Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Past chats with our guests.

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Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by moira finnie »

Here is the spot where the first question and answers will appear for Shannon Clute beginning Friday, Sept. 28th-30th. As Lynn posted earlier when breaking the news of Shannon's visit---
Shannon Clute is the co-author of The Maltese Touch of Evil: Film Noir and Potential Criticism (Dartmouth College Press, 2011) and the co-creator of three popular podcast series: Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir, a film history and analysis program; Behind the Black Mask: Mystery Writers Revealed, an author interview show; and Yaddocast, the official podcast of the prestigious artists' retreat Yaddo—all with Richard Edwards.

Here's their website- http://noircast.net/962D9D768D9243B2AE4A/

And a YouTube interview:
[youtube][/youtube]

Out of the Past was recently selected by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for national radio transmission as part of their Top of The Pods series, and Yaddocast received mention in O, The Oprah Magazine.



A former professor who holds a PhD from Cornell University, Clute has been invited to speak on film noir at such institutions as the George Eastman House and WXXI public radio. He is also a scholar and writer of hard-boiled fiction, and his first novel was one of ten semi-finalists in the inaugural Court TV "Search for the Next Great Crime Writer" contest. He works as a brand manager for Turner Classic Movies in Atlanta.

As part of his job at TCM, he oversees the publication of the yearly TCM Film Festival program among other duties.

For more on his book, read here: http://woodyhaut.blogspot.com/2012/03/m ... r-and.html

So join us, the last weekend of the month and start thinking of your questions for Shannon today!

Shannon Clute will be joining us on Friday, Sept. 28th-Sunday, Sept. 30th.
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Re: Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by Lzcutter »

Shannon,

Good morning and welcome to the SSO! Thanks so much for joining us to talk about film, especially film noir, your book, podcasts and everything else!!

I have a quick (hopefully, quick) question for you: how did you get interested in film to begin with and what drew you to film noir?

Thanks again,

lynn
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Re: Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by kingrat »

Shannon,

Welcome to SSO! It was a great pleasure to hear your presentation at the TCM film festival this year. One of the most intriguing aspects for me was that some of your podcasts had featured films which are not ordinarily considered to be noir, but treating them as noir revealed new elements. Would you please tell everyone about that? Now you're making me do it too--Dreyer's Day of Wrath has a remarkable number of noir elements!

Several posters here are fans of the early Jean Negulesco noirs and noirish women's films. Are you a fan of Deep Valley, The Mask of Dimitrios, Three Strangers, Nobody Lives Forever, etc.?

What are some noirs that aren't as well known that you'd like more people to discover?

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us, and please hang out at the site whenever you get the chance.
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Re: Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by movieman1957 »

Thanks for coming by. I appreciate your time.

What qualities really define a noir film? What is the film that you think is a noir that most ordinary film lovers might not think falls into that category?

Could you tell us more about your responsibilities at TCM?
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Re: Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by Sue Sue Applegate »

We are so happy you are here at the SSO, Shannon! A great big welcome!

It was wonderful to meet you at the Turner Classic Film Festival 2012. The thoroughly informative session that you and Richard Edwards hosted was a highlight of the festival for me, and I am still enjoying your new book, co-written with Richard Edwards, entitled The Maltese Touch of Evil, published by Dartmouth Press.

One of my favorite quotes from your recent publication I find so intriguing and accurate is a statement about director John Huston by Mr. Edwards from Episode 8: "God may not play dice with the universe, but John Huston surely does." I was hoping you might elaborate on this a bit, and illuminate how you feel about Huston's talent and his body of work as it relates to film noir.

Your discussion of how desire trapped Jeff Bailey as he was in the arms of Kathy Moffatt and surrounded by the lovely beach scene and the fishing nets in Out of the Past is also especially poignant for me. Any more comments about the "Baby, I don't care" sequence?
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Re: Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by Lzcutter »

Hey guys,

Looks like Shannon's work day was a bit longer than he originally expected (aren't Fridays always like that when you have something fun like a visit to the SSO to do?). From the looks of things, he's been a bit delayed but should be stopping by later this evening to start answering your terrific questions.

In the meantime, keep 'em coming!
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Re: Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by The Swede »

Thank you all for the warm welcome and the great questions. Lynn was right to post that today has been a humdinger! Rather than answer you half-heartedly after 12 hours in the office (a rarity at TCM, which is an all-around wonderful place to work), I'd rather encourage you to send as many questions as you like and I'll tackle them all with a cup of coffee and a smile in the morning :) (see, I'm warming up that smile...truth in advertising!). I really look forward to hearing from you, because I've rarely seen a forum with such passionate and committed film lovers. Can't wait for tomorrow. Warm up your keyboards and I'll see you then.
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Re: Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by CineMaven »

Ahhh Film Noir...my FAVORITE genre. And you’re just the man who can talk about. Hi there, and welcome to the SSO Mr. Clute. I have your podcasts on my iPOD ( “The Postman Always Rings Twice” “Body Heat” “They Live By Night” and many many others... ) and they’re a great listen! You and Mr. Edwards helped give me a different slant on how to look at some of my favorites of the genre. ( The staircase in "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers"?? Whoa! ) I loved your podcast’s discussion of “In A Lonely Place” ( my friends and I just had a conversation about that movie this summer. ) I liked your discussion of film noir's other Martha:
“Martha, the brute massage therapist. The voice of Laurel’s conscience...the voice of doom
foreshadowing events to come. Part Greek chorus, part “Rocky Horror Picture Show” gay camp...
People laud the Hitchcock Blonde and they’re great. But would you speak a little of the dark side...of the women of film noir?

ImageImageImage


What do you think are the pre-requisites of a good femme fatale? Do you have a favorite(s) lethal lady or ones that stand out the most for you? The 1940’s was a fantastic time for actresses. Do you think there are any actresses today who could appear in one of the classics? And conversely, are there any actresses from the 1940’s who YOU would have liked to have seen try her hand at film noir, but hadn’t been allowed to? I know these are a slew of questions coming at you...but they all swirl around one topic, the women of film noir. ...And you do have that cup of coffee in hand, right?

Thanxx so much for any opinions you wish to share.
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Re: Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by ChiO »

Welcome, Shannon --

Do you see a change in the narrative arc, theme, focus or iconography of film noir from the '40s to the '50s and beyond? If so, what do you consider those changes to be and to what do you attribute those changes?

Thanks for hanging out at SSO.
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Re: Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by The Swede »

Lzcutter wrote:Shannon,

Good morning and welcome to the SSO! Thanks so much for joining us to talk about film, especially film noir, your book, podcasts and everything else!!

I have a quick (hopefully, quick) question for you: how did you get interested in film to begin with and what drew you to film noir?

Thanks again,

lynn
Thanks so much Lynn. As my grandmother used to say, "the late bird gets a good night's sleep." So here I am, one day late and at the crack of 10, ready to jump in. Thanks for your patience everyone!
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Re: Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by The Swede »

movieman1957 wrote:Thanks for coming by. I appreciate your time.

What qualities really define a noir film? What is the film that you think is a noir that most ordinary film lovers might not think falls into that category?

Could you tell us more about your responsibilities at TCM?
Thanks for the great question movieman1957.

There are several recognizable factors when it comes to noir. The most obvious is the visual style: low key, high contrast lighting with those heavy shadows that seem to reveal the inner thoughts of the people who populate these worlds, and those burning points of light that almost always illuminate something they wish would stay hidden. There are also recognizable character types: the doomed protagonist (a topic I'll come back to), the femme fatale (what would life be without them?), a dogged if not always talented investigator, and a whole host of supporting players (my favorite "type" being the sap or the fall guy, and no one ever played that better than Elisha Cook Jr.). Then there is the dialogue, born of the pulps and hardened in the fires of mid-century conflict and angst.

These are the familiar hallmarks. But there's something else people rarely talk about, and that's the philosophy. Give me a minute here, and I'll try and tease that out a little better.
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Re: Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by The Swede »

movieman1957 wrote:Thanks for coming by. I appreciate your time.

What qualities really define a noir film? What is the film that you think is a noir that most ordinary film lovers might not think falls into that category?

Could you tell us more about your responsibilities at TCM?
So...to continue that thought.

What I really see as the defining hallmark of noir is it's worldview, which I believe is so coherent, consistent and comprehensive as to constitute a philosophical stance. To trace is is to begin to answer some of the other questions that have been asked here, for this philosophy explains why noir is more than just a "style" (my vote would be to call it a "genre," because genres tend to have both a look and a worldview that defines their story types), why the noir style didn't really translate well to some other genres (notably, westerns and war pictures), and why some genres that would not at first glance seem like they could produce films noir--or something very similar at its dark heart--can in fact do so (such as the holiday picture, which gave us a wonderful noir in "It's a Wonderful Life").

What's really at play is a brutal and unforgiving form of Existentialism. If the protagonist wittingly transgresses--decides something is a bad idea but goes ahead and does it anyhow (usually out of lust or greed)--then that person is punished utterly and completely, and usually (this is crucial) by Fate itself, or something that resembles it. It's important to note how in the great films noir, it is rarely an act of human agency that balances the scales, and when it is that human agency tends to represent some larger force (the Law, for example). Rarely do you have one leading protagonist who levels the score with another leading protagonist, which is the hallmark of westerns and war pictures, and exactly the reason noir translated so poorly to those genres. Instead, Fate tracks down the doomed lead protagonist (think THE KILLERS, 1946), or social forces do (the faceless "Law" at the end of OUT OF THE PAST).

When you start to get at the philosophical heart of noir, you can see how IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is as much a noir as THE THIRD MAN, and maybe more. Until Stewart sees the error of his ways and is "saved" (admittedly, a different sort of story altogether than your average noir), that film tortures him in a very noir way: he isn't satisfied with what he has; he overreaches; he pays the price. THE THIRD MAN strikes me as more of a war picture in the end, despite all of its glorious noir trappings (its inner and outer ruins) during much of its run time, because in the end an act of human agency between two leading protagonists--one of whom decides to set things right--restores justice. If the one friend had let the other escape at the end, and let Fate, or the Law (which was hot on Lime's heels) resolve things, it might have been a better noir.

I know this complicates the noir canon tremendously, but that has always been one of my goals in the podcasts I do with Rich Edwards. Once we think we understand something, we stop really looking at it. Which is why any canon is something of a smoking gun--a crime in itself.
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Re: Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by The Swede »

kingrat wrote:Shannon,

Welcome to SSO! It was a great pleasure to hear your presentation at the TCM film festival this year. One of the most intriguing aspects for me was that some of your podcasts had featured films which are not ordinarily considered to be noir, but treating them as noir revealed new elements. Would you please tell everyone about that? Now you're making me do it too--Dreyer's Day of Wrath has a remarkable number of noir elements!

Several posters here are fans of the early Jean Negulesco noirs and noirish women's films. Are you a fan of Deep Valley, The Mask of Dimitrios, Three Strangers, Nobody Lives Forever, etc.?

What are some noirs that aren't as well known that you'd like more people to discover?

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us, and please hang out at the site whenever you get the chance.
Thanks for the great question kingrat. What I just wrote about an underlying noir philosophy in response to movieman1957 really gets at the first part of your question here--films that aren't normally considered noir, but contain many noir elements. I find those films to be most noir when their worldview jives with that of a film noir, and less noir when just their style does. Thus, I've never seen a lot of noir in what are sometimes referred to as noir westerns, like BLOOD ON THE MOON.

Now, I have to admit I am all too unfamiliar with the work of Negulesco. I was so excited to rectify that when TCM aired an entire prime time Negulesco festival in April, then right after that we switched cable providers and I lost everything I'd recorded to DVR. The good news is that many of these titles are on DVD, so I will now be loading up my Netflix. I think I'll start with DEEP VALLEY, because Ida Lupino is one of my absolute favorite actresses and moviemaking talents, and then I'll tackle NOBODY LIVES FOREVER, because I also love Garfield.

I can say that, generally, I think the "noirish women's films" worked quite well, as is clear with a movie like MILDRED PIERCE. The simple reason is that noir tales are often intimate stories of unique characters. Their tensions come from us caring about the people, not from the chase sequences or the moments of violence (as is true for other types of crime films), and thus these two genres mix well. As the "Czar of Noir" Eddie Muller put it, "These are not 'broad canvas' stories with sprawling casts, they're small stories of lives dangling in the margins."
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Re: Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by The Swede »

Sue Sue Applegate wrote:We are so happy you are here at the SSO, Shannon! A great big welcome!

It was wonderful to meet you at the Turner Classic Film Festival 2012. The thoroughly informative session that you and Richard Edwards hosted was a highlight of the festival for me, and I am still enjoying your new book, co-written with Richard Edwards, entitled The Maltese Touch of Evil, published by Dartmouth Press.

One of my favorite quotes from your recent publication I find so intriguing and accurate is a statement about director John Huston by Mr. Edwards from Episode 8: "God may not play dice with the universe, but John Huston surely does." I was hoping you might elaborate on this a bit, and illuminate how you feel about Huston's talent and his body of work as it relates to film noir.

Your discussion of how desire trapped Jeff Bailey as he was in the arms of Kathy Moffatt and surrounded by the lovely beach scene and the fishing nets in Out of the Past is also especially poignant for me. Any more comments about the "Baby, I don't care" sequence?
Thanks "Sue Sue," and I'm so glad you were able to make it to the talk Rich and I had with Scott McGee at the Festival. I hate to speak for Rich, but because we so often share a brain when it comes to noir (one of the perks of having worked out all our theories of noir in a fluid and public fashion, via podcasts, rather than having written them out first in isolation) I'll do my best.

Rich is often interested in exploring the seemingly random elements of noir. In fact, in our book he decided to title his discussion of the Emmett Myers character (in THE HITCH-HIKER) "The Random Element." In that particular discussion, he tries to tease out how Myers is framed and shot as a physical wedge between the two friends (played by Lovejoy and O'Brien), which Rich describes as "the axis of greatest change, the loose cannon, the random element, and an embodiment of psychotic madness that threatens to tear their lives apart."

Speaking now for myself, I would say that the uniquely noir character of the random is that it is not in fact random. It is simply the thing you're not expecting to have go wrong that does, but we should keep in mind that in films noir the protagonist has transgressed (or wanted to), and is being punished by Fate for having done so, as I discussed in my previous post. So Talman comes into the lives of these two friends after they threaten their own happy homes by wanting to pursue a little (not so innocent) fun in Mexico. Huston may seem to be rolling the dice on his great ensemble cast in THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, but they too made their beds. And while Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden, who I will always feel was underrated) wasn't expecting the latch to break on the suitcase and all his cash to be pulled up in a swirl of jet engine turbulence, it was clear that he couldn't get away with the crime, and *something* would happen, some seemingly random event, to balance the scales.

And what can I say about the Bailey/Moffat (Mitchum/Greer) sequence shot against the fishing nets? It's simply one of my favorite moments in all of movie history, because everything you think you know about good movie stories--that the strong leading man will conquer, that love will triumph, that bad girls can be redeemed--is undermined by the subtle touch of the camera moving in slowly throughout that scene. By the time Bailey decides he wants in, no matter the cost, everything left in the background is covered by a net. Clearly, Bailey is trapped by his desire and there is no escape--no matter how much the water, and Moffat's eyes, might shimmer like pure promise in the moonlight.
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Re: Welcome to Shannon Clute, Our Guest Star for September

Post by The Swede »

What do you think are the pre-requisites of a good femme fatale? Do you have a favorite(s) lethal lady or ones that stand out the most for you? The 1940’s was a fantastic time for actresses. Do you think there are any actresses today who could appear in one of the classics? And conversely, are there any actresses from the 1940’s who YOU would have liked to have seen try her hand at film noir, but hadn’t been allowed to? I know these are a slew of questions coming at you...but they all swirl around one topic, the women of film noir. ...And you do have that cup of coffee in hand, right?

Hi CineMaven. Thanks so much for the kind comments about the podcast series. You touch on many of the motifs of film noir that we've tried to highlight throughout the series, and one of my favorite is the motif of the staircase: it's amazing how often an ascent or descent on a grand staircase is a clear sign of a characters rising or falling fortunes.

I also appreciate the images you attached, for it's hard to talk about noir without seeing it. It's such a beautiful film style to watch, and so many of its pleasures come from the tensions between what we're seeing and what is really happening. Which is a good context for a discussion of the femme fatale. And yes, I do have my cup of coffee in hand (and hope you do to!).

Any time I bring up noir, people who know and love movies raise the question of great femmes fatales, and rightly so. In a genre that is so visually stylized as to be constantly striking, it is still the femme fatale who is most often burned in our mind's eye.

I've given this a lot of thought, and it is a hard question. Partly because femmes fatales come in so many forms and under so many guises (and I'm with you on this one...the brunettes have always had my number far more than the blondes). But I think I've reached something like a definition that also helps to explain both what they are and why they take so many forms.

The femme fatale is the embodiment of whatever the protagonist desires so much that he (or very occasionally, she, as in the case of Mildred Pierce herself) is willing to wittingly transgress in order to get it.

Often, she is, herself (as a physical being) the thing he desires (Jeff Bailey's "Baby, I don't care" is the perfect expression of that). But often she is an embodiment of something else: a means to riches, a mother one never had, a happy domestic situation.

None of this ignores all the scholarship that has been penned on femmes fatales and mid-century anxieties around the breakdown of family life, women entering the workforce, lonely brides representing a "threat" to the social order while men are away at war. It's just a way of understanding how she focalizes those anxieties--for what makes us more anxious than the idea of actually getting everything we ever wanted? And what could be more dangerous?
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