The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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Yojimbo
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#501 Post by Yojimbo » Tue Jun 28, 2011 8:15 pm

Mr Sheldrake wrote:Mazurski once played an Asian war lord, Tunga Khan, in John Ford's Seven Women. Tunga wanted to make Anne Bancroft his concubine, but she was crafty and poisoned him, herself too. This comes after he brutally kills his second-in-command, Woody Strode, also Asian here, when he got too uppity. Great movie!
I Just don't 'get' Seven Women, and I tried twice after people insisting on its greatness.
Maybe I just don't care for the 'revisionist'/apologist Ford
(he should have taken the newspaper editor's advice)

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knives
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#502 Post by knives » Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:05 pm

He looks too skinny for Crawford honestly.

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Yojimbo
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#503 Post by Yojimbo » Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:10 pm

knives wrote:He looks too skinny for Crawford honestly.
the eyes, and eyebrows; even the profile is Crawford, albeit a younger, less jowly, Crawford

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domino harvey
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#504 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jul 10, 2011 9:54 pm

More unseen noirs from the DVR

Follow Me Quietly (Richard Fleischer 1949) Anthony Mann co-wrote this weird bit of business chiefly memorable for its central conceit: A harried cop investigating a serial killer known as The Judge constructs a life-size doll representation of the killer to show witnesses and other cops. The scenes with the life-size, blank-faced dummy are exactly as unsettling as they sound, and even though the film doesn't have much more to offer than that, it's certainly an inescapable image. The film also features a fun segment that points out the perils of handcuffing yourself to a criminal!

Knock on Any Door (Nicholas Ray 1949) Ray is most at home in the depths of another culture, but his early take on juvenile delinquency is flawed. Most of the blame for this falls on the unsympathetic central character, which is not in and of itself problematic, except that the film asks the audience to relate to a thug who blames everyone else for his own problems and causes the death of his wife and unborn child. The pic is basically Whiny Excusefest 1949. Despite this fatal error in construction, the film works surprisingly well, almost entirely on the shoulders of Humphrey Bogart, who gets off some nice one-liners and gives the picture an air of importance it never really earns. I also enjoyed the perverse choice of having a horrifically scarred prosecuting attorney badger the defendant as being "attractive"-- and of course, speaking of perversities:
SpoilerShow
Though it kind of deflates the entire point of the movie, it was still pretty ballsy to have the kid actually be guilty. Imagine how the last ten minutes could have salvaged this film if it weren't indebted to hokey liberal ideology-- Bogart realizes he's been duped by the very turn the other cheek forgiveness he's been kicking himself for not indulging in! He rallies against not society but crime! That might have been a brutal, interesting climax, one that would make sense. What's actually here and happens instead is beguiling, to put it mildly.
So You Want to Be a Detective (Richard L Bare 1948) I love me some Joe McDoakes and here he's "Philip Snarlowe," with the narrator following him around ala Lady in the Lake as the series pokes fun at the machismo and cliches inherent in the genre (gotta love the crying bottle blond niece). A nice early bit of self-aware parody from Hollywood.

Bedevilled (Mitchell Leisen 1955) Wow, well I must admit that telling a film noir story via bloated CinemaScope travelogue ala Three Coins the Fountain never occurred to me as even a possibility, but it exists alright. Yikes. Anne Baxter is the frazzled, murder-witnessing American nightclub singer in Paris fleeing thugs and seeking shelter with a dull candidate for priesthood (literally). For the entire length of the film (which feels far longer than it is) I was convinced that this couldn't be the same Mitchell Leisen and maybe I'd read the name wrong. To his eternal discredit, nope.

Crime By Night (William Clemens 1944) Needlessly complicated b-detective flick, with top billed Jane Wyman acting secretary to Jerome Cowan's weak William Powell imitation. Murder most foul is afoot in a small lake-side town and only Cowan's plucky private eye can manipulate all parties involved into solving the mystery. Other than the sight of a young Eleanor Parker prancing about in jodhpurs, not much of this enterprise leaves an impression.

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Foam
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#505 Post by Foam » Fri Jul 22, 2011 1:36 am

So, with a post like this early in the thread:
domino harvey wrote:
Murdoch wrote:My top spot as of now is Kiss Me Deadly, which is not only such a great film visually and thematically, but also is a brilliant peak to the classic noir period.
It's my number one right now too, but I would recommend that any forum members just getting into noir should probably leave it for last-- it provides such acidic commentary on the noir genre itself that it would be a waste to dull its impact prematurely.
a noir newbie like me is wondering, what are say, 10-15 sheer noirs that would serve as a good introduction so that I can be more sensitive to these sorts of radical departures?

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knives
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#506 Post by knives » Fri Jul 22, 2011 1:38 am

http://criterionforum.org/forum/viewtop ... 72#p318872" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Foam
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#507 Post by Foam » Fri Jul 22, 2011 1:40 am

That doesn't answer my question. See Kiss Me Deadly at number 2. I'm trying to know the best foundational films so I can more appreciate the convention-breakers. I mean, I get that I could just look at the ones that are the oldest and the highest, but I think there may be a difference between "our favorites" and "ideal firsts", right?

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knives
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#508 Post by knives » Fri Jul 22, 2011 1:46 am

Honestly I think you can enjoy Kiss Me Deadly without ever seeing a noir. It might get some added weight after watching a few, but you should be able to have fun with it whenever.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#509 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Jul 22, 2011 1:56 am

Foam wrote:So, with a post like this early in the thread:
domino harvey wrote:
Murdoch wrote:My top spot as of now is Kiss Me Deadly, which is not only such a great film visually and thematically, but also is a brilliant peak to the classic noir period.
It's my number one right now too, but I would recommend that any forum members just getting into noir should probably leave it for last-- it provides such acidic commentary on the noir genre itself that it would be a waste to dull its impact prematurely.
a noir newbie like me is wondering, what are say, 10-15 sheer noirs that would serve as a good introduction so that I can be more sensitive to these sorts of radical departures?
I think Out of the Past is actually a good intro one- it's the embodiment of the genre, but it isn't really any sort of a commentary on it. In fact, I think all five entries from the Warner Noir Vol 1 set (which would be Out of the Past, The Asphalt Jungle, Gun Crazy, Murder My Sweet, and The Set-Up) would be great starting places, and maybe throw in The Big Sleep, Scarlet Street, Detour, and Nightmare Alley- I think at that point you'd have a fair idea of both how great noir can be and how many different ways there are to be a noir movie.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#510 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:03 am

Foam wrote:That doesn't answer my question. See Kiss Me Deadly at number 2. I'm trying to know the best foundational films so I can more appreciate the convention-breakers. I mean, I get that I could just look at the ones that are the oldest and the highest, but I think there may be a difference between "our favorites" and "ideal firsts", right?
Disagree with knives, you need some noir foundation to get anything out of Aldrich's film. Off the top of my head, at least a quick program of noirs that touch on the main themes critiqued here would be well to include: Out of the Past, the Big Heat, Double Indemnity, On Dangerous Ground, Angel Face, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Criss Cross, the Dark Corner, Scarlet Street, the Big Sleep. These aren't personal favorites (I don't even care for several of them), but rather noirs that popped to mind while quickly browsing our list and thinking of Kiss Me Deadly's critical concerns.

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knives
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#511 Post by knives » Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:13 am

See here, I legitimately don't understand what you're talking about. I think it's an exceptional and strange example of the genre, but I don't see how it especially comments on noir anymore than Dr, Mabuse does serials and pulp fiction.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#512 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:17 am

:shock: The entire point of the film is the acidic commentary on the dangers of the noir detective hero's cavalier attitude towards women and authority, the resultant chaos that ensues being born entirely from these character deficiencies which other noir films build-up, reward, or excuse

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knives
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#513 Post by knives » Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:22 am

I think that goes beyond the genre though into a general commentary on masculinity and if you want to get specific it could apply to all sorts of detective fiction going back to Sherlock Holmes (not so much Dupin).

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domino harvey
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#514 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:30 am

You are wrong on the internet, knives

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knives
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#515 Post by knives » Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:33 am

I'm always wrong on the Internet.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#516 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:33 am

I do think the metacommentary is a major part of Kiss Me Deadly, but I agree with Knives that its comments on toxic masculinity (50s style) aren't specific to noir any more than they are specific to Spillane- being familiar with either enriches the movie, but it works perfectly well if you have any idea of how men were expected to behave at the time (or, uh, now.)

I think the ending is a lot cooler if a.) you don't know it's coming and b.) you know how noirs generally end, though.

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Murdoch
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#517 Post by Murdoch » Fri Jul 22, 2011 11:09 am

I think the all-out brutishness of Hammer's character is most fascinating after a familiarity with the common protagonists of the genre, where their substitution of sex with violence becomes one of Hammer's fundamental characteristics. He often seems indifferent to the advances of the women around him, but give him some poor sap to beat up on and he nearly giggles with excitement. This works just as well as a commentary on masculinity, but noir is so much about masculine bravado and violence that the two are hard to separate. Whether it be the vigilantism of the Big Heat's main character or extreme selfishness of Jeff in Out of the Past or Walter in Double Indemnity, Hammer is like all their worst qualities rolled into one.

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zedz
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#518 Post by zedz » Fri Jul 22, 2011 4:52 pm

As much of our noir discussion was concerned with how important certain key markers of the genre were (e.g. oppressive fate; moral ambivalence; the femme fatale), it would be useful to figure out which films tick most of the boxes and are thus archetypal noirs.

Kiss Me Deadly is like a giggling, psychopathic riff on the genre rather than a straight embodiment of its core virtues. If there were a credit that read, "From an original idea by Tommy Udo" on that film, I'd buy it.

I think Domino's list is solid, and from there you can also explore some of the genre's side streets, like the docu-noir procedural. If you want to focus on the noir look, I'd say the Mann / Alton films offer the height of the visual style.

Of the titles mentioned above, I wouldn't recommend Nightmare Alley to beginners, although it's a very great film, since I see that too as another rich and strange extrapolation from archetypal noir.

My 'Advanced Studies' recommendation would be Somewhere in the Night, which I think must include just about every major and minor noir trope thrown into a shredder, then reassembled by Martians.

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Tribe
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#519 Post by Tribe » Wed Sep 07, 2011 4:28 pm

Earlier in this thread I questioned whether the noir style should be limited to American films. I found this article by William Ahearn. He raises some interesting questions regarding French films from the 30s and their placement within the style, as well as whether sloppy research has led to potentially erroneous assumptions about the style. Some of it has been hashed and re-hashed at various points int he past through the literature, and some of it I don't particularly buy. Nevertheless, he does raise some compelling arguments that appear to militate against the exclusion of French films such as La chienne and La Bete Humaine from the style.

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zedz
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#520 Post by zedz » Wed Sep 07, 2011 4:59 pm

I understand, and to a large extent agree that there are a number of French poetic realism films (and later Melville works, for example) that embody many of the elements of film noir and would, on a level playing field, surely qualify as such, but the argument for excluding non-American films from the genre is that, as originally proposed and described, the genre of film noir was a specifically American one.

So including a French film in the genre would be like considering A Blonde in Love, or Night and Fog in Japan, or Bonnie and Clyde as French New Wave Films, or (maybe more to the point) Los Olvidados or The Little Fugitive as works of il neorealismo.

Unless you're prepared to radically redefine the genre, those are fundamental definitional hurdles that no amount of rhetoric will be able to vault.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#521 Post by Tribe » Wed Sep 07, 2011 5:15 pm

zedz wrote:Unless you're prepared to radically redefine the genre, those are fundamental definitional hurdles that no amount of rhetoric will be able to vault.
And if Ahearn had his way, it appears that is what would need to happen. However, it's quite late in the day to do that. The fact of the matter might well be that, whether by mistaken translation or sloppy research, the style is etched as it presently is.

Except for The Third Man. :wink:

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knives
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#522 Post by knives » Wed Sep 07, 2011 5:21 pm

Also to go with your example, Zedz, I think that people are trying to extend neorealism as a style past just the Italians. For instance when Wendy and Lucy was making the rounds many reviews positioned it in relation to neorealism.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#523 Post by zedz » Wed Sep 07, 2011 5:29 pm

Neorealism is a really interesting case, since it originates in a very specific time and place but is also an incredibly useful descriptive term for a whole lot of international filmmaking (though the more you use it, the more useless the term gets, and there comes a point when what you're really talking about are different approaches to 'realism'). Plus, so much of later Italian filmmaking can be seen as extensions of / reactions against neorealism.

But at the same time as there's been this expected stretching of the genre, there have also been academics working in the opposite direction to restrict it ever fewer 'pure' examples, so you get to the point that a lot of Rossellini's or De Sica's films from the period are excluded from neorealism, whereas they used to all be thrown in the same pot, and some experts claim on fairly solid grounds that there might actually only be a half-dozen or so genuine examples of the genre.

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knives
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#524 Post by knives » Wed Sep 07, 2011 5:36 pm

I'd actually be more comfortable with the half dozen thing than saying it's an Italian phenomena since that uses falsifiable evidence and generally works with the scientific method. In all seriousness I don't see how you could include any Rossellini except maybe Paisan into neorealism and exclude Goodbye, Solo for instance. Taking out the balleyhoo from the Italian pictures makes more sense to me if you want to genuinely call it such a short term country specific phenomena. Same thing with Noir. If you want to argue that it's an exclusively American phenomena you have to give up a lot of stuff since I can't conceive of a good argument that excludes La Chienne, but keeps Scarlet Street. Only the circular logic argument of Noir must be American really seems to keep one without the other and that frankly is a poor argument.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#525 Post by zedz » Wed Sep 07, 2011 5:45 pm

Well, then use the French New Wave analogy. 'Film noir' was conceived and originally defined as a nationally specific genre - the genre was invented to explain and describe a trend that was perceived in post-war American film. If you want to make it non-nationally defined, then you're welcome to do so, but you have to acknowledge that you're redefining the genre according to your own preferences, like if you wanted to redefine the French New Wave to include Czech films.

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