November 28, 2010

IT'S JUST THE FALL OF MAN IN BLACK AND WHITE:

Barry Forshaw on Film Noir: Film writer Barry Forshaw plunges us into a world of dangerous women in ankle bracelets, flawed heroes silhouetted against a dark rain-swept street, smoky jazz scores and very unhappy endings. Everything you need to know about film noir, right here. (Anna Blundy , 11/27/10, Five Books)

Before you start talking about this book, could you actually define film noir for me?

Film noir is a genre that had no definition in its own day other than ‘crime film’. All of those who were making films noirs, such as Robert Mitchum and similar great stars and directors of that era, wouldn’t have called what they were working on film noir. They were making crime movies and dramas. So, the title ‘film noir’ defines the moment when we started to take such films seriously and it was given a French moniker because that nation was the first to grant it serious academic attention.

The films were made largely in the 1940s, which is the defining period, and they’re steeped in all the imagery we know so well – crisp black and white photography, the glistening rain-swept streets, the femme fatale with the marcel wave smoking in a bar, and the hero who’s going to end up in a bad way if he’s seduced by her. It’s interesting that film noir has so many female followers, because it’s not a progressive genre when it comes to women. Either they’re the repository of all that’s good and they stay at home, or they are the dangerously attractive femme fatale and the hero ends up dead after having sex with them.


Note that this signal contribution of America to the arts depended not just on the urstory of the Bible but on the code of censorship that was in place for film.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 28, 2010 8:27 AM
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