Re: RARA-AVIS: Re:How to write noir

Date: 04 Mar 2009

  • Next message: jacquesdebierue: "RARA-AVIS: Re: Best noir novel (was Red Right Hand)"

    I've a friend, Roy Carless, who recently died. He is a labour editorial cartoonist and he created a wonderful single-panel noir cartoon back in the '70s (which remains applicable today) that depicts the role and value of hope in human affairs. In the background is a man kneeling in his kitchen, with his head in the oven. In the foreground livingroom his wife sits surrounded by unpaid bills and newspaper headlines about tax increases. She says "And if you think the budget is bad news, today they cut off the gas."

    If there's hope in noir it is because that's what people do, especially when things go wrong. What we usually hope for is some form of escape or reprieve. In noir, hope is folly and not fulfilled.

    Unless it is satire, like Pop.1280.

    Best, Kerry

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Steve Lewis
      Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2009 2:50 PM
      Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re:How to write noir

      Jack Bludis said
      The person writing it must feel it: a sense of the lead character's present
      situation being all screwed up, the belief--even the subconscious belief on
      the part of the lead character--that no matter what he or she does, things
      will get worse and worse and worse. And that every effort to get out of the
      situation will only make it worse than it was before.

      In the general plot of other novels and stories, things get worse and worse
      until at the end it seems impossible to escape or succeed, but the lead
      does escape, succeed, or reach an otherwise satisfying ending ... with some
      hope out there.

      In the noir story or novel, there is no salvation, no light at the end of
      the tunnel, no success possible, If there is, it isn't noir.

      That's not how you do it, but that's how the best noir writers have done
      it. There ain't no noir template.


      We've been discussing this on my blog. See .

      I think what we've been saying there, as a general consensus thus far, is
      that Noir is far more subtle than "no salvation, no light at the the end of
      the tunnel."

      There ARE happy endings in almost every Noir film made in the 40s and 50s
      you can think of.

      The kicker? The sense that the happiness is only fleeting and illusionary
      and can easily slip away. You think you've beaten fate, but is it only a
      Pyrrhic victory?

      Hope springs eternal. But a question that lingers in the mind of viewers
      of Noir films, though, is: Will it last?

      Could this, and worse, happen to me? And if it does, will I be as lucky
      next time?

      It's the general dark brooding atmosphere that makes Noir what it is, isn't
      it? But the feeling that the walls of life closing in don't need to be
      there all the time. There can be bits of screwball comedy in Noir films --
      as well as happy endings -- and they can still be Noir.

      The sense of doom and the bad karma of fate can be pushed off to the side
      for a while, even long enough for the protagonists to give each other a big
      hug and a kiss at the end, but as soon as the closing credits have played,
      the feeling that the world is not always on your side begins to ease its
      way back in.

      THE BIG CLOCK (the 1948 version) is a good example of a Noir film with
      elements of Screwball Comedy in it. See my review at , along with the comments posted so far.

      A happy ending, lots of comedy business going on, and it's still Noir.



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