film noir

best-1940s-noir-films

There’s a flu virus circulating around Paris and many people from my office – including me – are at home in bed because of it.  So between naps, mugs of hot tea-honey-lemon and aspirin-paracetamol tablets every 6 hours, I’m snuggled up in bed – just me and my laptop – watching one of my favourite movie genres, “film noir”.  (below are links to three of them plus recommendations.)  And quite frankly, I can’t think of anything nicer to do on a gray, cold, dismal January day.

big-sleep

Where did the term “film noir” come from?

In general, the genre’s hallmarks are a cynical private detective as the protagonist, a femme fatale, multiple flashbacks with voiceover narration, dramatically shadowed photography, and a fatalistic mood leavened with provocative banter.

The term film noir, French for “dark film” is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood’s classical film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s.

Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black and white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography

Many of the stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression.

In the opening scenes there’s often a car careening down a city street (or a desert road) and it’s usually raining and at night.

Yesterday I watched Crime of Passion (1957) featuring Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden and Raymond Burr.

And Phone Call from a Stranger (1952) with Shelley Winters, Bette Davis and Gary Merrill.  Winters was superb.

Today I watched Gilda (1946).  Wow.  The sexual tension between bombshell Rita Hayworth and pretty boy Glenn Ford is so thick you could cut it with a knife. “I couldn’t get her out of my mind for a minute.  She was in the air I breathed, in the food I ate.”

I also recommend Mildred Pierce (1945) with Joan Crawford

Laura (1944) with Gene Tierney

Double Indemnity (1944) with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck

In a Lonely Place (1950) with Humphrey Bogart

Out of the Past (1947) with Robert Mitchum

The Big Sleep (1946) with Bogart and Bacall

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) with Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews

3 thoughts on “film noir

  1. Those are great movies. I can’t get enough of Barbara Stanwyck in anything. “Laura” is another great favorite. Clifton Fadimen and Vincent Price are deliciously worthless! Fun .. fun ..fun! Hope
    you feel better .. I see all those films are American — any French favorites?

    • Hi Helen. I agree with you about Stanwyck. As for French films noirs, there’s Les Diaboliques (1954) with Simone Signoret and directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. There’s Louis Malle’s Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (1958) which is classified as “new wave” starring the sublime Jeanne Moreau. And there’s Le Corbeau (1943), also directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot which “paints a vivid and corrosive picture of Nazi-controlled France.” And there’s Deux hommes dans Manhattan (1959) by Jean-Pierre Melville which I hear is a masterpiece. Other than that, I must admit that I’m not well-informed on French films from the 40s and 50s. I guess I should be.

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