Saturday, May 21, 2011

Noir and Not Noir

Film noir is dark cinema. Name it retro noir, neo noir, if it's a black-mooded motion picture, it's film noir. The story is menacing, cinematography threatening, score spooky and dense, the plot edgy, the men vulnerable and the women tough. Everyone is suspect, and fate hangs around with its scythe gleaming under the streetlamps. Crime lurks in doorways. If the law shows, they're day players. It will rain. At night. Smoking cigarettes may be involved. The someone killed might be the leading man or woman and it could be ugly. The phrase itself gets film critics, buffs and everybody slightly interested pretty huffy. What film noir is and isn't has not cleared up for me by reading a fistful of books and articles about it. Misogynistic gets slapped around, and that's confusing because I don't like misogynistic and I like film noir. I read an article waiting in a doctor's office years ago. It was about women in 40s movies. In the 30s, women could be successful, interesting, beautiful and smart. In the 40s they could be all of that, but they also had to be dead. Poor Laura spends most of her movie dead. But dead isn't misogynistic all by its onesies. Brigid O'Shaughnessy takes the rap in The Maltese Falcon, but she killed the guy, didn't she? The article I cannot find used the phrase malefic grandeur. I enjoy high contrast dark cinematography (Batman Begins), barely lit cinematography (The Third Man, Se7en), sharp story, twisty plot devices and juicy roles for women. I think dark comedies like In Bruges and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang fit the noir flick realm, too. And I would like to see more film noir, more neo, retro, [your choice here]. Brilliant story, creative art direction, shimmering performances; light on the gore, please. Get Bob Belden to compose the score.

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