RARA-AVIS: Re: Everything's Noir?

From: crimeflix ( jmks100@aol.com)
Date: 20 May 2007

I know you've discussed the noir definition extensively on the list, so I won't get it it again, but--and this is just my take on it--dark and sinister is way to vague for a description of noir fiction. In France, I think dark and sinister works, but outside of France I believe noir has evolved to become something more specific. And I don't think it's absurd at all that film noir is different from book noir. Film noir doesn't just take into account subject matter; it also refers to mood and look and atmosphere. In book noir, I think it's all about character. That's why in (in my opinion) the Maltese Falcon book is not noir, but the film is. In France, both are noir.

> Noir is just crime fiction that's dark and sinister.
> That's it. Now, I don't disagree with the general
> notion that it's applied way too widely nowadays, but
> that doesn't mean that the "true" definition is a
> particularly narrow one.
> And the idea that noir means something different in
> film than it does in prose fiction is absurd. The
> only reason film noir is called film noir is because
> it's a film that tells the same kind of story as a
> noir novel or short story.
> If "noir" means something different in film than it
> does in prose fiction, it's the only term in the
> entire mystery genre that means something different
> depending on the medium it's applied to. A police
> procedural novel and a police procedural film both
> depict the profession of law enforcement with
> authenticity and accuracy (or at least the pretense
> and appearance of authenticity and accuracy). A
> hard-boiled private eye novel and a hard-boiled
> private eye film both tell stories of tough,
> colloquial professional detectives who work for
> private clients. A tradtional "cozy" whodunit novel
> and an traditional "cozy whodunit movie both feature
> fairly presented clues, minimal violence, a
> comofortable, usually upper-class setting, and a
> villain whose identity is concealed until the final
> revelation at the end.
> But, in the face of all that, we're somehow supposed
> to conclude that "noir" means something different in
> prose than it does in film?
> THE BIG SLEEP was one of the first entries in
> Gallimard's Serie Noire line. Serie Noire, as has
> been pointed out several times before, was where the
> term "noir," as used to describe a particular type of
> crime fiction, was coined. "Film noir" was coined to
> describe a film that told the same kind of story that
> the novels published under the Serie Noire line told.
> Indeed, to describe movies that were often direct
> adaptations of books published under the Serie Noire
> line. If the film version of THE BIG SLEEP is noir,
> it's precisely BECAUSE it's a fairly faithful
> adaptation of a book that's noir.
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