Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I'm not prepared for an official post for the For the Love of Film (Noir) Blogathon and Fundraiser, hosted by Ferdy on Film and Self-Styled Siren, but it does have me thinking. Film noir one of my favorite genres... or subgenres or eras or moods or whatever you think it is... and yet I always feel inadequate to the task of writing about it.
"Film Noir is not a genre..." by Greg Ferrara explores some ideas of what film noir is by analyzing the seminal essay Notes on Film Noir by Paul Schrader.
Film noir always seems a bit tough to put one's finger one. It tends to be one of those "know it when you see it" things, but then, like most such things, not all eyes agree.
Two terms seem to come up time and again, though, "Post-war" and "cynicism", often as not in conjunction with one another. The question is whether people really grasp what Post-war cynicism is the most important, though.
I got a copy of The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics for Valentine's Day - because I have the best Valentine ever! - and I've been reading it on the bus to and from work. Among other things, I've been reading Agent X-9 by Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond, which helped fuel my thinking.
Generally, people using that term seem to mean World War II or to think they do.
While film noir can be tied to any of a number of influences, the two most basic building blocks are clearly Hardboiled literature and German Expressionism. In fact, it would be impossible, no matter what other influences one ignored, to adapt a Hardboiled story in the style of German Expressionism without creating something that everyone would understand as film noir.
So it seems certain that the most important war that film noir grows from remains World War I.
It's arguable that the post-WWII period even brought about the end of film noir, which had slowed significantly in its growth as a genre by 1949. I'm not sure how that understanding informs my reading of film noir, but it's interesting to consider.