I’ve been having an obsession with film noir lately.
Been watching a lot of films from the 40’s and 50’s.
I’m curious to hear what you guys think of good examples of contemporary noir.
Films that today follow the classic guidelines of this beautiful genre.
I guess Scorsesse has some noir in him.
‘After Hours’ and ‘Bringing out the Dead’ have some.
scorsese has nothing BUT noir in him! when you talk scorsese and neo-noir, you have to mention “good fellas” and “taxi driver”. “casino” too.
“chinatown” is a masterpiece of neo/retro-noir.
as far as neo-noir in general, my favorite is also my favorite film of all-time. “pulp fiction”.
Blade Runner and Sin City are two good examples.
Contemporary Noir? Pulp Fiction? Jeesh, it’s one of the most overrated films ever made- the empty, written-for-the-sake-of-it dialogue is just grating. “The Long Goodbye”, “Hammett”, “Mona Lisa” and “Radio On” are all good examples of contemporary Noir. For that matter, so is “Jackie Brown”- a mature film for a mature, adult audience and not plastered with supposedly “clever” takes on pop culture.
I loved “Pulp Fiction” and saw it many times, as I did “Reservoir Dogs” and “Kill Bill,” but in memory it settles in the gut a bit like “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which I also saw a bunch. Anthony Lane in the New Yorker was right, I think, to call it fast food with nothing to really nourish you. It’s great fun, sure, but it doesn’t leave you with a lot to think on, ponder, reflect. It’s riveting, it’s a joy ride, like the ride in “Death Proof.” and when it’s over you may want to do it again and again, but the returns diminish. The joy in it is sensual rather than intellectual or spiritual or emotional.
I liked Brick, but I think it would be more of an homage than genuine noir maybe. Or not. Whatever.
I was just going to mention Brick, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is slowly becoming one of my favorite young actors. This film is a great nod to classic noir. While it is definitely designed more as an homage it is still brilliantly done. Also try The Man Who Wasn’t There by the Coens.
I think that Mullholland drive fits the Neo-Noir description, it’s dark, moody, mysterious, and has the femme-fatale aspect covered.
let me set the record straight for you guys regarding “pulp fiction”, one of the few true masterworks of the last 20 years that will stand the test of time. yes, “pulp fiction” is timeless (literally and figuratively).
first of all, its almost impossible for a film that completely changed hollywood moviemaking forever to be considered overrated. just like many critics say there was cinema before “breathless”, and cinema after it. with regards to contemporary hollywood cinema, there’s the kind before “pulp fiction”, and the kind after it. its a historic shift.
“pulp fiction” leave you with plenty to think and ponder on, if you choose to. its intellectual in the sense that its creative and completely original. its a new idea of postmodern cinema. its spiritual because the whole film is about religion (and redemption). its emotional because the message that the film carries is one of hope. the film masquerades as a cynical work, but its incredibly optimistic, and even moral.
Insomnia (1997) is one of my favorite neo-noirs. Great atmosphere in that one.
Regarding Pulp Fiction, I think that the problem with it, at least that I have, is that it seems like all the praise Tarantino gets is based on the elements that were all homages to older films. The plot being shown out of order, for example, is one thing I always hear, but that had been done before, like in Kubrick’s The Killing. A lot of the elements in Tarantino films can be found in the old exploitation movies he loves. Pulp Fiction is a great movie, and it gives you a lot to think about. But I grate my ears when I have to hear about a lot of the “revolutionary” techniques employed that one could see years earlier. A lot of the praise it gets is for the wrong reasons—you see teenagers walking around in Pulp Fiction shirts and quoting lines from the movie because they love the luridness and violence of it. It makes it easy to call the movie overrated.
i’ll agree that people are misguided as to what needs to be understood and celebrated in “pulp fiction”.
There’s a new one coming out called Dark Streets that happens to also be a blues musical. I’m not sure if it’s true noir, but it’s definitely an homage.
I had a lot of the same discussions everyone had about “Pulp Fiction” after it came out as to what it all really meant, but I can’t get away from the fact that the main thing it has going for it more than anything, the main thing that draws people back over and over is that it’s just cool. It’s stylish. It’s fun to watch. It’s a very tricked-out pimp mobile, but that’s really all it is, I think. Religion and redemption are just devices that pumped some life into it and let Samuel Jackson do his Samuel Jackson thing. It’s far more style than substance, as is true of Tarantino’s career ever since. The characters don’t really mean that much. Compare it to a movie like “Taxi Driver” or “Raging Bull” — anyone who sees those movies will remember Travis Bickle and Jake LaMotta, even people who care little about movies. The characters are so well-crafted and so alive that they become permanent creatures in your head. All you remember about “Pulp Fiction” are cool scenes, funny lines, zippy direction, Winston Wolf and his coffee — which is not nothing. I just don’t think in the end it adds up to much.
Rodney…you say regarding Pulp Fiction: “it’s just cool. It’s stylish. It’s fun to watch. It’s a very tricked-out pimp mobile, but that’s really all it is, I think.” In my view, those are not bad things…and if that’s all Pulp Fiction is ever known for, that’s pretty darn good praise.
I agree, but it doesn’t make it great the way I usually think of a great film that gives you a lot to think about.
Well said Rodney, I definitely agree with you.
Bobby…aside from the merits of Pulp Fiction as a classic film…I’m curious why you deem it an example of neo-noir. I’m not a huge fan of PF, but be that as it may I’ve never considered it noir in any way.
Anyone like Memento as an example of contemporary noir?
and you say people will remember bickle and la motta. but i’d argue that samuel jackson as jules is already a more memorable icon of cinema than those two characters.
religion and redemption aren’t devices. they’re structuring motifs that are hugely important for understanding the movie, and giving it subtext. the non-linear narrative is a device (to a certain extent). winston and his coffee is a device.
as far as your other complaints, “its cool, its stylish, its fun to watch.” you’re subverting the point of your argument. most people would say those are virtues you’re mentioning, not faults. so a movie that’s fun to watch is automatically no good, or has no substance?? “taxi driver” is cool, stylish, and fun to watch too.
now we’re arguing preferences. but i gotta tell you. “pulp fiction” gives me way more to think about than “taxi driver” does. way more to discover too. but also, dont lose sight of the irony of arguing in favor of “taxi driver” at the expense of “pulp fiction”. there’s a direct lineage there.
Pulp Fiction is no more than a good fast-food meal you may of had in your life. Had the dialogue been written with some sense of emotional investment and engagement, then it would have been a masterpiece. I don’t buy most of these ideas that it’s redemptive or has some hidden meaning- this has come by the passing of time, where interpretations come and go, depending on the generation watching it. It’s not profound in any sense of the word and remains the least effective of the director’s works.
I’m not subverting my argument at all. I’m saying ALL the movie is, is fun. It’s entertainment, and as I said before, that’s not nothing. You could say it’s a high level of fun, a high level of entertainment, perhaps, but in the end it has precious little content.
What the movie really is about, more than anything, is storytelling, and it involves a kind of dare on the part of Tarantino and his co-writer Roger Avary. It’s a dare that says this: I’m going to take a series of connected stories, shuffle them, and then reveal them to you totally out of sequence. Do you think I can do it? Do you think you can keep up? Do you think you can tell where the story really begins and where it really ends? It’s a kind of chess game, the sort that Nabokov plays with his readers. The difference is that for Nabokov the structure was motivated by the story. In Pulp Fiction it isn’t. In Pulp Fiction structure basically precedes story, and it’s far more important than anything having to do with redemption, which let’s face it, is a silly idea to begin with, since at the end of the day Jules is a low life thug who is not going to pay for his sins at all. Travolta will, by accident, but so far as we know Jules will suffer nothing. Some redemption.
Part of the engagement with the audience, maybe the main part, is purely structural — and no question that is what makes it fun, along with the violence, the dialogue, the multiple homages to pop culture and other movies and, when you first see it (and only then) wondering where it will go next.
miller’s crossing, l.a. confidential, the grifters, blood simple, lost highway! scorsese, lynch and the coens are all heavily influenced by classic noir to get back to the topic ;)
“The Grifters” is a superb example.
Rodney’s right: There’s “Chinatown,” then everything else. I DO like John Dahl’s “The Last Seduction” and “Red Rock West,” though.
Point Blank, Get Carter, Klute, The Conversation….
I’d argue there’s no such thing, just movies that use conventions that were first popularly/stylishly employed during the original reign of film noir. Or maybe we should radically recategorize what film noir in 2008 is, update it for the times. I always thought that Assayas’ demonlover was a modern (or, in other words, post-modern) film noir, whereas something like Se7en or Memento were employing throwback iconography and conventions.
I’m going to put out “The Man who wasn’t there” by the coens. I love that film.
there’s such a thing as contemporary film noir. its just more normally called “neo-noir”.
classic film noir was a dark period in the history of hollywood cinema, and it wasn’t self-conscious (until the late period). it wasn’t a genre. since neo-noir appropriates its conventions, as you said, neo-noir has crystallized into a genre. people can now say they’re making a film noir the same way they can say they’re making a western.
skewer me if you feel the need, but I really enjoyed the Michael Mann movie COLLATERAL with Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. While I didn’t have great expectations, the two leads really created a great tension-filled relationship that just never let up. I don’t think Cruise has been better in many other movies than this one.
L.A. CONFIDENTIAL was pretty great too. Why is it that many of the best noirs are filmed or based in Los Angeles?
Maybe because it has that whole hard-boiled Raymond Chandler vibe going for it?
I agree on both those movies, especially about Cruise.