Wk5M2 Film Noir

Film Noir has not lost its power to capture the imagination of viewers as can be seen in:

The Maltese Falcon, John Huston, 1941

Brick, Rian Johnson, 2001

Today’s discussion is brought to you by Group 8: Seth Lesemann

31 thoughts on “Wk5M2 Film Noir

  1. Seth Lesemann

    Film noir in itself is a mystery. There are points that validate it as a genre, a series and even a mode. Even the characters of the films seem to have multiple roles, in that the same detective that will milk a female client for as much money as she has and even tell her to sell her possessions showing he only cares about money, but then defend her strongly when the same woman slaps another man and that man tries to come at her. So is he a moral-less scoundrel looking out only for himself, or is he a man that still respects the old pre-war morals and just simply caught up in society’s current state? Similarly female characters in film noir have multiple roles, which is shown in the female character coming to a detective looking for him to solve a case for her. She comes to him in innocence and distress, but is soon found out to be a liar only interested in her own personal gains. Then she regains his trust by showing feelings for him only to lie again. So is she a liar only interested in looking out for herself or is she a victim in a cruel time that is unable to trust anyone for fear of being taken advantage of?

    The questions I’d like to ask for the discussion are:

    1. Would you say, based off of the “The Maltese Falcon” and “Brick” that Film Noir is a genre, series, or mode?

    2. Do you think Film Noir could exist without this ambiguity of itself and its characters?

    3. Similarly, if the Production Code had allowed for more “taboo” subjects at the time of Film Noir’s height, would it be as popular of a genre if it’s themes weren’t considered risqué to watch?

    4. As a mode, does Film Noir offer all the same potential reactions as comedy, horor, melodrama, etc.? Are these reactions only possible because Film Noir is actually just a series that utilizes different genres that already cause these reactions by themselves?

    5. If a noir film was to be made today now that taboo subjects are seen in almost every movie (blatant sexuality, excessive use of drugs, full nudity, etc.) would it be as successful as the ones made in the 30’s and 40’s? Could it even be called Film Noir?

    1. Steven Colonero

      While there hasnt been recent attempts at film Noir that I can recall, the most well known I think of recent times is Basic Instinct. I think this is a great example of a film that pushed boundaries of sex in cinema, something that many classic noir films did. In Double Indemnity it was risque to show a women in a towel and have her be a sexual person. While in basic instinct they pushed that even more to show what is now arguably one of the most famous interrogation scenes in cinema. (I am talking about where she uncrosses her legs, only to reveal she isnt wearing underwear) They also show her as a bisexual, a topic that is still someone controversial to this day. At the time of its release many protested the film because of this fact and that she is suspected of being the killer. I thin this shows that noir can have a reaction to its audiences if done right.

    2. Nick Neal

      1. “Maltese Falcon” and “Brick” seem to have similar narrative elements such as a criminal underworld, a loner protagonist, death as motivation, and an object of obsession that’s the root of evil in the picture. Archer was killed because of the falcon and emily was killed because of the brick. However Brick doesn’t have a lot of high contrast lighting and also it was made after the 50’s meaning it’s not historically a film noir. Because of the similarities in film elements, I would call it a genre.

      2. No, because I think the ambiguity of the character deepens the mystery of the story. There is the external mystery of the plot, namely who killed whom, and there is the internal mystery of the morality of the characters. Are they good guys or bad guys? Is the main character even a good guy?

      3. It depends how risque. I’ve heard that a maturity level that’s most popular is PG-13, because it has something for adults, but allows them to take their kids to it.

      4. I think it messes up the tones of these genre’s. For example, Brick could be considered a noir melodrama, and my feelings toward it were conflicted. The subject matter is too dark and delivery too straight to be funny. Yet the premise of suburban high schoolers operating in a sophisticated criminal network as well as talking like they’re from the 1940’s is too over the top to be taken seriously.

      5. I’m not sure genre is a relevant factor for a successful film.

    3. Levi Brown

      i think had the MPAA allowed for more taboo topics film noir movies might have lost their edginess. Those films work well because viewers are aware the darker side of people without being fully exposed to it. To that effect it’s tantalizing.

      1. Parrish Colbert

        I agree, the films effect to show the darker side of people and life all together was and to me is still tantalizing. But along with that I think the fact that classic film noir took place post WW2 I think the emotional pull of depression gave film noir it’s real push in cinema.

  2. Renee Schuyten

    It would be hard to separate the morals of the time in order to say would have noir been just as popular if the taboos been removed. I’m sure that in fact it would not have been, because of the moral outrage or seeing nudity, sex, or violence on screen. Society wouldn’t have allowed it’s acceptance, no matter how titillating the subject matter. That being said, it’s popularity was partly due to it’s risqué nature. It pushed boundaries and the audience found that exciting. It also spoke to a very real emotional need of the time following the war – to acknowledge the darkness in spirit and confusion that this country felt. I don’t think they could have blown right past all known social boundaries and had acceptance in the mainstream audience. Even today we can’t do that. Look at how upset people got with a Cheerios commercial with a multiracial family in it, year 2013.

  3. Renee Schuyten

    I think the term “film noir” has many different meanings depending on what you’re trying to say when you use it. It is not just one, genre, mode, or series, but all of these things. It describes a time period of films post WW1, a movement. It can also be used to describe a mode of production with its use of light and camera and editing, and the resulting uncomfortable emotional feeling. I would have to the least agree of it being a genre. It seems more of a feeling and emotional response that is created in any genre than a genre in and of itself.

    1. Christophe Freeman

      I agree Film Noir describes a movement and can’t be described as just a genre, mode, or series of film. It is more a stylized way of making films. The production of films like Renee described along with the stories the films show are what make Film Noir.

    2. Steven Colonero

      I do agree, I think now Noir has inspired other genres to attempt to try and recreate these characters that make Noir such a unique experience such as the lighting, characters and overall mood. I think we have recently seen alot more sci-fi films try and do this. Such as Minority Report, Total Recall and even The Matrix. I think this trend is trying to cross over into different genres which I look forward to.

  4. Shenese Doll

    I think that film noir is a genre, but can also be a mode. The earlier film noirs all shared common characteristics that made it more genre, all being detective or crime related types, but the more neo-noir films open up a little to subject but still hold the characteristics as if it was a genre.

    1. Chris O'Malley

      I agree that film noir should be seen as a genre as well as a mode. Many films today that make use of the character types and narratives of film noir. There are some basic elements of the noir genre that are timeless and will continue to show up in future films.

    2. Benjamin Romang

      I find it hard to label it as a genre because Film Noir crosses over so many other genres, like westerns and gangster films. I would agree that it can be labeled as a mode, as the emotion of all these films are consistent. I would also say it can be classified as a movement because Film Noir represents films made during a certain period. If we were to call it a genre then would the term neo-noir really be relevant? Genres like Westerns, Gangster, and Musicals are timeless definitions whereas Film Noir seems to be specific to its time of production, or how the emotion of the film is conveyed.

      1. Parrish Colbert

        I agree but I don’t feel that labeling film noir as a genre necissarily binds it to just that genre. For example comedy film is a genre of it’s own but depending on the story it could be a romantic comedy, action comedy etc. I believe film noir is a genre that can still branch out by the will of the writer.

  5. Shenese Doll

    I think film noir would be as popular regardless of production codes at the time. These films hold interest that other movies don’t. Just like in this day, some filmmakers may attempt film noir and they may only be on an independent level but they still do well…also many risque themes come up in made for TV films that premier on HBO and showtime, etc, i would like to believe they would have still been successful then.

  6. Shelby Brown

    Honestly, Just learning about Film Noir, it really has me thinking. The Fact that Film Noir meaning is all over the place, it’s becomes extremely hard to think of it as a genre. Yes! probably a series because of the movement aspect of it. But, thats just my thoughts. It seems as if these selections of films are pretty much compared to action films but just a little more slower but yet darker. If a noir film was made today, it probably would be successful but only if the narrative is able to take control or take over. The film would definitely need a bold or an interesting non linear plot. I doubt if it would be as successful as in the 30s and 40s because people, well “viewer’ love original work. But, I still believe people would at least give it a chance. But, I would also still probably consider the noir film to be a Film Noir.

  7. Alexandra Freda

    It could be classified as all of the above, but I do believe it is it’s own genre personally. In our chapter it explains how one argument suggests that film noir cannot be it’s own genre because it crosses over traditional genre boundaries such as westerns, gangster films, and melodramas. But certainly other genres cross over into other genres, and are still considered so. In that regard I don’t understand the validity of that particular argument against film noir as genre. Westerns are also comedies, comedies are also gangster films, so on and so on. As a mode I would certainly there is a identifiable and distinguishable way in which film noir delivers it’s visual information. Without a doubt it is a mode in itself as it does have it’s own aesthetic style, characteristics and distinctions.

    1. Alexandra Freda

      To be more specific of these characteristics, low-key lighting, obscuring action, creating suspense, and thus reducing actors to shadowy forms.

      Also I wanted to mention that films like Blade Runner, Chinatown, Brick, and others all help transform film noir into a genre by utilizing stylistic elements of films from the 1940s and 1950s, tactics used to affect the viewer.

  8. Shenese Doll

    I think film noir does offer the same potential as others such as comedy, melodrama and so forth. I don’t think it is possible just because it utilize different t genres. I think all genres somehow utilize one another. I think comedy uses some aspects of melodrama and vice versa, as with most genres.

    I think if noir film is made today it would be successful. Maybe not as successful because the themes would not necessarily be a novelty so there would have to be some different ways to make the genre stand up against what films are today when it comes to subject matter.

    1. Christophe Freeman

      I agree that Film Noir has the potential to be a popular genre of film just like the other genres. If people take the time to understand it because it is much more complex than others but would they be open to understanding the history of Film Noir?

  9. Levi Brown

    Film noir isn’t gone. Films indicative of the film noir style today are called Neo-noir. Blade Runner, Chinatown, and the more recently Drive are all well-known neo-noirs that continue the dark, extremely stylistic atmosphere that surrounded film noir though in a modern context.

  10. Renee Schuyten

    Part of the power of Film Noir is its ambiguity of characters, their motivations and purpose – the mystery, the confusion. It’s part of what makes the audience uncomfortable.

    1. Chris O'Malley

      I agree, without this ambiguity I don’t think the films would be nearly as enjoyable to watch. If the characters were static and easily understood, the films would just feel wrong. The audience would not be challenged by their understanding of characters and would likely be bored by the convoluted plots of noir films.

    2. Benjamin Romang

      This is why I would be more inclined to define it as a mode rather than a genre. As others have stated, a film can have these attributes set in any time, style, or genre and it could still be considered Film Noir. Others have mentioned Blade Runner, which is classified as Sci-fi thriller genre, yet has all the attributes of Film Noir.

  11. Clark Faust

    To answer the last question posed for us, I believe there are noir films made today and I think that Brick is a good example of that. Just because a film isn’t made in black and white was is set in a modern time does not mean that it can’t be film noir. There is even the “genre” (if we can call it that) of “neo-noir” which uses the same subject matter. I think it is very possible to make a modern noir film, and as Brick proves, it can be visually beautiful and financially successful.

  12. Allison Hudson

    I definitely think that film noir is a series. It’s a style that first came about in postwar America in the 40s and 50s. It has obviously influenced filmmakers later on to produce films with the same style, for example Brick. The characters, writing, and lighting are all in the noir style. Brick is so stylized that at times I forgot it was set in a high school environment. It felt more like a gritty drug movie set in the slums. The whole film has a cold, blue look to it that reflects the mood. A lot of older film noirs were in black and white, so they didn’t necessarily use the lighting of the neo-noirs.

    It’s hard to say if film noir would still be as popular if it didn’t deal with inappropriate material for its time. I think maybe cinema would have delved even quicker into the content of noir films made today if the subjects had been allowed. There would have been more sex, drugs, and violence in the films if the Code was not in place. Who knows what neo-noir would be like if that had happened.

    Noir produces the paranoia, or tense, effect in audiences. This is because film noir is a series that is made up of genres like the melodrama/horror/comedy. It just has to have one scene, according to Belton, that produces the effect for a film to be considered noir. Like I said, I believe noir to be a style, so without the genres it would not get much of an emotional reaction. I think film noir style enhances the genre utilizing it and gives certain moods/effects to the audience.

  13. David Martin

    I think the reason noir films have lost their original luster is because filmmakers are no longer pushing the boundaries of what can be seen and heard on screen. When a filmmaker says they want to make a film in noir style, they’re usually referring to a 1940s, or 50s style noir film. Which means the taboo nature of the film is no longer taboo in our current society. I would like to see a filmmaker tackle a noir film and push the boundaries of what we’re allowed to see, much like they did in the 40s and 50s.

  14. Angelo Lima

    The Maltese Falcon and other films in the film noir category have always reminded me of a mysterious soap opera I am not sure why maybe because of the dramatic acting that is shown throughout these kind of films. Also, because of the all of a sudden score that makes the audience automatically think mystery from the score of the film presented.

  15. Angelo Lima

    The Brick was very unusual to me, first of all because I have never heard of the genre neo noir. I also noticed that Joseph Gordon Levitt was in this movie and this is when he was not very famous. It does seem strange now that he would have done this kind of movie when had not done these types of movies into his future career. This movie captured my attention more than The Maltese Falcon because of its deep meaning towards the characters feelings and emotions.

    1. Steven Colonero

      I remember when I first watch the film I thought the same thing. I also loved the change of scenery to a high school setting compared with the normal film noir. I thought the characters were interesting and complex but what I really loved was the grittiness of it all. The colors are so bleak and everything just seemed dirty. Something that I found to be a really interesting twist on the noir genre. But I enjoyed how they kept the typical story of a murder. I thought this film had a nice twist on it.

  16. Alex Wilson

    I believe that a Film Noir movie now would be successful, but maybe not as successful compared to the 30’s and 40’s. I think that the old films were pushing the boundaries and very edgy, dark, and exciting. Those things added more appeal to the film because it’s not what people were used to before that. With todays movies all of the mentioned things are common and may not add that “extra” appeal, but I have no doubt that the style itself would still be very successful.

  17. Savannah Steiner

    1. Would you say, based off of the “The Maltese Falcon” and “Brick” that Film Noir is a genre, series, or mode?

    Answer: Film Noir is definitely a mode that can be formed from various parts so long as the central mood, typical motifs, and series of events is reminiscent of Film Noir.

    2. Do you think Film Noir could exist without this ambiguity of itself and its characters?

    Answer: Film Noir would never exist without the ambiguity behind it because that ambiguity has allowed filmmakers over the years to adopt it to more modern settings, or stylize it in ways they seem fit. With Film Noir directors gain a project with freedom because Film Noir itself has more encompassing elements than other genres.

    3. Similarly, if the Production Code had allowed for more “taboo” subjects at the time of Film Noir’s height, would it be as popular of a genre if it’s themes weren’t considered risqué to watch?

    Answer: If Film Noir wasn’t deemed as risque I doubt it would’ve been as popular as it is today, because the very idea of watching something not meant for everybody’s eyes is very enticing. Such risque talk must’ve interested audiences more.

    4. As a mode, does Film Noir offer all the same potential reactions as comedy, horor, melodrama, etc.? Are these reactions only possible because Film Noir is actually just a series that utilizes different genres that already cause these reactions by themselves?

    Answer: Film Noir allows for different reactions, but it’s still limited like any other mode. Comedy can be featured in Film Noir, but it can’t be prevalent. Like any other mode there can be a limit to the variety of reactions.

    5. If a noir film was to be made today now that taboo subjects are seen in almost every movie (blatant sexuality, excessive use of drugs, full nudity, etc.) would it be as successful as the ones made in the 30′s and 40′s? Could it even be called Film Noir?

    Answer: I believe it can be successful and well done, but it has to be done in a style which attracts viewers. One of the more recently popular Film Noirs was Sin City, directed by Robert Rodriguez. He adapted Frank Miller’s Sin City graphic novels, which are throwbacks to film noirs of the 1940’s. The film could’ve easily been a “been there done that” affair, but Rodriguez incorporated a strong visual style and overlapping character arcs to add something new to the mode.

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