Great news here. Astonishing retrospective at the Film Forum in NY: Brit Noir
August 7 – September 3
wow amazing. i’ve seen exactly none of these. which ones are most worth the admission price?
i have a friend whos been collecting british noir recently. he showed me a few. ive been unimpressed. the magic isnt there.
MOONMASTER 9000: I recommend the following…
THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT- Great shots of trucks pulling up at roadside diners in the wind and rain. Ernest Thesiger (Pretorius from BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN) as a serial killer is great fun.
NIGHT AND THE CITY- Jules Dassin, Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers, Francis L. Sullivan, Herbert Lom, Mike Mazurki, how can you go wrong?
IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY- Again, Googie Withers. May be her greatest performance in a film.
BRIGHTON ROCK- Exceedingly noir, Attenborough’s Pinky is a truly nasty piece of work. Great cinematography. Written by Graham Greene.
THE FALLEN IDOL- Not strictly as noir as the others, still an outstanding film. One of three films made by Carol Reed in the late Forties, the other two being ODD MAN OUT and THE THIRD MAN. Speaking of which…
THE THIRD MAN- One of the greatest noirs ever, and it should be said one of the greatest films ever. Orson Welles’ Harry Lime is one for the ages, and the rest of the cast is equally outstanding.
yeah. forget about “british” noir. if you dont know “night and the city” and “the third man”, you dont really know the basics of classic film noir. no offense. not trying to sound mean. just saying, do yourself a favor and start with some of the best of the best in general.
on that note, i dont consider these two films to be “british” noir. certainly not in a way some of these other films on the list are.
I’ve spent the last ten years watching as many noir and noir-related films as I can get my hands on. You can only watch so many classic American noirs so many times. Anyone with an interest in broadening their horizons when it comes to the subject owes it to themselves to gaze across the pond. Check out the French Poetic Realists, Carne, Duvivier, Renoir, Becker, etc. I find some of their classic films just as satisfying as if not more so than more than a few of America’s most-recognized classic noirs. Evidently someone at the Film Forum seems to think these films are worthy of our attention, otherwise why should they bother? The word “noir” is French, we have them to thank for the origin of the term, they were the first to discern and pinpoint the core sensibility of these films. And despite the fact that Borde and Chaumeton were focused on American films, they were no strangers to their own native product. Their groundbreaking work was published in 1955, a great many others have spent a great many hours pondering the subject since then, Ginette Vincendeau and Andrew Spicer are two prime examples. If you don’t know who they are then I suggest you do your homework. Anyone with a true love of cinema should pick and choose, but no one should “forget” about anything. Not unless they wish Alzheimer’s upon themselves. And God Bless Jean-Pierre Melville.
the best of classic film noir (which by default is american) are masterpieces, which means theyre endlessly repeatable and endlessly enjoyable.
yes, you’re right that one must diversify themselves.
the word noir is french, true, but why do we need to thank them for the origin of the term? wouldnt it make much more sense to actually thank the directors for the existence of the films? just because the french were the first to critically define the cycle of films doesnt mean they should be thanked for willing the films into existence somehow.
in any event, the subject was the british cycle of films noir.
ACT OF VIOLENCE (1949) Only recently discovered this early work from one of my favourites, F. Zinnemann. And a VERY young Janet Leigh thrown in for good measure. Must have watched it three times in two days. Superb.
For those with an interest and appreciation for film noir there are those American films that can be considered masterpieces, even for those filmgoers disinterested in what is specifically considered noir. However, I’ve never found any film endlessly repeatable or endlessly enjoyable. There’s just too much out there to be discovered to limit one’s self to the “classics”. Seems I detect a bit of self-centered chest-thumping re. that which is American. You should try to adopt a more global outlook in your appreciation of films. You may have initiated this thread, but you don’t own it.
a masterpiece that is endlessly repeatable and endlessly enjoyable doesnt infer that all other films should be ignored, or that only a “classic” fits into that category.
theres no chest-thumping here. its just a simple fact that theres a thing french critics called “film noir”, and that thing was an american cycle (or style, or movement, or genre, etc.). should we ignore that fact and say film noir was initiated in great britain, or china, or brasil? besides, a great deal of the best noirs were directed by europeans anyway. if i chest-thump for anything, its classic film noir itself, not a nationality.
ive always had a global outlook in my appreciation of films. and ive always tried to adopt more. thats why i dont live in america anymore.
youre right, i dont own the thread. i never said i did. sorry if i come across like that.
Guy – I hate to break it to you, but noir is an almost exclusively American genre. Aside from it’s links to German expressionism and some of the French noirs that came in the 50’s and later, noir is rooted firmly in the U.S.A. Any general discussion of noir that doesn’t focus most of it’s attention on American films is useless.
This isn’t to deny that the films and countries you’ve mentioned deserve attention. This is only to say that noir, as a true genre, belongs mostly to this side of the pond.
Would you guys consider To Have and Have Not a noir? It has some of the best chemistry between the male lead and female lead in any movie I have ever seen, what with Bogie and Bacall scorching up the the screen everytime they’re together.
I also love He Walked by Night one of the best underrated noirs with a great performance by Richard Baseheart and gloomy atmosphere.
ive never seen “to have or have not”. if you want to argue for it as a noir, please do tell us some of the elements that you think fit the bill.
“he walked by night” is a brilliant noir. and the ending chase, shootout, and death in a sewer prefigures the same conclusion in “the third man”.
and its got one of my favorite hard-boiled moments in all of noir:
policeman – “look sonny, ive got to see some sort of ID.”
baseheart – “well, how about my army discharge? i got it right here!”*BANG, BANG!!!*
I’m just catching up to this thread. A few films not mentioned so far (I think) are (in alphabetical order):
ALL THE KING’S MEN
THE ASPHALT JUNGLE
BEWARE MY LOVELY
BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT
BODY AND SOUL
BORN TO BE BAD
THE BROTHERS RICO
CITY ACROSS THE RIVER
CRY OF THE CITY
DOA (the original), a San Francisco treat
THE DARK CORNER
THE DARK MIRROR
THE DARK PAST (lots of “dark” titles)
A DOUBLE LIFE
THE FILE ON THELMA JORDAN
THE GLASS KEY
THE HARDER THEY FALL (script by the late Budd Schulberg)
THE HOUSE ON 92nd STREET
I, THE JURY
A KISS BEFORE DYING
KISS OF DEATH
KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS (lots of “kiss” movies)
LADY IN THE LAKE
M (Joseph Losey version, 1951)
MURDER MY SWEET
NIAGARA (a color “noir”?)
THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES
THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER
NIGHTMARE (one of my cult favorites)
PANIC IN THE STREETS
THE PHENIX CITY STORY
THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE
RANCHO NOTORIOUS (a color Western “noir”?)
SECRET BEHIND THE DOOR
SORRY, WRONG NUMBER
THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS
SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS
THIS GUN FOR HIRE
WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS
A WOMAN’S SECRET
If it means anything, I agree with those who say that VERTIGO is NOT a film noir, in part because it’s in color. Remember, the French coined the term from the American films they saw after the Occupation, all of which were in black and white. They were also referring to the cycle of “dark” novels of the 1930s. Of course, any individual can define the term as he or she sees fit.
Nor do I consider CITIZEN KANE a classic film noir, even though it features chiaroscuro lighting. A film should probably have 5-6 elements to be considered an authentic film noir.
It’s cynical in its own Hemingway-by-way-of-Faulkner-by-way-of-Hawks way, but To Have and Have Not is not noir.
Say that three times, fast.
whats a better reason for saying “vertigo” isnt noir? because “leave her to heaven”, “niagra”, and few others in color are considered classic film noir. “vertigo” is much more a classic film noir than many of the films you mentioned on your list.
just to play devils advocate, and to problematize the situation, “kane” has plenty of noir elements. chiaroscuro lighting, influence of german expressionism, non-linear narrative, downbeat conclusion, dark, fatalistic mood. i agree its not classic film noir, but rather a precursor, but the question is, where do we draw the line, if there are 5 or 6 elements that must be present to mark the classic film noir?
Noirs usually have overt violence, murders, stuff like that. Gun play. Except for the scene where Kane hits, or beats, Susan Alexander, Citizen Kane doesn’t really qualify as a noir in terms of the content. There have been a lot of horror films and dramas that prefigure the noir style in terms of lighting, etc., but that’s only half the equation, imo.
Irrespective of the fact that Vertigo was filmed in color, I wouldn’t consider it noir because the film is too bright. Much of it takes place during the day and the general atmosphere of the film is not brooding. Stewart is very good in the lead, but he is not prototypically tough or mysterious. Nor is he a bad guy.
Stewart is extremely sinister in much of Vertigo.
Internally he may be, but not externally. He doesn’t look the part of a noirish player. I think part of Stewart’s makeup in the film is Freudian psychology as opposed to inherent evil.
Idk, Francis — when he’s dressing and preparing the second Kim Novak, and then dragging her up the steps and throwing her from the belfry — I shudder.
Vertigo is a great film, but my favorite Hitchcock is Psycho, especially in the context of its time. Rear Window keeps getting better.
stewart is extremely sinister in the film. hes a classic ambivalent noir anti-hero.
as far as “vertigo” being too bright, thats in a superficial way. “vertigo” is one of the darkest, moodiest, elegaic films i know. besides, many noirs take place during long stretches of daytime. even though the night is noir’s unique playground, theres no way you can discount a film just for the reason that a lot of it occurs during the day.
I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective. I recently watched Murder, My Sweet. Certainly a film noir, but I was disappointed by the film. The acting was really subpar for me in comparison to some of the greats and the story didn’t grab me.
i’ll actually agree with you a bit. though its an extremely important film in the classic film noir cycle, historically and creatively, “murder my sweet” actually doesnt age well at all. not so much that, but its not a terribly interesting film to begin with.
it doesnt have the wit of “the big sleep”, the precision and clarity of “the maltese falcon”, or the pulpy, exciting, experimental nature of “kiss me deadly”.
though the film does have its share of iconic moments, none more important than the opening scene. marlowe sitting in the dark, drinking, talking to himself in hard-boiled style voice-over, the city lights blinking harshly in the distance through the window, and a mysterious guest entering the office to set our hero on his tortuous path. this is one of those defining moments in cinema whose originality is obscured by years and years of cliched copying and referencing. to see this scene is to witness the birth of something. like most miracles, with time and distance they seem less amazing.
Crossfire (1947) – directed by Edward Dmytryk. It’s got it all…a hate crime, a city, light and shadows, another murder, a very dark tone, Robert Ryan at his psychotic best and the icing on the cake…… an appearance by our favorite film noir “dame”, Gloria Graham of course.
thats a great film. classic noir in the heart of the period at its finest.
I thought Crossfire was a tad preachy, but I’ll be the first to say that’s my fault.
I just watched Ray’s In A Lonely Place for the second time. F*ck, I love it.
just watched “night of the hunter” for the first time, finally. i was left unimpressed. after hearing so many good opinions and praise of the film over the years, it was a letdown for me. the film was way too campy for my tastes. and it wasnt nearly as scary and tense as some have said. it was practically a comedy. and not even a black comedy. mitchum’s performance was over-the-top. cortez’s cinematography was beautiful, of course. but that was about it. id definitely have to call this film overrated, and i wouldnt put it anywhere near the upper echelon of noir.