Archives for category: Noir September

mulholland_drive_movie-207802

My original intention last month was to chronicle the films I screened as I went—and as usual, that fell victim to other things. But there was another consideration. The further I went into the month, the more I realized that film noir is less about any single film and more about a series of themes and tropes. That it might be preferable to consider the power behind the form, why it matters now, even if the medium is rooted in a series of outmoded archetypes.

The last film I saw last month, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001), frankly, gave me very little choice, such as it is not only a distillation of noir elements but also a comment and ultimately, a deconstruction of them. The film at once reminds us that such elements are eternal while at the same time rendering them as archaic and formulaic as the Betty-and-Veronica duality that sits at the heart of the story. In that regard, it might be regarded as the eulogy for the form, as Lynch seems to be telling us that its basic tenets—the detective story, the femme fatale, the underbelly of Los Angeles, the shadowy menace—are best viewed as totems now rather than actual storytelling devices, that they have been internalized by the audience to such an extent that any idea of playing it straight is futile.

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Detour-1945-Tom-Neal1

September is the month when summer fades—and the night begins again to take hold. So what better time to screen some classic—and less than classic—examples of film noir?

Until then I had done things my way, but from then on something stepped in and shunted me off to a different destination than the one I’d picked for myself.—Al Roberts, Detour

If anything defines a noir sensibility, it’s the notion that at some point, you lose control over your fate—if indeed you ever had it. And typically, it’s an outside force—a woman, a bad deal, an unlucky break, a stranger, that sends the protagonist spinning down to his doom.

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