Film noirs discussion

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by David Fischer, Sep 7, 2020.

  1. David Fischer

    David Fischer Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Pittsburgh, PA
    Not deliberately, I've been watching a lot film noirs recently - Maltese Falcon, In A Lonely Place, Niagara, Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, etc

    What do you think is the gold standard by which all others are judged? Or is there even one that stands above the rest? What is your favorite or favorites? Or maybe some underrated noirs?

    Another interesting thing to note, why did this genre only last a decade or two and then disappear? Why hasn't there been a resurgence since the 1950s? There have been some relatively modern films that have some noir traits (LA Confidential comes to mind with the plot and time period, and Leaving Las Vegas has the noir feel with the lighting and grainier camera work though the plot is not in the Noir category).

    Roger Ebert commented that many film historians consider The Maltese Falcon released in 1941 to be the first film noir. "It put down the foundations for that native American genre of mean streets, knife-edged heroes, dark shadows and tough dames. Of course film noir was waiting to be born. It was already there in the novels of Dashiell Hammett, who wrote The Maltese Falcon, and the work of Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, John O'Hara and the other boys in the back room. “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean,” wrote Chandler, and that was true of his hero Philip Marlowe (another Bogart character). But it wasn't true of Hammett's Sam Spade, who was mean, and who set the stage for a decade in which unsentimental heroes talked tough and cracked wise." The Maltese Falcon movie review (1941) | Roger Ebert

  2. Johnny Action

    Johnny Action Forum President

    Kailua, Hawai’i
    French noir .
  3. G E

    G E Forum Resident

    There are many, many great film noir classics. You are off to a solid start.

    now go find

    the big sleep
    out of the Past
    The woman in the window
    Asphalt jungle
    And a whole bunch more

    check out www.dvdbeaver and on this website there is a list that will keep you busy well into the future
  4. Ignatius

    Ignatius Forum Resident

    It's not noir unless someone gets beaten with a Venetian blind.
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  5. finslaw

    finslaw muzak to my ears

    A slew of favorites, trying not to repeat directors:

    Scarlet Street
    Sunset Boulevard
    On Dangerous Ground
    Woman on the Run
    The Red House
    No Man of Her Own
    Pickup on South Street
    Strange Love of Martha Ivers

    If I were to define noir it would be a "what it isn't" approach.

    1) Noir is not a police procedural as when the focus spends too much time on evidence and people doing their job to get a killer/kidnapper/thief. Now if the sleuth/policeman is personally involved by sleeping with the femme fatale or having his wife murdered (The Big Heat) then it can easily be noir. Now I pause and wonder if this discludes my lovely Without Warning. I feel a lot of Bogart "noirs" don't survive this one. Yes, I know literary noir has detectives solving a twisting mystery but that is too Dragnet for me, at least for my enjoyability. Plus, Maltese Falcon doesn't have the noir look, which Stranger on the Third Floor and I Wake Up Screaming do IMO, so I wouldn't consider it the first noir.

    2) Noir is not an epic. The running times were short because these were B pictures for the most part and when you stretch it out it loses its fast talking no time to breath entertainment factor and can edge more towards an art film. The Big Knife pushes it IMO with 111 minutes of a filmed play. A lot of neo-noir have running times that are too long and they lose the rhythm.

    3) Noir is not an art film. It can look beautiful and make points about human nature but the central thrust has to exploit sex, money, insanity and power for pure entertainment value. I have great difficulty calling Sweet Smell of Success a noir because it plays out in a slow artsy fashion that feels far more European. Noir is quite humble and tawdry in its aims to please.

    4) Noir is not a comedy. It can have some comedic elements and screwball fast dialogue but when we get into slapstick and obvious setups/deliveries then it edges more towards the days of The Thin Man. I have difficulty with The Big Clock being noir for this reason and the worst part about D.O.A. is that slide whistle.


    I am tempted to write that noir is not a melodrama, but I think it is. But it has to include a darkness that isn't just a broken heart (so no Humoresque), and usually needs to lead to murder. Possessed has so many grimy aspects including mental illness, a man-fatale, tawdry sex and golddigging that I have no problem with it being noir, although melodrama often has an A picture running time which means it needs to move pretty fast to qualify for me.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2020
  6. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident

    Murder, dames, shadowy figures, usually a few related crimes-- a bank job, a hit, jewelry heist-- all the stuff of a by gone era. I remember seeing Blade Runner in the theatre during its first run and being really annoyed at this narration and certain stylistic elements that came from the classic noir era.
    A lot of those stories were pulpy, and the perspective was usually from the wrong side of the tracks. I guess we still have these movies and novels today, but they seem a little out of time, like the Bladerunner thing.
    One of my favorites was DOA with Edmund O'Brien. (Bradbury Building scenes too!).
    David Fischer likes this.
  7. finslaw

    finslaw muzak to my ears

    I find a lot of my favorites from various genres have a tinge of noir in them:

    Who Framed Roger Rabbit - Cartoon Noir
    Dark City - Sci-fi Noir
    The Terminator - Tech Noir
    Cat People/Seventh Victim - Classic Horror Noir
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers - Classic Sci-fi Noir
    The Last Boyscout - Action Noir
    Zootopia - Pixar Noir
    The Naked Spur - Western Noir
    Them!/Caltiki - Monster Noir
    Dead Men Wear Plaid - Comedy Noir
    Night of the Hunter/The Red House - Coming of Age Noir
    Angel Heart/Candyman/The Resurrected - Horror Noir
  8. Slackhurst Broadcasting

    Slackhurst Broadcasting Forum Resident

    Because they stopped making films in black and white, perhaps?
  9. stepeanut

    stepeanut Forum Resident

    Black and white was still in common use into the mid-1960s, so that’s not a deciding factor in itself. The full story is complicated, but basically the film noir style had run its course by the late 1950s and was beginning to look dated. The Hollywood studio system had begun its slow decline, box office receipts had started to tank as television became the new king, and, in a last ditch attempt to regain former glories, Hollywood threw money at musicals and big-budget epics in an attempt to regain their audience share.

    Noir, which had always suffered from a lack of self-identity, slipped quietly into the past, only to be rediscovered, and taken seriously as an art form, by a new generation of film enthusiasts in the 1970s.
  10. LeBon Bush

    LeBon Bush Hound of Love

    Love me some noir! A few of my favorites that I would describe as noir:

    The Big Sleep
    Sorry, Wrong Number
    House by the River
    Sunset Boulevard
    Ace In The Hole
    The Killing
    Sweet Smell Of Success
    Elevator to the Gallows
    The Long Goodbye
    Blade Runner
    Mona Lisa
    L.A. Confidential
  11. Jimmy B.

    Jimmy B. Senior Member

    Stranded on Earth
    The Big Heat
    Scarlet Street
    Too Late For Tears
    Out Of The Past
    They Live By Night
    Gun Crazy
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  12. Geithals

    Geithals Forum Resident

    A plug for Irish Film Noir, La creme de noire, which never seem to make the lists.

    Odd Man Out 1947 - James Mason as an IRA fighter on the run in Belfast
    The Informer 1935 director John Ford - the noirest of them all.
  13. rockerreds

    rockerreds Forum Resident

  14. Slackhurst Broadcasting

    Slackhurst Broadcasting Forum Resident

    Possibly the only real British film noir: Faces In The Dark (1960).
    David Fischer likes this.
  15. stepeanut

    stepeanut Forum Resident

    David Fischer likes this.
  16. ShockControl

    ShockControl Bon Vivant and Raconteur!

    Lotus Land
    When I lived in Beantown, I would routinely waddle over to the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge for its Noir Mondays series. It gave me something to look forward to on Mondays.

    To the OP's question, of the more well-known noirs, Double Indemnity has always been a favorite. I never tire of that film.

    To the OP's other question about the end of noir, I think that many characteristics of noir simply became absorbed into film-making and writing of screenplays. Also, several of the late noirs began to teeter into other styles and genres, e.g., Allen Baron's Blast of Silence (1961), which falls somewhere between 50s noir and 70s auteur cinema. It was a natural evolution.
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  17. knob twirler

    knob twirler Forum Resident

    Chapel Hill, NC
    you’d think it would be a Parisian blind...
  18. Professor Batty

    Professor Batty Forum Resident

    Anoka Mn
    It was mentioned before, but The Asphalt Jungle is my nomination for the ultimate film noir. Great cast, story, cinematography, and direction.
  19. Fantastic movie.
    "Don't bone me !" --- what a line !
  20. Witchy Woman

    Witchy Woman Forum Resident

    Third Coast, USA
    I would say “Body Heat” and “Basic Instinct” are somewhat modern examples of film noir but even both of those were released long ago.
  21. Dr. Funk

    Dr. Funk Vintage Dust

    Fort Worth TX
    I can see this thread is moving in the direction of Neo Noir...which is fine with me.
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  22. Witchy Woman

    Witchy Woman Forum Resident

    Third Coast, USA
    What is Neo Noir?
  23. ShockControl

    ShockControl Bon Vivant and Raconteur!

    Lotus Land
    Even some 1950s films are considered Neo noir, but the phrase usually refers to 70s films such as Chinatown.
  24. Dr. Funk

    Dr. Funk Vintage Dust

    Fort Worth TX
    A revival of the old Noir films...newer films that contain Noir elements.
  25. ralphb

    ralphb "First they came for..."

    Brooklyn, New York
    Not mentioned yet (all that have been are wonderful) and definitely one of the best:
    Narrow Margin (1952, directed by Richard Fleischer) starring the gravel voiced Charles McGraw and noir regular Marie Windsor, it hits the ground running and doesn't let up for 71 minutes. The plot is simple, get a witness for the prosecution to the trial alive, but it's never that easy in noir. The main action takes place on a Chicago to L.A. train ride and there are scenes in this film that rival the best of Hitchcock, it's a must see.

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