Re: RARA-AVIS: The Conversation

From: William Ahearn (
Date: 04 Oct 2007

--- Terrill Lankford <> wrote:
> I suppose I should have been more specific yesterday
> in my complaint that "dead, in jail, or insane"
> seems too limited as a qualification for the
> protagonists' fate at the end of a story to qualify
> it as noir. I think there are probably as many noir
> stories (and certainly films) that end with the
> protagonist paying a severe price through the loss
> of a loved one or someone he hoped to protect or
> some other psychological price (far short of
> insanity) as there are stories that end with the
> aforementioned "big three."

Now that's an articulate argument and by argument I mean exchange of ideas and not anything hostile. If I seemed to snap at you, I apologize. There's been a lot of sniping and anger on this list and sometimes getting information across can be difficult.

Here's my dilemma. When Nino Frank and the other French critic mentioned "noir" in their 1946 articles, they were making an off-hand reference -- a gesture -- to a film form already in existence in France and other countries. It is that definition that I think defines noir. Yes, it is extremely narrow but so are many definitions, especially in film (Italian Neo-Realism comes to mind).

Many of the people who wrote about noir later just seemed to lump every black and white US crime film into the mix. That's why some people roll "The Asphalt Jungle," "The Blue Dahlia" and "A Lonely Place" as film noir but I, for the life of me, can't see the commonality. So -- if you're concerned with consistency -- please tell me where the consistency is in including these three films as noir.

 I basically agree with your post on
> THE CONVERSATION. I just wanted to point out that
> the "big three" don't always apply to the climax or
> a noir or neo-noir or post-noir or whatever hair
> needs to be split.
Well I think there is need for the idea of post-noir and it seems consistent and logical. As Antonioni and Fellini moved past their roots, so did the influence of noir and I don't mean in the mimicry of a style that appeared in very few true noir films. And maybe I'm a purist in that sense, but the big three were the basis of the original theory. Were there variants? Maybe but I can't think of one.

And again, I apologize if I went off. This list can do that to a person.


Essays and Ramblings

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