RARA-AVIS: Re: Types of noir (was Re: Pop. 1280)

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 01 Aug 2007


Re your comments below:

"I've mentioned this before but noir is a style of presenting a crime story on film. You seem to be overlooking this very important aspect of noir. Certainly crime is committed in the movie Casablanca and it has all the stylistic elements and story elements of noir, but it is a story of international intrigue and espionage, not a crime story."

Noir is not just a style of presenting a crime story on film. It is a style of presenting a crime story in any medium. The term, as I've mentioned several times before, derived from the French mystery line SERIE NOIRE. The term "film noir" was meant to evoke the publishing line precisely because the films referred to were telling the same kind of stories that the books published under that line were. Indeed, many of the films were based on novels published by SERIE NOIRE.

As for CASABLANCA, the fact that it is "a story of international intrigue" doesn't make it something oter than a crime story, and therefore doesn't exclude it from the label "noir." International intrigue and espionage have been considered a sub-genre of crime ever since Poe wrote "The Purloined Letter."

Films such as THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET, BERLIN EXPRESS, CLOAK AND DAGGER, I WAS A COMMUNIST FOR THE F.B.I., and DARK CITY are all stories of international intrigue and espionage, and all are commonly regarded as films noir.

I might add, to keep this on books, that novels such as Adam Hall's THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM, Ken Follett's THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE, William Hallahan's CATCH ME - KILL ME, and Warren Kiefer's THE LINGALA CODE, stories of international intrigue and espionage all, have all been awarded the MWA Edgar for Best Mystery Novel. PASSAGE OF ARMS by Eric Ambler, NIGHT OF WENCESLAS by Lionel Davidson, THE DEFECTION OF A.J. LEWINTER by Robert Littell, and OTHER PATHS TO GLORY by Anthony Price, hav all won the CWA Golden Dagger for Best Crime Novel. John Le Carre's THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD is one of only two novels that has won both awards for Best Novel. Certainly the fact that all of those books were novels of international intrigue and espionage didn't keep the two most prominent organizations of mystery writers from considering them as crime or mystery novels for the purposes of considering them for awards.

Why should it keep us from considering whether or not a given piece of fiction, whether on film or in prose, qualifies as noir?


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