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Film Noir 
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Post Film Noir
"I killed him for money and for a woman. I didn't get the money and I din't get the woman. Petty, isn't it?"
Walter Neff, Insurance salesman


This quote from Double Indemnity pretty much sums up what film noir is about. (I most certainly read this somewhere.) If a film is in black and white and features ubiquitous cigarette smoke, men with fedoras and women, who cannot be trusted, I'm likely to love it.

Unfortunately, my education in movies is lacking somewhat, so I haven't really seen all that many films noirs. I would appreciate it very much, if any of you could suggest some films which are worth seeking out.

The films noirs I have seen so far (and liked)

Maltese Falcon
Shadow of a Doubt
Double Indemnity
Detour
Scarlet Street
The Big Sleep
The Killers
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
Dark Passage (my favourite, although it's gimmicky and contrived)
Out of the Past
He walked by Night
The Third Man
The Asphalt Jungle
D.O.A.
Sunset Boulevard
Strangers on a Train
The Big Heat
Kiss me Deadly
Night of the Hunter
Rififi
The Killing
L'Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows? not sure about the English title)
Touch of Evil


Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:25 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
It's a genre I haven't really gotten into, although I suppose there are several movies that I enjoy that are probably considered "Neo-noir", like Chinatown, Blade Runner and Minority Report. Dunno, I should probably start watching some classics.


Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:53 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
YOU HAVE TO SEE BRICK!!!!!!!! It's a phenominal modern faux-noir. Please give it a chance.


Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:11 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
You have seen far more film noir than most people. Than most people on this forum. Than most people who call themselves movie buffs.

There's a couple on your list that I haven't seen. My fav is Out of the Past. To my mind one of the greatest images in noir is when he is sitting in the dusty old saloon in Mexico, looks up, and she steps into the saloon out of the blinding noon-day light. That dress, that figure, the hat, the attitude, the impact she makes on him (and on me). Out of the Past is one of the few noirs I've seen more than once, and it held up very well to a repeat viewing.

If you haven't read the literature on film noir, it is interesting. From the few books and essay I read, I gained a deeper appreciation for noir but at the same time got a little less patient with it.

BTW, I think almost no modern noir or "neo-noir" has the same feel, n'est-ce pas? The recent movie Brick captures a lot of that original feel, but the high school students populating the film talk in such a heavy slang that when the movie was released, translation sheets were sent along with it.

Sorry I did not have a great classic noir to add to your list.


Fri Feb 27, 2009 12:54 am
Post Re: Film Noir
Hi Unke

Now we're talkin'!

That's a great list. I've seen them except:
Detour, Scarlet Street, Strange Love of Martha Ivers and Elevator to the Gallows

I have been buying the DVD box sets "Film Noir Classic Collections"

I would add.....
Bob le Flambeur - A Melville Criterion
Le Samourai - Even better Melville - a masterpiece
Call Northside 777 - James Stewart
Edward G in The Woman in the Window - an absolute must! I love this movie.
Brute Force - Burt Lancaster
Gun Crazy
Murder My Sweet
The Set Up - Robert Ryan
Born To Kill
Criss Cross
Brighton Rock - featuring Richard Attenborough!

Hope this helps
Rob


Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:34 am
Post Re: Film Noir
Hello everyone,

and thanks a lot for your comments and suggestions.

stiefmo wrote:
YOU HAVE TO SEE BRICK!!!!!!!! It's a phenominal modern faux-noir. Please give it a chance.


JIMBELL wrote:
BTW, I think almost no modern noir or "neo-noir" has the same feel, n'est-ce pas? The recent movie Brick captures a lot of that original feel, but the high school students populating the film talk in such a heavy slang that when the movie was released, translation sheets were sent along with it.


I had not heard of this one, but it sounds like a film I might enjoy very much. I'll try to find it! Again, thank you, stiefmo and jimbell.

Robert Holloway wrote:
Hi Unke

Now we're talkin'!

That's a great list. I've seen them except:
Detour, Scarlet Street, Strange Love of Martha Ivers and Elevator to the Gallows

I have been buying the DVD box sets "Film Noir Classic Collections"

I would add.....
Bob le Flambeur - A Melville Criterion
Le Samourai - Even better Melville - a masterpiece
Call Northside 777 - James Stewart
Edward G in The Woman in the Window - an absolute must! I love this movie.
Brute Force - Burt Lancaster
Gun Crazy
Murder My Sweet
The Set Up - Robert Ryan
Born To Kill
Criss Cross
Brighton Rock - featuring Richard Attenborough!

Hope this helps
Rob


Hi Rob,

and thanks for the fantastic list. Now that you mentioned it, I remember to have actually seen Le Samourai on TV and liking it a lot. Unfortunately, it's unavailable on DVD here (in Germany) and the price of a UK import is prohibitive.

If you haven't seen Elevator to the Gallows (which is also known as "Elevator to the Scaffold" or "Frantic" according to imdb - should've checked before posting), I'd strongly recommend it. Jeanne Moreau is stunning and so is the Miles Davis soundtrack, if you like that kind of music.

Cheers

Unke


Fri Feb 27, 2009 5:55 am
Post Re: Film Noir
That's quite a list Unke. I didn't see Orson Welles' "The Lady from Shanghai" (1947). If you haven't seen it already, I highly recommend it. The only other noir that I like and don't see on your list is "The Letter" (1940). Bette Davis is excellent in the lead role as directed by the underrated William Wyler.


Fri Feb 27, 2009 12:38 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
ed_metal_head wrote:
That's quite a list Unke. I didn't see Orson Welles' "The Lady from Shanghai" (1947). If you haven't seen it already, I highly recommend it. The only other noir that I like and don't see on your list is "The Letter" (1940). Bette Davis is excellent in the lead role as directed by the underrated William Wyler.


Thanks for the recommendation, ed_metal_head. I have added them to my list of films to look for.

My list isn't all that impressive, considering a lot of the films were part of a relatively cheap box-set I bought. I think a lot of the films are in public domain now.


Fri Feb 27, 2009 12:43 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
Unke wrote:
ed_metal_head wrote:
That's quite a list Unke. I didn't see Orson Welles' "The Lady from Shanghai" (1947). If you haven't seen it already, I highly recommend it. The only other noir that I like and don't see on your list is "The Letter" (1940). Bette Davis is excellent in the lead role as directed by the underrated William Wyler.


My list isn't all that impressive, .



Oh yes it is :-)

Most people have not seen more than 5 on that list.

Rob


Fri Feb 27, 2009 2:25 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
I first got into film noir after watching some neo-noir films in the 90s (The Last Seduction, LA Confidential) and then investigating some more about the history of both film noir and neo-noir. My favourite of 1940s/50s-era noir movies is Criss Cross, which for me is the best at demonstrating the thematic and stylistic elements of noir, as well as being extremely suspenseful with a great climax.

Some other great noirs from the 40s/50s era that haven't been mentioned yet are Nightmare Alley, In a Lonely Place, and Sweet Smell of Success. A good book about classic noir is Dark City by Eddie Muller -it led me to many of the most interesting films of the period.


Sat Feb 28, 2009 12:49 am
Post Re: Film Noir
domani wrote:
I first got into film noir after watching some neo-noir films in the 90s (The Last Seduction, LA Confidential) and then investigating some more about the history of both film noir and neo-noir. My favourite of 1940s/50s-era noir movies is Criss Cross, which for me is the best at demonstrating the thematic and stylistic elements of noir, as well as being extremely suspenseful with a great climax.

Some other great noirs from the 40s/50s era that haven't been mentioned yet are Nightmare Alley, In a Lonely Place, and Sweet Smell of Success. A good book about classic noir is Dark City by Eddie Muller -it led me to many of the most interesting films of the period.


Thanks, domani, added to my list.


Sat Feb 28, 2009 7:34 am
Post Re: Film Noir
Even though we prefer to watch, reading can enhance the viewing. To whet your appetite, here's some of my notes on the original, classic film noir book from France:

Borde, Raymond, & Chaumeton, Etienne. (Trans. Pual Hammond). (2002/1955). A Panorama of American Film Noir: 1941-1953. San Francisco: City Lights Books.

First wave (summer of 1946): The Maltese Falcon, Laura, Murder, My Sweet, Double Indemnity, and The Woman in the Window. Second wave ( “a few months later”): This Gun for Hire, The Killers, The Lady in the Lake, Gilda, The Big Sleep. These waves refer to France.

They call this a “series,” meaning “a group of nationally identifiable films sharing certain commmon features (style, atmosphere, subject)”. Thus there are one or more seminal movies (which may well be not the best), then a peak of movies inspired by them, and then a fading away. [This is a theory, and maybe not the way things work.]

Film noir is
Oneiric—(of or having to do with dreams) e.g., individual realistic shots on a strange subject eventually create a nightmarish atmosphere
Strange—unusual, peculiar, odd
Erotic
Ambivalent—victims, bad guys, hero, and femme fatale are not straight-forward or simple. E.g., “the femme fatale is also fatal unto [sic] herself. Frustrated and guilty, half man-eater, half man-eaten, blasé and cornered, she falls victim to her own wiles.” P. 9 She is tough, like the milieu she is in. She rubs shoulders with crime; she may mastermind crime.
Cruel
Sometimes one, sometimes another, of these qualities will dominate the film. “Often a film’s noir side has to do with a single character, a single scene, a single décor. The Set-Up is an excellnet documentary [sic] on boxing: it becomes film noir in the sequence of the final showdown, that terrible beating at the end of a blind alley.” P. 2/3.

Film noir made viewers of the time and location anxious and insecure. “All the works in this series exhibit a consistency of an emotional sort: namely, the state of tension created in the spectators by the disappearance of their psychological bearings. The vocation of film noir has been to create a specific sense of malaise.” P. 13


Sources of Film Noir
Crime fiction
Psychoanalysis, the rise of
The reality of crime and corruption in American urban life
Previous films in German, France, and in the USA

1941-45: the formation of a style
Some were what you’d call film noir:
Maltese Falcon (1941)—the first real film noir; introduced the motif of gang members not trusting each other; many interior shots as if low budget
The Shanghai Gesture (1941)—by Josef von Sternberg; with Gene Tierney in her first big role
This Gun for Hire—from Graham Greene; introducing Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake
The Glass Key—the third movie (after the two Thin Man movies) made from D. Hammett; Alan Ladd; uneven in quality
Journey into Fear—Orson Welles had a big hand in the screenplay
Others had elements of film noir or elements later adopted by film noir:
Rage in Heaven—Ingrid Bergman; “criminal psychology” more specifically than film noir
Suspicion—Alfred Hitchcock; Interestingly the ending was reversed from the original ending in the Frances Iles novel. I’ve seen this and thought it ended strangely.
Murder, My Sweet—uneven; visually good; the plot is almost impossible to follow—because the original book by Chandler was complicated and the filmmakers purposely omitted some details to make things seem stranger. Phillip Marlowe (Dick Powell, who they don’t particularly like) does not know what he has gotten into! Claire Trevor is the femme fatale. The camera work is boring and hurts the pace of the movie. But interseting creative work when Marlow gets beaten up and loses consciousness (use of masks).
Ministry of Fear—from Graham Greene’s novel of the same name; director Fritz Lang
Confidential Agent-- from Graham Greene; director Fritz Lang
Gaslight—Ingrid Bergman (DVD-Classics)
Scarlett Street (1945) they think it disappointing; a remake of the Renoir moive La Chienne. [I think it is powerful.]

1946-48 The Glory Days
Gilda—Rita Hayworth—one of two great psychological noirs (n/a)
The Big Sleep—the classic, they say because of the atmosphere of decadence etc. but others have said the plot makes no sense.
Etc.


Sat Feb 28, 2009 1:14 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
Oh my god. Noir discussion! Can't resist getting involved. Just a little.

Favorite classic noir: The Third Man (quintessential noir)

Favorite modern noir: L.A. Confidential (this movie was a revelation for me)

Favorite neo-noir: hm... this is a touchy subject, as to WHAT a neo-noir is... I'll just say Usual Suspects, even if it's predictable, but i think it's one of the best examples of where the neo in the noir can go, and how far.

Well, this is just skimming the surface, but the one's that posted before me did a nice job of listing every notable noir in history (well, almost).

Honorable mentions to Brick and Tzameti 13 that don't get enough recognition these days... Although Tzameti will, as it's getting an american remake, yei.


Sat Feb 28, 2009 3:07 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
JIMBELL wrote:
Even though we prefer to watch, reading can enhance the viewing. To whet your appetite, here's some of my notes on the original, classic film noir book from France:

Borde, Raymond, & Chaumeton, Etienne. (Trans. Pual Hammond). (2002/1955). A Panorama of American Film Noir: 1941-1953. San Francisco: City Lights Books.

First wave (summer of 1946): The Maltese Falcon, Laura, Murder, My Sweet, Double Indemnity, and The Woman in the Window. Second wave ( “a few months later”): This Gun for Hire, The Killers, The Lady in the Lake, Gilda, The Big Sleep. These waves refer to France.

They call this a “series,” meaning “a group of nationally identifiable films sharing certain commmon features (style, atmosphere, subject)”. Thus there are one or more seminal movies (which may well be not the best), then a peak of movies inspired by them, and then a fading away. [This is a theory, and maybe not the way things work.]

Film noir is
Oneiric—(of or having to do with dreams) e.g., individual realistic shots on a strange subject eventually create a nightmarish atmosphere
Strange—unusual, peculiar, odd
Erotic
Ambivalent—victims, bad guys, hero, and femme fatale are not straight-forward or simple. E.g., “the femme fatale is also fatal unto [sic] herself. Frustrated and guilty, half man-eater, half man-eaten, blasé and cornered, she falls victim to her own wiles.” P. 9 She is tough, like the milieu she is in. She rubs shoulders with crime; she may mastermind crime.
Cruel
Sometimes one, sometimes another, of these qualities will dominate the film. “Often a film’s noir side has to do with a single character, a single scene, a single décor. The Set-Up is an excellnet documentary [sic] on boxing: it becomes film noir in the sequence of the final showdown, that terrible beating at the end of a blind alley.” P. 2/3.

Film noir made viewers of the time and location anxious and insecure. “All the works in this series exhibit a consistency of an emotional sort: namely, the state of tension created in the spectators by the disappearance of their psychological bearings. The vocation of film noir has been to create a specific sense of malaise.” P. 13


Sources of Film Noir
Crime fiction
Psychoanalysis, the rise of
The reality of crime and corruption in American urban life
Previous films in German, France, and in the USA

1941-45: the formation of a style
Some were what you’d call film noir:
Maltese Falcon (1941)—the first real film noir; introduced the motif of gang members not trusting each other; many interior shots as if low budget
The Shanghai Gesture (1941)—by Josef von Sternberg; with Gene Tierney in her first big role
This Gun for Hire—from Graham Greene; introducing Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake
The Glass Key—the third movie (after the two Thin Man movies) made from D. Hammett; Alan Ladd; uneven in quality
Journey into Fear—Orson Welles had a big hand in the screenplay
Others had elements of film noir or elements later adopted by film noir:
Rage in Heaven—Ingrid Bergman; “criminal psychology” more specifically than film noir
Suspicion—Alfred Hitchcock; Interestingly the ending was reversed from the original ending in the Frances Iles novel. I’ve seen this and thought it ended strangely.
Murder, My Sweet—uneven; visually good; the plot is almost impossible to follow—because the original book by Chandler was complicated and the filmmakers purposely omitted some details to make things seem stranger. Phillip Marlowe (Dick Powell, who they don’t particularly like) does not know what he has gotten into! Claire Trevor is the femme fatale. The camera work is boring and hurts the pace of the movie. But interseting creative work when Marlow gets beaten up and loses consciousness (use of masks).
Ministry of Fear—from Graham Greene’s novel of the same name; director Fritz Lang
Confidential Agent-- from Graham Greene; director Fritz Lang
Gaslight—Ingrid Bergman (DVD-Classics)
Scarlett Street (1945) they think it disappointing; a remake of the Renoir moive La Chienne. [I think it is powerful.]

1946-48 The Glory Days
Gilda—Rita Hayworth—one of two great psychological noirs (n/a)
The Big Sleep—the classic, they say because of the atmosphere of decadence etc. but others have said the plot makes no sense.
Etc.



Jimbell,

Thanks for this. Very cool posting.
Noir seems like a very US genre yet other countries have dipped into it as well.
Did you study / read about the international approach to this subject?

Rob


Sat Feb 28, 2009 3:54 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
It's already been said but give Brick a shot. It's a little different than most of the movies you listed(which to be honest, I cannot add much to because I haven't seen much more than you and only most of the ones you listed) with the actors being kids but it's definitely a little underrated and one of those movies I recommend to anyone who will give it a shot.


Sat Feb 28, 2009 5:19 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
I don't know much about the international film noir. Maybe someone else--like someone living in Germany or France (hint)--can give us the local scoop.

But the internationalism of film noir has been there from the start. It was after all named by the French--"dark films". And the cinematography was most influence by German expressionism.


Sat Feb 28, 2009 9:28 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
If anyone wants to delve more into this "genre" I recommend the film-noir section over at filmsite. It is a fantastic read (actually, anything on that site is a great read.)

http://www.filmsite.org/filmnoir.html


Sun Mar 01, 2009 7:57 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
I too think you've seen a lot of noir classics.

I'd add 'Blood Simple' to the list of a neo-noir. It's in my Coen Brothers top-3 . . .


Mon Mar 02, 2009 4:03 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
Unke wrote:
Night of the Hunter


I have only seen about 2/3 of the films on your list.

That said, does 'Night of the Hunter' belong on this list? I think it's brilliant, but I'm not sure I'd call it a true film noir.

I'm probably just picking nits; it has elements of noir, but the symbolism and the psychological issues around the children make it something of a different animal, IMO.

Either way, Robert Mitchum's character in that flick is one of the all-time great movie villains. That's one of the few flicks I can watch time and again and still get as creeped out as the first time I saw it.


Mon Mar 02, 2009 4:16 pm
Post Re: Film Noir
Hello everyone, and thanks (again) for your suggestions. Keep 'em coming.

JIMBELL wrote:
I don't know much about the international film noir. Maybe someone else--like someone living in Germany or France (hint)--can give us the local scoop.

But the internationalism of film noir has been there from the start. It was after all named by the French--"dark films". And the cinematography was most influence by German expressionism.


I don't think there are any German noirs. In the post-war period of the late 40ies and 50ies, there wasn't much of a German film industry at all and people wanted to see lighthearted fare. The only film, which might go in that direction, is "Es geschah am hellichten Tag" (1958) starring, amongst others, "Goldfinger" Gerd Fröbe. It has been remade as "The Pledge" starring Jack Nicholson.

ed_metal_head wrote:
If anyone wants to delve more into this "genre" I recommend the film-noir section over at filmsite. It is a fantastic read (actually, anything on that site is a great read.)

http://www.filmsite.org/filmnoir.html


Thanks, ed_metal_head, should've thought about checking filmsite myself.

Tuco wrote:
I'd add 'Blood Simple' to the list of a neo-noir. It's in my Coen Brothers top-3 . . .


I love Blood Simple! A lot of the Coens' output appears to be influenced by films noirs, The Big Lebowski and (of course) The Man who wasn't there, for instance.

Re. The Night of the Hunter
I listed it with the other films, because I had read somewhere that "Night of the Hunter" is regarded as a film noir. Whether that's accurate or not, I don't know. But it's certainly great - I get shivers, too, just thinking of Robert Mitchum singing a hymn in pursuit of the children.


Mon Mar 02, 2009 4:46 pm
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