Re: RARA-AVIS: Hardboiled and Noir

Date: 14 Dec 2003


Re your response to my comment below:

> > Miker, for crying out loud, listen to yourself!
> The
> > same story, maintaining the same atmosphere of
> gloom
> > and evil and darkness, telling about the same
> > character, moving through the same events, in
> > virtually the same way and the same order, is noir
> in
> > one medium but not in the other?
> ***********************************
> An excellent example of this would be THE MALTESE
> FALCON. I'm not an
> expert on any kind of noir, and in film noir I am on
> very shaky grounds, but
> I
> believe that it's considered a noir film, isn't it?
> I have also heard it
> said that
> nothing Hammett wrote was noir, that his characters
> were simply too tough
> to be noir.

That presupposes that tough and noir are mutually exclusive, and my whole point has been that they're not. Again I return to Hammer in ONE LONELY NIGHT, tough as they come and noir as they come. Hammett not noir? Read the temple sequence in THE DAIN CURSE, or the moody chase through the underground tunnels of SF's Chinatown in"Dead Yellow Women."

> I think the implication was that his
> writing lacked the sweat,
> fear,
> and desperation that the dark and sinister
> atmosphere is supposed to gen-
> erate.

And again, this presupposes that someone who's tough and capable never gets fearful in a desperate situation, and that's simply not true, whether in fiction or in real life. Check out the tough NYPD detectives in Cornell Woolrich's many cop stories. Check out the Op believing he's slugging it out with a ghost in THE DAIN CURSE. And check out the comments of almost any decorated cop, soldier, firefighter, etc. Brave people aren't brave because they feel no fear; they're brave because they do courageous acts in SPITE of their fear.
> And yes, I am suggesting (as I sink into quicksand)
> that noir in film is not
> the equivalent to written noir. I see film noir as
> a style, and written
> noir as
> an extension of the pessimistic determinism of the
> American Naturalists.

Noir is a dark and sinister atmosphere, conveyed by visual imagery in film and by the author's use of language in prose. It doesn't change meanings when it changes mediums.

The phrase that properly describes the pessimistic determinism of American Naturalists isn't "noir," it's
"The Pressimistic Determinism of American Naturalists."


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