Re: RARA-AVIS: Chandler's "Noir Feel" for LA (was Denise Hamilton)

Date: 14 May 2004


Re your commments below:

> But I'd agree with you that noir and hardboil,
> though often appearing in
> tandem, are not the same thing. The protagonists'
> approach and behaviour
> may fit a story into the category of hardboil, but
> those same
> characteristics may be compared and/or contrasted
> with the moral atmosphere
> in which the protagonist operates. Spade and Marlowe
> may have something of
> the romantic optimist about them, but they still do
> battle with the forces
> of evil.

Battling, and even winning out over, the forces of evil, does not render a crime story either noir or hard-boiled. Poirot does as much, but he's neither hard-boiled nor noir.
> That alone does not make the story noir, however.
> 101 Dalmations is a crime
> story (dognapping, if not a crime, surely ought to
> be) . . .

It's a felony in California. See Wambaugh's THE BLACK MARBLE.

> . . . with ample dark and
> sinister atmospherics and it may even fit our
> time-lines, but it is not
> noir.

Of course not. It's in color. Though you have a point. It does come close.

> Disney assures us that in the end, good
> triumphs over evil. The dark
> and sinister forces have, for the time being at
> least, been held at bay.
> But Marlowe's world-weariness, and Spade's laugh at
> the end of their
> adventures suggest that, though their cases may be
> solved, the moral
> challenge continues unabated. This is even
> foreshadowed by tragic flaws
> within the protagonists' own personalities. I
> believe it is this outcome
> that ultimately makes the Chandler/Hammett stories
> fit the category of
> noir, though Hammett more definitively than Chandler
> ("down these mean
> streets a man must go who is not himself mean" -
> Spade is definitely a meanie.)

Th Op isn't. Some might say that what makes a story noir is that it exists in a world where order and justice aren't part of the natural landscape, and what makes it hard-boiled is the hero who is determined to impose order and justice.

I wouldn't, of course. But I would say that a world
(depicted with words in prose or with images in film) in which disorder and injustice reign would probably be dark and sinister, and a tough, colloquial hero who was able to impose justice and order on such a world
(however temporarily), would probably be hard-boiled.


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