ENGB75 Lecture 7: WHAT IS FILM NOIR? Monday, October 28 2013
People debated whether film noir was even a genre. Usually involved detective work and crime
Edward Hopper - (1942)
Detour (1945) – seductive woman and detective man. Holocaust changed the perspective of
The Film Noir Trajectory:
1. Chance encounter with a femme fatale
2. Coercive negotiation – (manipulation)
3. Treachery and denial – (confrontation)
4. Mutual exploitation and destruction (no happy ending)
“A new police genre: the criminal adventure,” Nino Frank (August 1946, L’ecran francais)
There is nothing remarkable in the fact that today’s viewers are more responsive to *Film
Noir’s+ stamp of verisimilitude, of ‘true to life,’ and, why not, to the kind of gross cruelties
which actually exist and the past concealment of which has served no purpose: the struggle to
survive is not a new story.
Film makers express their own reality. Many were from Germany and left with the rise of
Nazi’s. Filmmakers were also very limited due to economic reasons. These movies expose the
system behind (while he tries to connect with Sue they ‘expose’ the people who connect the
lines). They did not make a lot of money and presented their struggle.
Avatar, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – creativity
Hitchcock on the set of Rope (1948). When you are in perspective of the camera you become
the master of the camera. Film noir critiques and incorporates melodrama.
Suture stitches us into the story world of the film, such that we take up positions within the
In order to work (stitch us into an imaginary story and let us feel coherent), the process of
suture must be invisible.
- Modern context
- Cinematic form
- Narrative content Black and white does not need different lightings, and mainly did close ups and straight
Couldn’t afford fancy clothes, used cigarettes and empty bottles (these things made it seem
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
“The Cinema,” Virginia Woolf (1926)
If a shadow at a certain moment can suggest so much more than actual gestures and
words of men and women in a state of fear, it seems plain that the cinema has within its grasp
Compared to melodramas, Film Noirs are very short because they are cheap and Melodramas
are long with very expensive details.
Broken Down Car on the Highway
- Shows how hard hitch hiking is. Mobility VS. stasis (inability to move)
- With the car we move forward and then we see a broken down car
- His eyes widen but he does not actually move
- Going back in time and moving through time
- Intrasubjective and inter-subjective
Detour (opening sequence)
- Close up on Al, camera is static on his eyes
“Then you’re licked again!” – Focus of the camera moves to the cup. Changes settings after this
The actor who played Al, actually murdered his wife 6 years later.
“They can’t believe that you’re in love with me…” – Bright and happy scene
“I thought you loved me… Don’t you want to marry me?” – This scene takes place in the fog, its
blurry and he has no clue why this is happening.
Why didn’t he see this happening? Because he wove himself into a romance narrative where he
assumed life would go as planned. The more he tries to navigate to his desired destiny the
further away he is. Film Noir shows his detour and how it makes him so lost.
Detour (novel, 1939) “In a movie, if a hero decides to become a doctor, he becomes a doctor, not a grocer or dentist.
If he decides to go Frisco, he goes to Frisco. Things are plotted in straight lines.”
Reaction shots are very important.
“There was a woman…”
“I got the impression of beauty. Not the impression of a movie actress, mind you, or the beauty
you dream about when you’re with your wife.”
- He keeps trying to fit into a genre (irony). Idea that marriage is just another act. They act
like they’re in a marriage at the car dealership. Perfect depiction of a bad marriage:
drink booze, fight, he wants to open the window and she says no, she makes him sleep
outside while she gets the bedroom.
Al’s voice over is throughout the movie.
“If this were fiction, I would fall in love with *Vera+, marry her and make a respectable woman
out of her.” Vera could have been in romance or melodrama but she breaks all the plans
“But Vera, unfortunately, was just as rotten in the morning as she’d been the night before.” He
says this while she is changing her face and applying fresh make up in the morning.
Sue and Vera
- Vera uses ball game metaphors like Sue: “we’re struck out,” “life is like a ball game”
- They both touch Al’s shoulders
When Vera dies the scene begins to zoom into objects and blur out. These were all evidences of
things that they had purchased while they were together.
“My problems were never solved,” “And I could never go back to Hollywood” – he’s stuck.
One thing he doesn’t have to wonder about (Hayes Code): He gets into the cop car but isn’t
“Yes fate or some mysterious force can put the finger on you or me for no good reason at all.”
He brings us back into the film.
Film Noir is a convulsive drama whereas Melodramas are establishing dramas and Western is a
restorative drama. ENGB75 LECTURE 9: MONEY, MARRIAGE AND MURDER IN DOUBLE INDEMNITY
Monday, November 4 2013h
Like a screw tightening they get deeper and deeper into their troubles.
Voice-over that gives the narrative context, and dialogue
Flashbacks and present action which is past
All characters are manipulative
Negotiate exploit gritty
Anti-hero femme fatale
Characters are stuck in dynamic
Theme of death
Shadows and low key lighting
Film noir is playing with darkness as much as with light.
Modern situation narrative
Shadows and silhouette
Money is always an issue in film noir.
Modern $ Cinematic Narrative
The film starts in the present after all the actions of the film are over.
The beginning is so dark you cannot see anything until he turns the light on – the effect
of this opening: smoke, light, masked man, dark
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
- Filmed after the 1 war. Modern capitalism produces the American dream AND
This movie took place after the war. Femme fatale is a product of the changes in the Second
Mobility: War/Static: Internal War
“They wouldn’t ever sell me any. They say I’ve got something loose in my heart. I say
- Walks past his shadow and lights his cigarette.
- Monologue is 3 minutes long.
- Director used a lot of film, well budgeted. “I just want to set you right about one thing you couldn’t see, because it was smack up against