Saturday, June 26, 2010
night and the city.
Over the past year I compiled a list of the more obscure noir films to see, and I'm finally delving in. I've always liked noir-- the look of it, the feel of it, the stone-cold dialogue. I love film noir best but I also love to dig into hard-boiled fiction also. Hammet, Thompson, Goodis, Cain (oooh Cain!!), Chandler were all regulars on my nightstand. I'm not sure why. I'm not sure what about the hard-nosed cynicism and the almost nihlist viewpoint so dryly expressed in these pieces has always attracted me. The cinematography might be one thing-- I'm not one to really go batty for cinematography, but the appearance of a really solid noir is the most starkly gorgeous thing, film-wise. The dialogue is another-- there is a real art to it-- it is concise and to the point, and yet always dripping with outrageous metaphor and wit and tons of Maybe it's because I started developing a pretty dry outlook from a young age (which I have since addressed and tried to shed-- it wasn't so much an earnest cynicism but rather an assumed one, my how-to-deal mechanism--- but then again, that's what noir is too. an expression of the dark side of the working class, the wrong man story where things don't turn out ok for the hopeful chump. it was the how-to-deal mechanism for the post-war world).
I also think it appeals to me because true noir was a flash in the pan-- only really existing just postwar and for a brief period of time. Then realism and neo realism and all that came into play, and every "noir" picture after that falls into the neo category. It can't really truly be the noir genre because it is no longer addressing the mechanism that noir functioned as a result of. Darkness, deceit, and doubt. Hope is sort of spat upon in the true noirs. In some of them the hero is rewarded somehow, though his end is almost always bittersweet. I like detective noir, but my favorite kind tends to be the James M. Cain brand. The kind where pretty regular, working class people get caught up in greed and wind up digging their own grave. It just gets worse and worse, like a classic tragedy that requires the hero's fatal flaw. The ending is always bleak.
Yes, I like those best, which concerns me, because in my life what I consider to be one of the most vital elements of all is hope. I value literature and film that revitalizes hope or creates it-- it is probably one of the most important things an artist can do. I strive to do it myself (even though most of my writing is very dark). And yet I am so drawn to these beautiful, harsh, masculine tragedies.