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

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 19 Feb 2003


"Leaving aside the fact that, given the subject of this list, "crime film" is implicit, in my very first post on this thread I said film noir was a ". . . crime film marked by particular visual stylistics." So I'm not adding anything."

Leaving aside that it may reasonably be assumed on this list or even that you may have previously stated it, being a crime film is a second condition, which means noir is not defined exclusively (as you repeated ad infinitum) by its visual style.

"The same script can be used for a film that is either noir or non-noir depending on the visual approach. In fact, I can give you an example. .
. ."

Just because it can be filmed as a noir or not does not mean that a crime plot is not a necessary condition for noir, it's just not sufficient. So even within your own testimony, noir sems to grow from the interplay of two conditions: plot and visual style.

"Self-consciousness manifests itself in the realization that there is such a thing AS film noir. . . . But the deliberate intention to make a film that reproduces the visual effects of another era that defined a particular style has the effect of making those visual flourishes seem less like an organic part of the work (as they were in the '40s, '50s, and early '60s), and more like mimicry. Which is another way self-consciousness manifests itself."

So let me get this straight, once a genre is defined, it no longer exists? Once its practitioners consider themselves as part of a tradition, that tradition is no more? Taking it back to literature: Pelecanos, Lehane, Parker, etc, are not writing hardboiled novels because they have read Hammett and Chandler? Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, you cannot write police procedurals, because you are aware of McBain? And historicals like Collins's, Ellroy's and yours are particularly suspect because they not only know the literary style, but are also striving to recreate settings of the masters?

Hallelujah! We no longer need to worry about definitions because there is no longer anything to define.

(By the way, in Chinatown and Generic Transformation, John G Cawelti names four types of generic transformation: humorous burlesque, evocation of nostalgia, demythologization of generic myth and the affirmation of myth as myth.)


ps -- for the record, The Man Who Wasn't Tehere is a B & W film.

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