat, too.

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

11. Philosophical themes (existentialism in particular) involving alienation, loneliness Zack and Jack follow separate paths before they are jailed, and neither one of them seems to be making much of a success of themselves in their criminal occupations or in their relationships. Once Zack and Jack are in prison, they are isolated from the rest of the world. When Roberto joins them in their cell, then it’s just the three of them.

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

13. Greed N/A

14. Betrayal Both Jack and Zack are betrayed by their acquaintances, set up to take the fall in both situations.

15. No stark contrast between “good” and “evil” (characters, forces, emotion, and so on) Jack, Zack, and Roberto are imprisoned for crimes that they did not commit, but they’re hardly angels. Jack is a pimp and Roberto is a gambler and a cheater, but the audience is rooting for all three of them to make their getaway.

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

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

 No offense, but you have Chinatown wrong.  There is no femme fatale because Evelyn Mulwray is lying to protect her daughter and the shame that was raped by an evil father, none of which she perceives are Jake Gittes' business.  Upon re-watch, there can be no ambiguity whatsoever about her admirable motives.  It's either she has something to do with the Hollis Mulwray's death or she doesn't; we know she doesn't because Noah Cross does.  She knows that (the ineffective) Jake Gittes is trying to help her?  How?  By helping to put pictures of her daughter in the newspapers?  By helping the newspapers falsely suggest that her husband is having an affair?

 

This brings us to Jake Gittes.  It is Jake Gittes who is more responsible for Evelyn's death than anyone else in the film, of which he admits with his last line.  His past in Chinatown has nothing to do with corruption and everything to do with Jake Gittes.  Robert Towne has said that Chinatown is a state of mind.  All we know is that the police are advised to do as little as possible because, as Gittes later explains, "You can't always tell what's going on in Chinatown."  He tried to help a woman and only ended up making sure she was hurt; a traumatic event for him.  For the entire film Jake Gittes neglects that advice and does the opposite, "as much as possible" in his (ineffective) investigation despite the fact that "couldn't always tell what was going on" with Evelyn.  Gittes then misreads critical evidence in Evelyn's saltwater pond and falsely confronts a totally innocent Evelyn.

 

 Gittes finally understands what was going on with Evelyn, but not before he had mistakenly alerted the police to an innocent person's location, preventing her and her daughter's escape.  In the most literal sense, Jake Gittes prevents Evelyn and her daughter escaping to Mexico, as she certainly wouldn't have made it from California to Mexico even if she wasn't killed at the end.  He makes another mistake of leading officers Escobar and Loach to a dead end at Curly's house, further implicating himself and Evelyn to the point that Escobar doesn't pay any attention to what he has to say near the end.

 

After her death, Gittes can only muster that old advice, confirming what he should have done but also his culpability.  

 

The film is an all-time great and better than all detective films in-part because it demythologizes the hard boiled private detective .  Evelyn is the heroine and (the mistake-prone) Gittes, while deeply human, is just the protagonist.

 

 

Chinatown (1974)

dir. Roman Polanski

 

Mrs. Mulwray (Diane Ladd) tells private investigator J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson), “My husband, (a city official) is seeing another woman.” Gittes is hired and immediately begins his investigation. He confirms Mrs. Mulwray’s suspicions, even taking pictures of Mr. Mulwray with another woman. The next day, to Mr. Gittes’s surprise, the photos appear in the newspaper. Then this exchange:

YOUNG WOMAN: Mr. Gittes?

GITTES: Yes?

YOUNG WOMAN: Do you know me?

GITTES: I think I would've remembered.

YOUNG WOMAN: Have we ever met?

GITTES: Well, no.

YOUNG WOMAN: Never?

GITTES: Never.

YOUNG WOMAN: That's what I thought. You see, I'm Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray - you know, Mr. Mulwray's wife.

GITTES: Not that Mulwray?

EVELYN (Faye Dunaway): Yes, that Mulwray, Mr. Gittes. And since you agree with me we've never met, you must also agree that I haven't hired you to do anything - certainly not spy on my husband. I see you like publicity, Mr. Gittes. Well, you're going to get it.

 

Mr. Gittes contends that he and Mr. Mulwray, L.A.’s chief engineer for the Dept. of Water and Power, were set up, and wants to find out by whom.

GITTES: . . .this phony broad, excuse the language, she tells me she's you, she hires me. Now, whoever put her up to it, doesn’t have anything against me. They’re out to get your husband. If I can see him, I can help him.

 

Chinatown is a dark film that tells several stories featuring people who find themselves involved in lies, corruption, family scandal, deceit and moral wrongs.

 

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

How ironic that he is often credited for making the first film noir and here appears in what some suggest is the first 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.) 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.

3. Unusual narration No.

 

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

Murder

Fraud

Conspiracy

 

5. Femme fatale and/or homme fatale Yes.

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.

 

6. The instrument of fate 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.  

 

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

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

 

8. Violence or the threat of violence Yes.

Murder

Disfigurement

 

9. Urban and nighttime settings Yes.

The setting is Los Angeles in the 1930’s 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.

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

 

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

 

13. Greed Yes.

Best illustrated with this exchange between Gittes and a gentleman of interest:

 

Gentleman: . . . He figured, that if you dumped water onto desert sand and let it percolate down into the bedrock and stay there, instead of evaporating, the way it does in most reservoirs, you'd only lose only twenty percent instead of seventy or eighty. He made this city.

GITTES: And that's what you were going to do in the Valley?

Gentleman: Its what I am doing! The bond issue passes Tuesday - there'll be eight million dollars to build an aqueduct to the reservoir. I'm doing it.

GITTES: There's going to be a lot of irate citizens when they find out that they're paying for water that they're not going to get.

Gentleman: That's all taken care of. You see, Mr. Gittes, either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water.

GITTES: How are you going do that?

Gentleman: By incorporating the Valley into the city. Simple as that.

GITTES: How much are you worth?

Gentleman: I have no idea. How much do you want?

GITTES: I just want to know what you're worth- over ten million?

Gentleman: Oh, my, yes.

GITTES: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What can you buy

that you can't already afford?

Gentleman: The future, Mr. Gittes. The future.

 

14. Betrayal Yes.

The ultimate betrayal imaginable.

 

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

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.

 

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

Gittes has a nose (excuse the pun) for spotting clues and then pursuing them.

                                                                       

                                                                       * * * *

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.

 

* Where [neo-noir] might begin in the '60s with films like Le Samourai and Point Blank for one person, another might argue that the genre didn't find its roots until 1974's Chinatown.” - Village Voice August 2014

 

** This web page covers the early history of the waterways in and around Los Angeles and serves as a background for the film’s politics. (PBS)

https://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/ or

New Perspectives on The West (Copy and paste title to a search engine.

Look for William Mulholland under People.)

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

 No offense, but you have Chinatown wrong.  There is no femme fatale because Evelyn Mulwray is lying to protect her daughter and the shame that was raped by an evil father, none of which she perceives are Jake Gittes' business.  Upon re-watch, there can be no ambiguity whatsoever about her admirable motives. 

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.     

Link to post
Share on other sites

Since I added this post about Down by Law, I learned that the film's title is an expression taken from the world of jazz. The phrase down by law is used to refer to someone who has great talent and has earned his or her reputation by dint of hard work. Definition is courtesy of the PBS radio game show Says You! on February 6, 2016.

 

I don't know if knowing this information would have changed my view of the film as neo-noir, but I will keep it mind when I see the film a second time. And it's still what an old friend of mine used to call "a tasty tidbit of trivia."

 

I remember the many discussions, back and forth, during last summer’s course that included numerous contributions from outside sources that I found very informative and entertaining.

 

In a discussion you had with ThePaintedLady, on her post for Bullitt, you gave us the “tidbit” that Peter Yates also directed The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

 

In a discussion you had with me on the film, Devil in a Blue Dress, you informed us how, artist Archibald Motley’s painting, during the opening credits called Bronzeville at Night, was filmed in a manner that “sets up the tone and mood of the film really well,” according to it’s director, Carl Franklin. I had never heard of the artist and to my amazement, his name and a painting of his, appeared in a SNL sketch a few weeks later.

 

You continue this trend in your recent post on Down by Law by sharing your discovery of the meaning of the title and the connection it has with the world of jazz.

 

I always enjoy reading news about the films we watch. Sometimes these tidbits could be the deciding factor on whether or not to watch a film. They have a certain curiosity affect on me. 

 

Continue sharing.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

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

Create an account

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

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

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