Film Noir Discussion

Discussion in 'Archive: The Amphitheatre' started by The Gatherer, Jul 20, 2002.

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  1. The Gatherer Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Aug 2, 1999
    star 6
    ???


    Edit: Title changed from "What is Noir?".
  2. Darkside_Spirit Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 9, 2001
    star 3
  3. The Gatherer Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Aug 2, 1999
    star 6
    Seriously, I would really like to know what the genre is about.
  4. Darkside_Spirit Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 9, 2001
    star 3
  5. Iwishiwasajedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 24, 2002
    star 4
    unless an actual post is made here this belongs in the JCC.



    and I personally don't know.
  6. The Gatherer Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Aug 2, 1999
    star 6
    This does not belong in the JCC... this is an arts question.
  7. WetDogSmell Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 4, 2002
    star 1
    Primary Characteristics and Conventions of Film Noir:

    The primary moods of classic film noir are melancholy, alienation, bleakness, disillusionment, disenchantment, pessimism, ambiguity, moral corruption, evil, guilt and paranoia. Heroes (or anti-heroes), corrupt characters and villains include down-and-out, hard-boiled detectives or private eyes, cops, gangsters, government agents, crooks, war veterans, petty criminals, and murderers. These protagonists are often morally-ambiguous low lifes from the dark and gloomy underworld of violent crime and corruption. Distinctively, they are cynical, tarnished, obsessive (sexual or otherwise), brooding, menacing, sinister, sardonic, disillusioned, frightened and insecure loners (usually men), struggling to survive and ultimately losing.

    The females in film noir are either of two types - dutiful, reliable, trustworthy and loving women; or femme fatales - mysterious, duplicitous, double-crossing, gorgeous, unloving, predatory, tough-sweet, unreliable, irresponsible, manipulative and desperate women. Usually, the male protagonist in film noir has to inevitably choose (or have the fateful choice made for him) between the women - and invariably he picks the femme fatale who destructively goads him into committing murder or some other crime of passion.

    Film noir films (mostly shot in grays, blacks and whites) show the dark and inhumane side of human nature with cynicism and doomed love, and they emphasize the brutal, unhealthy, seamy, shadowy, dark and sadistic sides of the human experience. An oppressive atmosphere of menace, pessimism, anxiety, suspicion that anything can go wrong, dingy realism, futility, fatalism, defeat and entrapment are stylized characteristics of film noir. The protagonists in film noir are normally driven by their past or by human weakness to repeat former mistakes.

    Film noir is marked by expressionistic lighting, disorienting visual schemes and skewed camera angles, circling cigarette smoke, existential sensibilities, and unbalanced compositions. Settings are often interiors with low-key lighting, venetian-blinded windows, and dark and gloomy appearances. Exteriors are often urban night scenes with deep shadows, wet asphalt, rain-slicked or mean streets, flashing neon lights, and low key lighting. Story locations are often in murky and dark streets, dimly-lit apartments and hotel rooms of big cities. [Oftentimes, war-time scarcities were the reason for the reduced budgets and shadowy, stark sets of B-pictures and film noirs.]

    Narratives are frequently complex and convoluted, typically told with flashbacks (or a series of flashbacks), and/or reflective voice-over narration. Amnesia suffered by the protagonist is a common plot device. Revelations regarding the hero are made to explain/justify the hero's own cynical perspective on life.

    The earliest film noirs were detective thrillers, with plots and themes often taken from adaptations of literary works - preferably from best-selling, hard-boiled, pulp novels and crime fiction by Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain or Dashiell Hammett. Very often, a film noir story was developed around a male character [e.g., Robert Mitchum, Fred MacMurray, or Humphrey Bogart] who encountered a beautiful but promiscuous and seductive femme fatale [e.g., Mary Astor, Veronica Lake, Barbara Stanwyck, or Lana Turner] who used her feminine wiles and sexuality to manipulate him into becoming the fall guy - often following a murder. After a double-cross, she was frequently destroyed as well, often at the cost of the hero's life.
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    Borrowed from here :)
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  8. The Gatherer Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Aug 2, 1999
    star 6
    Thanks for that post... brilliant!
  9. ParanoidAni-droid Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 27, 2001
    star 4

    I spent a whole year studying this genre so I think I'm pretty familiar with it. Here are some great one's to check out:

    The Classics:

    The Maltese Falcon ****

    The Big Sleep ****

    Chinatown ****

    Double Indemnity *** 1/2

    Sweet Smell of Success ****

    The Postman Always Rings Twice *** 1/2

    The Killers (not to be confused with "The Killing) **

    The lesser known gems:

    Detour ****

    The Set-Up *** 1/2

    Killer's Kiss *** 1/2

    This Gun for Hire ***

    Lady in the lake ** 1/2

    Neo-Noir films:

    Blade Runner *** 1/2

    Minority Report ***

    Gattacca ***

    Memento ****

    The Man Who Wasn't There **

    This should get you started, Gath. :)

    ~PAd


  10. weezer Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 16, 2001
    star 6
    Since you have spent some time with the material PAd, what do you think of those who say that the Noir genre doesn't exsit now since shooting on color film destroys one of the key components of a film noir.

    Many of the neo-noir films that you listed get around that in interesting ways. Momento is black and white for about half the movie, The Man who wasn't there is all black and white, and Minority Reports use of washed out color gives it an almost black and white feel.

    Is Noir primarily a visual thing or a story thing?
  11. Herman Snerd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 31, 1999
    star 6
    Dark City should be added as a recent example of film noir. A most excellent flick.
  12. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

    Member Since:
    Nov 2, 2000
    star 7
    Some basic elements of noir, in my opinion:

    No hero--ie, the man character is deeply flawed or becomes flawed over the course of the film, losing his or her morality.

    An unhappy ending--either the villians get away or else, if the villians were the main characters, they are caught.

    The femme fatale--self explanatory.

    The city as a setting--the feel of the displaced little man is essential in a lot of ways and the city speaks of that.

    Black and white photography--creates a mood of shadows and darkness.

    That said, there are great noir films that don't contain all these elements.

    Also, I don't feel that color photography destroys noir. Noir is about the feeling of desperation and violence. Black and white photography plays that up, but many films can make it work. Memento, Chinatown, the Two Jakes, etc.

    Noir is still alive.
  13. Caine Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2002
    star 4

    I don't believe Noir is restricted to film. I know of certain expressionist jazz music which many people consider "noir."

    Some of the same type themes apply though (convoluted, shrill timbres, dark, no harmony, etc.).
  14. weezer Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 16, 2001
    star 6
    I read that about the Jazz somewhere as well.

    They also mentioned that like jazz noir is one of the few truely American Art forms.

    (Jazz, noir, and comics, I'm starting to thing there are lots of American art forms :p )
  15. ParanoidAni-droid Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 27, 2001
    star 4

    weezer, I pretty much agree with Rogue-one-and-a-half, the lack of black and white cinematography does not completely inhibit the film noir mainly because I feel that this genre was more a place of the mind, a state of being, than anything to do with physicality. The gritty lighting, obscure camerea angles, etc. are only ment to communicate these feelings, but they are not the feelings themselves.

    So the obstacle that modern day cinema faces is finding new ways to communicate the "noir feel" minus the use of strictly B&W. Dark City achived this by saturating the print in dark shades and using extreme colour to instill feelings of yearning and hope. Memento and Minority Report went the opposite route and worked in predominately day scenes where light flooded nearly every frame. Yet, they were all still able to communicate the trademark notions of betrayal, bewilderment, sensuality, etc.

    I think that if the use of the classic B&W became a bit of a retro trend as featured in The Man Who Wasn't There, the genre as a whole would really suffer and unfortunetly be caught in a stand still. It would be reduced to frivolous characitures of a time that had sinced past and would not progress at the healthy rate that it should. If we don't continue to find new ways to film these old motifs, the film noir will digress into what we have now in the horror genre, where it is so mired by cliche and predictability.

    They also mentioned that like jazz noir is one of the few truely American Art forms.

    I just get a kick out of this because of "noir" being a french word and all. :)

    You have me inrigued with this Jazz noir that you guys speak of. Anything you can recommend?

    ~PAd

  16. The Gatherer Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Aug 2, 1999
    star 6
    Would you consider the movie Seven to be Noir?
  17. HawkNC Former RSA: Oceania

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2001
    star 6
    I can't believe no one's mentioned The Third Man yet.
  18. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

    Member Since:
    Nov 2, 2000
    star 7
    I would consider Se7en noir, simply because it contains the gritty setting of the city (especially the chase in the rain) and it features a main character who is pushed to his limit and, in the climactic moment, becomes what he has despised. Great example of modern noir. :D

    And, yeah, the Third Man is one of the classic examples.
  19. ParanoidAni-droid Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 27, 2001
    star 4

    Would you consider the movie Seven to be Noir?

    Most definetly, Gath. I think the only elemant it's missing is the femme fatale.

    The Third Man is, indeed, a good one. I think that Orson Welles is highly underrated as an actor because of all his filmaking skills. Speaking of Orson Welles' noirs, has anyone seen A touch of Evil? Never seen it myself but I hear it pretty good.

    ~PAd

  20. Darth_Burzum Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2002
    I don't know why everyone calls it a genre.
    Film Noir is not a genre, it's a style.
    It's a perfect match between fourm and content.
  21. Darthkarma Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 30, 2000
    star 4



    BODY HEAT by Lawrence Kasdan? It certainly has a femme fatale, and a pessimism about human nature. Based loosely on DOUBLE INDEMNITY. It's in color though. One of my favorite films of the eighties.
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