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Warner's Film Noir Classic Collection

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Re: Warner's Film Noir Classic Collection

Postby jdb1 » April 30th, 2010, 12:42 pm

I second the motion on Dick Powell, Nitrate. His post-pretty boy noirs are all very good, and TCM runs them from time to time.

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Re: Warner's Film Noir Classic Collection

Postby charliechaplinfan » April 30th, 2010, 3:01 pm

I love Murder My Sweet, I recently watched Dick in Pitfall, I was decidedly impressed.

I like noir films but apart from the classics I find the whole genre confusing. Not sure why.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: Warner's Film Noir Classic Collection

Postby Mr. Arkadin » April 30th, 2010, 5:01 pm

charliechaplinfan wrote:I like noir films but apart from the classics I find the whole genre confusing. Not sure why.

Possibly because everyone has a different idea of what constitutes noir?

Here's an interesting view on the subject by Mr. ChiO. While I might disagree on some finer points, I definitely think it deserves discussion and dissection:

Whether film noir is a genre is a persistent point of debate. I tend to think it is not a genre, but that is probably as much a factor of how I think of "genre" as it is anything else. To me, a "genre" has some tangible element without which a movie cannot fit within the "genre". A "war" movie has to have a war going on. A "Western" has to be set in the West (though the geographic designation of "West" can change depending on the time during which the film's action occurs). A "musical" has to have music that makes singing (and often dancing) a key element of the narrative. A "gangster" movie has to have gangsters. A "film noir" has to have...what? Urban setting? Nope. Femme fatale? Ditto. It's more focused on mood, theme, and style and often can be placed in one of the existing genres.

Most of the discussion appears to be using the term "film noir" as shorthand for what is (to my mind) better characterized as "American film noir." No -- that's not accusing anyone of ignoring The Third Man or other post-1940 non-American made movies that most people would consider to be examples of film noir. What certain French critics "discovered" when American movies unavailable during the war were finally released in Europe was not film noir, but American film noir (e.g., A Panorama of American Film Noir). French writers were writing about and using the term "film noir" in the late-'30s in connection with movies such as Pepe le Moko (1936). Recognizing this changes discussion about The Stranger on the Third Floor from "was it the first noir?" to "was it the first American noir?", and opens up discussion of, for example M (Lang) from "was it a proto-noir?" to "was it noir?"

And my vague recollection from reading A Panorama of American Film Noir far too long ago is that if the authors did not categorize Citizen Kane as a film noir, they came this close. We don't generally think of it as such today, but that may be because it was (and continues to be) such a monumental cinematic work that limiting it to any category seems belittling.

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Re: Warner's Film Noir Classic Collection

Postby intothenitrate » May 2nd, 2010, 5:27 am

PBS aired a documentary a while back that chronicled the immigration of Jewish (and other) artists from the film industry who were getting out of Germany in the 30s. It's really well done. They cited several UFA alumni who came over and got work making B films in Hollywood. By the end of the war, they were working on better pictures and had more influence on style and treatment. The documentary suggested that the look of those expressionistic German films of the 20s, like Caligari, Faust, Nosferatu, etc. was being brought forward and applied to contemporary situations to give us what we call "noir" (Or American Noir, if you will). Of course, Fritz Lang would be the leading example, but it sounded like there was a whole cadre of contributors.

If this was the criteria (lighting, camera work, etc.), then James Whale's A Kiss before the Mirror (1933) would be an excellent early example. Whale is said to have deeply admired that UFA look. Who was it that said, "In America you film the light. In Germany, we film the shadows"--or something like that?

I've heard others maintain that American Noir belongs to the postwar period--that it's a reflection of a wide-spread moral "let-down" following a horrifying period of collective savagery. I've often wondered if Monsieur Verdoux was meant to be Champlin's contribution to this movement. I can just imagine him saying, "Well, if they (the public) want to see a black-hearted fellow, I'll give them one."

Oh, and yes, I've been savoring our solidarity on appreciating the hard-bitten Dick Powell. He had it soooo figured out!

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"Immorality may be fun, but it isn't fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day."
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