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.
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