RARA-AVIS: The Last Word

From: Rene Ribic ( rribic@optusnet.com.au)
Date: 24 Feb 2003

I hope Cap'n Bill & others annoyed by the recent Film Noir: Content vs Style debate will not be overly upset by my (I promise, really!) last word on the topic. I really don't believe the discussion was off-topic as in the good captain's own words, discussion of film noir is acceptable if it can be tied in to writing. As the argument basically raged around the question of whether film noir is a style defined completely (or nearly so) by visual criteria or whether it is defined by narrative concerns (i.e. writing) it would appear to me to be relevant.Somebody on this list (I don't recall if it was off-list or on-list, I thought it might be Al) asked me where they could find Nino Frank's article from 1946. The article, "A New Kind of Police Drama: The Criminal Adventure", along with "Crime Certainly Pays on the Screen"
(1945) by Lloyd Shearer and "Americans Also Make Noir Films" (1946) by
(somebody) Chartier are reprinted in Film Noir Reader II ed Silver & Ursini (Limelight Editions). The article by Shearer is the first one to deal with films noirs although it doesn't use the term. The two French pieces are the first to use the expression. All three articles talk about the films in question purely in terms of narrative. In fact, visual techniques barely get mentioned and, from memory, are not discussed in reference to any of the movies discussed. As Jim noted, I had indeed only listed five movies and not six in an earlier posting. Being a highly fallible being, I miscounted. It also turned out my info was slightly inaccurate - having read the article in question it turns out that Frank had only discussed four movies: The Maltese Falcon; Murder, My Sweet; Laura & Double Indemnity. But, don't take my word for it - if you're interested enough track down Film Noir Reader II, it's still in print, and see if anybody in these very early articles discusses these films in terms of visual stylistics.


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