“You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that, oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now.”
– Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
The term “Film Noir” (black film) was originally coined by a French film critic upon describing the hardboiled crime movies to come out of America in the 1940’s. In the 1940’s, hardboiled crime fiction, so-called because of its tough storytelling style and depictions of seedy underworlds was extremely popular. Writers such as Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon), Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep) and Mickey Spillane (Kiss Me Deadly) and many others all had their works turned into movies. The style of film noir was instantly recognisable for its use of lighting, or rather shadow, to accompany the gritty storylines and unsympathetic characters. More often than not there was a twist or three in the tale and the dialogue was the snappy, cynical sort that has not only been parodied to death, but also emulated (occasionally well) by writers ever since. Many genres exist in movies (western, horror, comedy, etc), but I feel that film noir defies that, as it is more about the ambience and the philosophy of the movie than the situation.
I am going to present reviews and analysis of movies that I class as film noir. As well as covering the widely regarded archetypal film noir, I will try to show that the characteristics of film noir are present in many movies that might not be initially recognised as film noir.
I will also score each movie according to the following hallmarks of noir:
· Noir Cynicism: noir movies are renowned for their bleak and pessimistic view. I will rate how bleak a view it is.
· Noir Femme Fatale: so often the reason for guys getting into trouble. I’ll rate how much of a fatale the women in the movie prove to be.
· Noir Anti-Hero: private eye, dirty cop, drifter, the list goes on. I’ll rate how much of an antithesis an archetypal hero the main protagonist is.
· Noir Crime: I’ll rate the crimes that take place.
· Noir Dough: The money causes as much, if not more trouble than the dames.
· Noir Style: Shadows and dark corners, bright lights in faces, silhouettes on street corners; the general ambience.
It should be noted that, whilst I don’t want to give every plot detail away, the pieces will contain some spoilers.
Suggestions for inclusion are most welcome, particularly if the movie is not obviously film noir, but does contain many of the hallmarks.