Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Nihilism and Willeford

From: James Michael Rogers (
Date: 15 Sep 2009

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    We've been through this before, and not that long ago, but I'm going to call Jim D. factually correct in that "Roman Noir" and "Seire Noir" were precedent to the term "Film Noir".


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Patrick King
      Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 07:59
      Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Nihilism and Willeford

        Look at the wide array of novels published under the Serie Noire line. Look at the vast array of films designated as noir. Are the editors (who, after all, COINED the term) using it incorrectly? Are the huge number of people using the word noir in that sense somehow outside of the mainstream?


      Actually it was French film analysts who coined the term in the mid 1940s, referring to specific type of American "B" movie that followed the exploits of an anti-hero, instead of a hero, through his demise. These films were heavily influenced by the German film maker, Fritz Lang, especially his film M starring Peter Lorre.

      In 1934, James M. Cain published THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and pretty much started the branch of literature which has been tagged, after the movies that were often based on it, noir. The literary term noir is of much more modern usage than "film noir" which has been around since about 1945. And, yes, modern critics mostly, themselves, under 45, who bandy about the term "noir" as though all films in black & white and any mystery story are, a priori, noir, are using the term incorrectly. The term is quickly coming to have NO meaning, and consequently the art form it represents is becoming confused in the mainstream.

      This has happened before. Time Magazine, previously mentioned as an authority in this context, continually in the 1960s mandated that Bob Dylan was a "folk singer." A folk singer is one who sings folk songs, i.e. songs of undetermined origin passed by word of mouth through families and communities. Dylan became famous for singing songs he had written himself, sometimes 20 minutes before he performed them. He also sang songs by Woody Guthrie and Guthrie's contemporaries, songs no more than 20 years old when Dylan recorded them, their origins clearly delineated. Very seldom did Dylan ever, in those early days, sing folk songs. Nonetheless, Time Magazine insisted he was a folk singer. He played an acoustic guitar, you see, and that makes one a folk singer.

      With the same high-handed mentality, any gloomy mystery is magically "noir." Sorry, I refuse to jump on the band wagon. Noir has a real artistic definition.

      Patrick King


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