RE: RARA-AVIS: Re: RARA-AVIS Digest V5 #33 - Noir

From: Robison Michael R CNIN (
Date: 13 Feb 2003

Marianne Macdonald wrote:

....Noir seems to me to be neither character- nor plot-dependent, but a matter of the setting. It's the shadow moving beyond the campfire light, the darkness down the back alley, in the unlit doorway (Third Man, right?), between the street lights, OR in the woods. Or for that matter in the unconscious mind, the dark mind of the Other, the killer.... Death's home, really or symbolically.
********* I think that you have pointed out a difference between film and fiction noir. Film noir is heavily into style. Turn on the smoke machines and turn off the lights that don't cast dramatic shadow and, like you said, you don't even need characters or a plot. But noir fiction is different. It's all about atmosphere, and this atmosphere is very dependent upon the characters. There's gotta be that heady blend of sweat, fear, and desperation.

Take Williams's DEAD CALM. I don't think that anybody would argue that the book is juicy noir. But what about the movie? The movie content is dark and wicked, and I would personally call it noir because of this. But I think that a lot of people would hesitate to call the movie noir simply because it's missing a lot of the classic noir props. It would get the "thriller" tag instead.

Thanks to everyone who posted.


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