RARA-AVIS: Re: A Mathematical Answer to What Films are Noir

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 07 Aug 2007


Re your question below:

"So are you saying that dark and sinister is not possible in color?"

Not precisely. Obviously, most of what are sometimes called "neo-noir" films are in color. And, with the photographic technology now available, they are able to put across the same kind of chiarascuro effects that marked the black and white noirs from the
"classic" noir cycle (roughly late '30's/early '40's through late '50's/early '60's).

What I AM saying is that there IS a recognizable period during which the type of film that, in retrospect, came to be labeled as films noir were particularly prevalent. And during that time, color cinematography, no matter what the subject matter, tended to be bright, cheery, and without shadow. Hence films that might have been noir (and which were often excellent in any case) like the aforementioned HOUSE OF BAMBOO, 1969's MARLOWE, 1968's MADIGAN, 1968's THE DETECTIVE, 1972's FRENZY, 1967's GUNN, etc., tended to have a very bright look that mitigated against the imagery associated with noir. Maybe it was possible to make them look dark, but, whether it was a technological limitation, or a deliberate choice, artistic or commericial, they didn't have that
"look", that atmospheric visual effect, that's associated with film noir.

Later, when the classic crime films of the '40's and
'50's came to be labeled noir (and, remember, this was in retrospect), and directors set out to make film noirs (something the original filmmakers never did because they weren't even aware of the term), and cinematography had, evidently, advanced somewhat (or, as I said, maybe it hadn't; maybe the capability was always there, and just wasn't used), crime films, despite being in color, were able to achieve similar types of visual effects that gave those "neo-noirs" a dark, sinister feel. Examples, BLADE RUNNER, MANHUNTER, etc.

These films always seem a bit self-conscious to me, in a way that the "true" noirs don't, but that they have a dark, sinister look is undeniable.


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