Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Super Heroes, Comics, and Noir

Date: 25 Jul 2008

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    Jim wrote:

    "I hope you realized that my tongue was at least partly in my cheek, when I said that being in color and being made after 1964 automatically disqualified THE DARK KNIGHT."

    As was mine in my snotty reply.

    "That said, I do recognize a real difference between what strikes me as
    "real" film noir, B&W crime films made roughly from the '40's through the early '60's that shared certain visual elements, and the more self-conscious "neo-noirs" that started to appear in the '80's and
    '90's. . . . some filmmakers set out deliberately to make film noirs
    (something that none of the filmmakers during the classic noir cycle ever set out to do)."

    I'll grant you that they did not set out to make film noir, as that term had not yet been invented, or at least hadn't yet been imported to the states. However, do you really think they were completely oblivious to the tradition they were collectively developing? Just as Chandler was very aware he was following Hammett (and it's hard to believe Hammett himself didn't see himself as splitting off from the established mystery model of his day, even while keeping certain conventions) by writing a particular type of crime novel, don't you think many of those working on this particular type of dark and sinister, mostly urban crime movies had some awareness at least of similar movies that had come before, if just by emulating aspects of successful films while chasing similar success? Didn't certain writers and directors choose to work on or were assigned to certain types of films to capitalize on earlier sucesses? Weren't hardboiled writers hired by Hollywood to bring their worlds to the screen? Didn't certain actors become recognized as better at certain types of roles and repeat them? Whether or not there was an agreed upon label, that all implies a certain growing self-consciousness about what they were doing. I find it hard to believe Orson Welles wasn't aware of and addressing certain cinematic tropes in Touch of Evil, for instance.

    I will grant you that that is nowhere near the self-consciousness of many of the neo-noirs. However, that does not mean I at all accept your implication that all recent crime films are recreating crime films, not just telling crime stories. For example, while Tarantino, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Brick, etc, support your argument that they are (brilliantly, in my mind) commenting on crime fiction, literary and cinematic, there are plenty of recent crime films that just tell good, noir crime stories, like Unknown or Eastern Promises.

    "By contrast, there was no comparable interruption in the production of noir fiction in prose, and, until fairly recently, no self-conscious attempts to deliberately write noir novels or short stories."

    Interruption or not (and it's not hard to argue that spy fiction's Cold War popularity resulted in an interruption of at least PI fiction), self-consciousness is nothing new in at least hardboiled fiction, if not noir. I would argue that Howard Browne (as John Evans), Richard Prather, Bellem, Michael Avallone, etc, were very self-conscious in their treatment of the PI. And today, I'd say the self-conscious co-exists with simply telling a story, sometimes in the same author, like Ken Bruen, whose POV can vary widely from series to series to standalones.


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