exactly is film noir? Is it a movement, a mode, a style, or a genre?
These questions have preoccupied film scholars for decades. According
to filmmaker Paul Schrader, noir began with The Maltese Falcon and ended with Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil.
He’d add that it was largely an American movement that applied certain
stylistic (high contrast lighting, voice over narration, non-linear
storytelling) and thematic (existentialism, the cruel mechanizations of
fate, amour fou) elements in genres ranging from melodramas to detective
films. Another film scholar might add that directors like Fritz Lang
and Billy Wilder never described their films as being “noir.” They
thought they were making thrillers. Film noir? That’s a term the French
critics applied retroactively.
video essay series takes the fairly provocative stance that film noir
became a genre. Essentially, in its golden age during the 1940s, noir
was a mode/movement that was superimposed onto other genres. In the
words of genre theorist Rick Altman, genres can start off as
“adjectives”–fragments of the style and theme might be there, but the
genre has yet to fully solidify because the filmmakers and audiences
haven’t quite gotten their heads around it yet. However, by the time
Robert Aldrich was making Kiss Me Deadly in
1955, the writings of the French critics had made it stateside (in
fact, there’s a picture of him reading Borde and Chaumeton’s Panorama du Film Noir on the set of Attack!),
and perhaps the filmmakers and audiences had finally begun to think of
noir as being a noun. When neo-noir flourished in the 1970s (thanks to
filmmakers like Schrader), the movement emerged–fully formed as a
genre–from its black-and-white cocoon.
write this trajectory into this introduction to the series because I
can imagine that some of my colleagues might have been troubled by a
video essay that calls film noir a genre. I am more than aware of the
history of this debate and it was covered in Part III on Pragmatics.
Part IV is a shift in gears and focuses the evolution of the genre,
guided by Thomas Schatz’s scholarship (so be sure to watch the
introduction one last time for the change in approach!). Finally, there
will be one final installment focusing more intensely on international
noir, so don’t think I’ve forgotten about that either. What I’m
attempting to do here is to craft the video essay equivalent of an
encyclopedia entry on film noir for the undergraduate student with a new
episode each month. If you’re already familiar with the films and the
key debates, you may not find much in the way of “new” knowledge here.
My main audience–at least in terms of an intellectual presentation–is
the uninitiated. I assume the pleasures of the more advanced fans and
scholars of noir will be found in the aesthetics of the pieces, although
maybe they’ll be surprised by a “new” recommendation (I love Key Lime Pie, a fantastic animated short by
Trevor Jimenez). In any case, I hope you enjoy the penultimate episode
of this ongoing series and I look forward to the debate it encourages.
A list of the films featured in this installment:
La Bete Humaine
This Gun For Hire
The Big Sleep
Out Of The Past
The Lady From Shanghai
In A Lonely Place
Ace In The Hole
Bob Le Flambeur
Shoot The Piano Player
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Dr. Drew Morton is an Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at Texas A&M University-Texarkana. He the co-editor and co-founder of[in]Transition:
Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies, the first
peer-reviewed academic journal focused on the visual essay and all of
its forms (co-presented by MediaCommons and Cinema Journal). [in]Transitionrecently
won an award of distinction in the annual SCMS Anne Friedberg
Innovative Scholarship competition. His publications have appeared inanimation: an interdisciplinary journal, The Black Maria, Flow, In Media Res, Mediascape, Press Play, RogerEbert.com, Senses of Cinema, Studies in Comics, and
a range of academic anthologies. He is currently completing a
manuscript on the overlap between American blockbuster cinema and comic
Film Noir: The Maltese falcon Essay
966 Words4 Pages
Film Noir was extremely trendy during the 1940’s. People were captivated by the way it expresses a mood of disillusionment and indistinctness between good and evil. Film Noir have key elements; crime, mystery, an anti-hero, femme fatale, and chiaroscuro lighting and camera angles. The Maltese Falcon is an example of film noir because of the usage of camera angles, lighting and ominous settings, as well as sinister characters as Samuel Spade, the anti-hero on a quest for meaning, who encounters the death of his partner but does not show any signs of remorse but instead for his greed for riches.
All throughout The Maltese Falcon the camera angles change with the character. Camera angles and lighting affected the mood of the scene; scenes in…show more content…
There were only a few inhabitants on the sidewalks at one point in time; creating a deserted and mystifying scene; when characters walked on the rain-slicked ground, their footsteps could be hear echoing through the vacant city. When the characters were not outside they were in shabby and dimly lit apartments and hotel rooms. Spade spent the majority of his time in hotel rooms and apartments gathering his information about the Maltese Falcon, by visiting the people who knew anything about the falcon. The eerie settings added to the mystery of where the falcon could be.
The Maltese Falcon contained many different types of characters. Spade was a protagonist. While on the other hand Kasper Gutman, Joel Cairo, and Wilmer were antagonists and Brigid O’Shaughnessy was a femme fatale. Each of the characters portrays characteristics of Film Noir.
Spade is known as an anti-hero, “a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose.” (dictionary.com) Spade plays by his own rules and is tough and a bit radical, he doesn't seem to be upset that his partner is dead. But instead tells his secretary to remove his name from the window and put Samuel Spade, instead of Spade and Archer. A hero would not do remove the name because brings suspicion