RARA-AVIS: Re: The Dark Night. No, the Noir Knight. No, the Black Knight. Oh, g

From: jimdohertyjr (jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 28 Jul 2008

  • Next message: Patrick King: "Re: RARA-AVIS: About that noir/ not noir script"


    Re your comments below"

    > Hey Jim, for a second there I thought you had me sitting handcuffed
    > a police interrogation room. I certainly wasn't going to respond to
    > anything starting with "How the hell...", as I wouldn't expect you
    > anyone else to either. But given this, I'll explain my take on "Sin
    > City" as hardboiled pulp with noir archetypes.
    > Too me the stories in Sin City were pure hardboiled pulp but were
    > populated with exaggerated prototypes or ideas of characters
    > found in a noir work. Marv, the framed and double-crossed criminal
    > fighting for his life, Hartigan, betrayed by his fellow cops, and
    > willing to sacrifice his life for the beautiful girl. Maybe if these
    > characters weren't so exaggeratedly drawn I might've looked at these
    > stories as noir, but as it was these characters were more what I'd
    > consider archetypes from a noir universe. Hope that's clear.

    Not really.

    What it sounds like you're saying is that "noir" is something that has to be strived for. If it doesn't reach a certan level of quality, sophistication, and subtlety, it doesn't get to enter the club.

    If it's just a cliched rehash of familiar elements, it falls short of being noir.

    That sounds rather like saying that SILVERADO, for example, falls short of being an actual western because it's merely an affectionate rehash of elements from western fiction with which we're all familiar. Or that THE BIG RED ONE, with its tough professional non- com, its callow young man who grows up in the crucible of combat, and its multi-ethnic squad of soldiers from all over America, somehow falls short of being an actual war story because it simply rehashes the elements of dozens of examples of military fiction.

    Leaving aside the fact that I disagree with the notion that simply being noir is some arbiter of quality, it seems to lead discussions of the books and movies that come up here down a familiar garden path.

    One correspondent says, "Saw/read a hard-boiled/noir movie/book the other day. Let me tell you about it."

    Next one says, "Saw/read it; didn't like it; therefore it's not hard- boiled/noir."

    Another guy (very often me, but less often than was once the case) says, "Why does your dislike of it render it, perforce, non-noir/non- hard-boiled."

    And suddenly we're off on the same "What is noir/hard-boiled?" discussion. Meanwhile, the actual book/film, which might have been the subject of an interesting discussion, is left in the lurch.

    Dick Lochte's recent post on the script THE DARK KNIGHT points this up admirably. With all the talk about whether or not it's noir, we've lost site of whether or not it's any good.

    I haven't seen it yet (though I have seen BATMAN - GOTHAM KNIGHT, the animated sequel to BATMAN BEGINS, set just before THE DARK KNIGHT, and liked a lot) so I can't comment on whether or not I agree with Dick's take, but it strikes me that he offers a more fruitful vein to mine for discussion.

    Instead we continually get:

    "Spillane isn't really hard-boiled because he's too cartoonish." Spillane not hard-boiled? Come on! If you don't like him you don't like him, but if he's not hard-boiled, water isn't wet.

    "Chandler isn't colloquial." Oh, please! The man compiled his own glossary of American slang precisely because he was so impressed with its capacity for vivid expression.

    "THE DARK KNIGHT/SIN CITY/SE7EN/etc. etc. etc. isn't really noir because the hero isn't screwed/the hero isn't damned'/ the movie's in color/ etc. etc. etc." Really, noir isn't all that narrow, and was never meant to be when Gallimard coined the term.

    I don't think James Bond, to use one famous example, is truly hard- boiled, but that's a judgement call, and others whose opionions I respect disagree with that judgment. If someone wants to talk about, say, Sebastian Faulks's new Bond pastiche, DEVIL MAY CARE, discuss how it compares with original Fleming, or with the work of other "continuers" of the saga like John Gardner or Raymond Benson, or talk about the new Bond movie, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, and whether or not it's a worthy successor to CASINO ROYALE. how David Craig compares to Connery, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, etc., I'm not going to jump on them over Bond's not fitting the definition of hard-boiled in my estimation. I'll read what they have to say about the book, or the movie. If and when I get around to reading it, or seeing it, I might offer some opinions of my own.

    Why can't we just assume that, if a piece of work comes up for discussion here, whoever brought it up must think it's hard-boiled or noir, and talk about the work itself rather than whether or not it should even be discussed in these hallowed halls.

    Discussing the actual works is, I think, what this list should be about.


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