Prior to this assignment, I had very little knowledge of the film noir genre. Just last semester I took an “Introduction to Film Studies” class where we covered topics such as auteurs, adaptation, and the science fiction film genre as well as the basic structure of film-making. I was somewhat disappointed when we did not hear too much information about film noir, but was very excited when I saw that “Film Noir” was our first assignment for this class.
While viewing the film noir readings and videos, I was intrigued by how each platform connected to the other based on the common aspects they shared of film noir. In one of the readings, it was said that the typical setting seen in film noir are “dark, slick, city streets” filled with crime and corruption. I especially noticed this in the film “Sin City” since most of the scenes were shot in night clubs, dark rooms, and alleys. One of the kinds of corruption that was present in the film was the power of the police over the residents in the city. When the prostitutes murder the cop and his friends in the car, they worry about what may become of them if it were to surface; they city was said to return to its’ darker ways where there was more corruption then as well as more violence towards women allowed. Also, the reading of film noir by Schrader discussed a “tough” attitude of the characters that is prevalent in this genre. In “Sin City,” Hartigan and Marv are portrayed as the strong, tough fighters of the film, Hartigan doing all he can to protect Nancy and Marv goes out with a violent thirst to avenge Goldie. In the same reading, Schrader stated that the film noir genre is known for not always having a film in chronological order. This was seen in “Sin City” when Hartigan reappears at the last section of the film, having only been present in the beginning, as his story is continued until the end; it was dumbfounding for me since I thought him to be deceased after being shot saving young Nancy in the beginning of the film. Another common theme in film noir seen in “Sin City” was how the characters do not face a typical happy ending; it is more realistic according to Narremore. Hartigan commits suicide as the cops come to take him away while Nacy is driving away from the scene, thinking she will see him again. Marv in his final scenes of the film is imprisoned and his name is printed on the newspapers as a murderer. Also the fem fatale idea is in some film noir and she in this particular film was Gail as she is the leader of the killer women/prostitutes. The episode of “Pretty Little Liars” also shared film noir aspects as “Sin City” did. In both the film and the episode, the lighting was very sharp and created shadows, allowing for a more dark and ominous mood to protrude. They both also shared similar cinematographic and editing styles. Both were shot in a black and white filter, making the lighting a key element on the screen. With editing, there were occasional dissolves/fades to the next shot, which may be a reference to older film noir. Also, dealing with music, there was more jazz and piano playing in the background in the film and the episode. In the “Pretty Little Liars” episode, one particular moment stood out to me. When Aria was seated with Ezra, half of his face was shadowed, which may indicate secrecy or something that is mysterious to Aria about him and this coincides with the episode’s focus on him possibly being “A.” He is also in darker clothing as opposed to Toby, indicating a sense of evil figure/ untrustworthy versus good/trustworthy figure. The final video I watched was “The Racketeer Rabbit” episode of Bugs Bunny. In this episode, I noticed it had similar film noir concepts, such as the interrogation shot where Bugs Bunny is in the seat under the lamp being asked questions. This idea was also seen in “Pretty Little Liars,” as Spencer was being interrogated by Toby. The costumes were all very film noir appropriate, yet “Sin City” had very unique costuming for some of the female characters that isn’t typically seen in film noir; the men had long trench coat jackets and some wore the brimmed hats as well. What all of them had in common was the idea of crime in different forms, which is very common in film noir.
The podcasts I listened to for this section were very interesting to me since the image was created through sound and fit with the film noir genre. The “Suspense! Ghost Hunt” episode is what I listened to and I took notice of how there was a sense of mystery that usually is present in this genre. Also, the Schrader reading discussed how the characters in film noir have a focus on the past and it consumes their present in some way or another. The radio host is alone downstairs talking to his audience and he reveals that he had a lonely childhood and that he was alone for much of his life. This becomes part of the reason why he commits suicide. The ghosts say they will go with him to the cliff where they will all jump off and he never protested since he was promised that he would not be alone. In this way, he was filling this void of loneliness he had and it resulted in his demise. But my favorite film noir piece was the “Moon Grafitti” podcast. It was a very powerful piece and I was especially moved by the speech the actual Richard Nixon wrote in the event that the Apollo 11 crashed; what would have been said if they had never made it back to earth and what we would have lost because of it. Connecting back to the readings on film noir, both writers seemed to allude to the notion that this genre has a more realistic view to it, and sometimes a more brutally honest one at that. In this podcast, Buzz and Neil are in a hopeless situation as they state that the amount of oxygen will not sustain them after 2 hours and that the radio is dead, so they will not be able to say goodbye to their loved ones. It rattled me more when they said they would possibly have a memorial built in their honor and one of them asked, “Why should our legacy be only footprints?” This again is an example of film noir since it does not sugar coat the truth about what would have happened if Apollo 11 crashed.
After reviewing film noir as a whole, I have come up with examples of film noir I have encountered in the past. I would say the film “Zodiac” falls into the film noir genre since it is a crime thriller (as most noir seems to be) as Jake Gyllenhaal’s character is a journalist working with detectives to find out who the Zodiac killer is. Another example of film noir could be “Strangers on a Train.” I saw many parts of this film during my film class and it seems to be noir to me since it is a crime film and it also utilizes lighting in a significant way. In one scene, Bruno is cast in lighting where there are bars created on his face through the light coming in from the window, foreshadowing how he may become imprisoned or has a history of being guilt of a crime. Also the distinction between the good and bad characters are shown through costuming; Guy wears more white and Bruno wears darker clothing.
During this week, I definitely became more attune to aspects of film noir. It almost made me want to search for more film noir since it was very interesting to me. I only really enjoyed the “Pretty Little Liars” episode since it was presented in a noir style. Otherwise, I have gone out of my way to avoid that show :). What was difficult for me dealing with this section was seeing how films today contain film noir. I was not completely sure if most crime films fell into that genre. I have learned what to really look for when watching a film from this particular genre. It was again interesting how a podcast can be considered film noir and I may go back to the “Moon Graffiti” one to give it another listen in the future. It was a very moving piece since the speech written for the astronauts was written beautifully and I connected most to that podcast.
Also, I wrote my introduction for my page this week as well as tried one of the Daily Creates. It was the silk threading and I have never seen anything like it before. I called it “Fraying Anchor.”
I also created my accounts on Soundcloud, Twitter, and Flickr. I also have my Youtube account below:
I do have one question about film noir: are driving scenes common to this genre or is it just a coincidence that most of the films had these?