I didn't tell you that last Saturday I went to my first session of a Cinema Workshop about Movie Genres. It's given in a Hoyts movie theater and the assistants are 40 people of all ages. The first class was dedicated to "Film Noir" and I think that maybe you'd like to read my notes to refresh your knowledge or whatever.
- According to a radical vision Film Noir are just the American films from the 40s-50s.
- Background: War and Postwar (negative vision about the world), Economic Crisis, Black Novel.
· Ambiguity in the way the story is approached.
· Involves a crime.
· The main character is a guy with his own moral code.
· Introduces the character of the femme fatale, a woman that leads the main character astray. They fall in love which changes their destinies. Love destroys the logic of the main character (Romanticism).
· Lust and greed as motivations.
· Aesthetic: dark passages, use of the light (=Photography) as instrument. This would be an Ethical category, because it expresses something from the soul.
- There are Expressionist characteristics in Film Noir coming from the European directors that emigrated to the US (ex. Fritz Lang).
Examples of Film Noir: Double Indemnity, The Postman always Rings Twice.
Screening #1: Scenes from "The maltese falcon" (dir. John Huston)
Comments: We criticize remakes today, but this film was the third version of the story. This is the first main role for Bogie, who got it after George Raft declined to accept it. In the first scenes you can see how in a few lines the characters are described. The main character has his own moral code.
Discussion about "The big sleep" (dir. Howard Hawks). He introduces a new element: femme fatale is a woman from the upper class, a class that has private vicious, an inner disintegration. This is also seen in "Chinatown" (dir. Roman Polanski). Also comments about how women in these films tended to use sex as a way to equal the cultural power of men and get what they want.
Discussion about how actors can be type-casted: movies that show an actor in a different role are not likely to have commercial success. There are many movies that were good but today are not known because when they were released the audience didn't like it.
Screening #2: "Laura" (dir. Otto Preminger). Scene when Laura arrives.
Comments: "Twin Peaks" and a movie from Pedro Almodóvar (sorry, I didn't get the name) have characters names inspired in this film. The action in this movie is on the dialogs (there are just two gun shots during the film). Through the lighting and the way the scene is composed the painting of Laura has its own presence. There's an oneiric element: Gene showing up while Dana is sleeping (comment about how in this movie the leading man has a woman name and the leading lady has a man name). There's also an element of necrophilia, the love for the dead people; this is also poetic, because Dana loves Gene above everything, even the logical explanations. Connection with "Vertigo" (dir. Alfred Hitchcock).
Screening #3: Scenes from "Gun Crazy" a.k.a. "Deadly is the female" (dir. Joseph H. Lewis)
Comments: Joseph H. Lewis was a director of B-movies, recently rescued by people like Scorsese and Tarantino. This movie initiates the sub genre of "couples that cross the country robbing banks and stores and shooting people" (yeah, like "Bonnie and Clyde") This also inspired French movies like "Le mepris" (dir. Jean-Luc Godard) and "Badlands", a film by Terrence Malick. These kind of movies have different scenarios, they occur not only in the cities, but in open fields. Stars in John Dahl, the guy from "Rope" (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
1960s, France: a group of filmmakers whose inspiration is between Nouvelle Vague and Film Noir adopt the codes from the American Film Noir. Their films take place in contemporary France. Important names: Jean- Pierre Melville, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol. They also venerate movies from John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles.
Screening #4: Scenes from "Le samourai" (dir. Jean-Pierre Melville)
Comments: Starring Alain Delon, French actor whose expressionless face worked fine for this movie (my only personal note: he must be from the same Acting School of Kristen Stewart). There are obvious codes taken from American Film Noir, like the way the guy dresses.
Final comments (final for me, because the class extended beyond the official time and I had to leave). Some modern movies that contains elements of this genre: "Blade Runner" (dir. Ridley Scott), "The big Lebowski" (dir. Coen Bros.) and "Blood Simple" (dir. Coen Bros)
End of the notes.
PS: Remember to choose your favorite director from the poll list on the sidebar.