Noir Short Film Reflection

In our noir short film we explored many aspects of film noir, in both writings and visual style, in an attempt to make a video that portrayed these elements as we have seen them used before. As a genre we did not add anything new but rather put together multiple themes and styles we had seen in other noirs. We might have had too many themes going at one time to really understand what was happening in the story. The main difficulty of the film was how short it was. The theme of corruption and of the femme fatale work best when seen from the beginning and continued throughout a story. It might have been ambitious of us to try to get that into one short film. The main difficulty with making noir is the fact that there is such a debate around what “film noir” is: a genre or a style? We seem to have mainly focused on the style instead of the genre. Because of this, we compiled a lot of different elements of noir when writing, producing, and editing this short film. In this way, there was not a lot of room to make something very unique.

The main element of noir that I saw the use of was voiceovers and flashbacks, which were possibly our strongest and closest connect to noir. Starting the story at one point and jumping back in time is a very noir element and I started to see the difficulties in writing that type of story but also how beneficial it is to capture the tone of a film noir. Breaking up a narrative added suspense and was enough foreshadowing to keep the story interesting. In the article “Noir Narration,” J.P. Telotte writes that “the voice-over, usually introducing and accompanying a flashback to some prior action or event, is often seen as the most characteristic noir narrative strategy” (14). The reason that voiceover and flashback is such an essential part of noir is because one theme is this obsession with the past. Our use of voiceover and flashback was a direct reference to how often we saw this used throughout the films we saw this semester. We used it in such a way that we have seen before but not necessarily as a way of showing the obsession with the past. Our use of voiceover was more just an issue of explaining and setting up our story.

Our lighting in Brian’s apartment scene fit in with the film noir. In the article “Some Visual Motifs of Film Noir,” Janey Place and Lowell Peterson define “the key light” as “the primary source of illumination, directed on the character usually from high and to one side of the camera” and “is generally a hard direct light that produces sharply defined shadows” (66). This is the kind of lighting that we used on Brian when he is sitting on his couch, with the voiceover informing the audience of what he is thinking about. This part of the short film fits well with the dark style we have come to see as essential to film noir.

Overall our short film was a good indicator of what we have learned about noir. Creating the story and film allowed us to look more closely at these elements and figure out ways to make them align and make sense in order to tell a story.

Pulp Fiction, A Neo-Noir: Blog Post 5

In the article “Comments on the Classic Film Noir and the Neo-Noir,” Andrew Dickos breaks down the elements of neo-noir films as opposing or reflecting the classic film noir. These neo-noirs are “taking into account the cultural and political changes… as well as its aesthetic modifications” to better fit a modern audience (235). According to Dickos, film noir and neo-noirs both seek “to communicate visually and verbally the inchoate, the helpless, the terror-stricken, just as they need to confess, lie, and reveal” (238). These elements of the neo-noir can be seen in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction in 1994, about fifty years after the unofficial end of the film noir. Most notably in its difference from classic noir, Pulp Fiction, along with other neo-noir films, is “generally more violent” than the film noirs. While most film noirs have guns and the victim or the villain are shot in the end, the violence either takes place off camera or the wound and amount of blood are subtle. In Pulp Fiction, there are several bloody, violent moments. After taking Vincent’s drugs, Mia Wallace overdoses and there is an entire scene that shows her passed out with blood oozing out of her nose and foaming from the mouth until they get to Vincent’s drug dealer, Lance’s, house where Vincent violently gives her an adrenaline shot through the heart (54 minutes – 1 hour). Another show of violence is in the scene where Vincent accidentally shoots Marvin in the back of Marcellus’s car (1 hour 56 minutes). There is blood everywhere, all over Vincent and Marcellus as well as the car. The partners then have to enlist the help of Winston Wolf to help them clean up the mess. The characters describe having to pick up brain matter and bits of skull. A character overdosing or having his brain’s blown out would not happen in a film noir, and if it did, it would not have been so violently done. The film shows many close up shots of Mia, bloody and unconscious, and Vincent and Marcellus stay in their bloody suits for a long time. The deaths in film noirs are always cleaner in a way than in neo-noirs, as Dickos points out, where the film takes “glories in the aesthetics of violence” (240). The more explicit use of violence is just one way neo-noirs reflect the time they were made, as these types of violent scenes are allowed in modern movies but would not have been in the 1940s or 50s, while still using the themes of film noir.

Production Workshop: Development

I think it would be interesting to look into the noir element of hopelessness. In Layer Cake, the protagonist does everything in his power to get himself out of the drug business and just when he thinks he has cut himself loose from that world, he is shot. Similarly in The Asphalt Jungle, Dix only wants to get out of the city and back to Kentucky but as soon as he gets there, he dies. The ending of Touch of Evil has a similar feel when Tanya says that Hank was “some kind of man… What does it matter what you say about people?” and earlier when she tells him his “future’s all used up.”

The hopelessness of the night shows the dark reality of crime and corruption.

Touch of Evil: Blog Post 3

Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil uses many of the lighting and camera angles that Place and Peterson point out in the article “Some Visual Motifs of Film Noir.” At the beginning of the film, Susie and Vargas are standing in front of the burning car and we can see the fire behind them but the faces are shadowed (4 minutes 58 seconds). The fire makes a sort of back light onto the actors “which has the effect of giving [the actors] form by differentiating [them] from the background” (66). Many shots in this movie have the characters at different places around the shot but everyone is in focus, such as when Vargas is on the phone in the store and we can see Joe Grandi and Pete in the street (42 minutes 15 seconds). As we saw in Citizen Kane, this allows the audience to focus anywhere on the screen seeing multiple parts of the story at once. When Susie walks out of her first encounter with the Grandi family, some of the boys are hidden by the shadows but appear when an unknown light from across the street lights up (13 minutes). Similarly when Joe Grandi and Hank are in the room with Susie, when Hank murders Grandi to blame it on Susie he turns off the light and the entire room is completely dark except when there are flashes from some light coming from the outside (1 hour 20 minutes). The audience and the characters both have a limited view of what is happening, making the scene disoriented and unsettling. It is also interesting to see how angles effect character development. Whenever we see Hank, it is always from an angle looking up to him, making him seem domineering and powerful (7 minutes 52 seconds). The one time we see Hank looking down at him is when he has his first drink, when he starts to loose his stability and power (58 minutes 29 seconds). Film noir uses angles to “create a world that is never stable or safe, that is always threatening to change drastically and un expectedly” (68). As with many film noir, “right and wrong become relative, subject to the same distortions and disruptions created in the lighting and camera work” (69).

Femme Fatale as Protagonist: Blog Post 2

Bridget Gregory in The Last Seduction is the quintessential femme fatale but since she does not exist in a storyline centered on a male, she makes it out alive while the male characters are the ones who are arrested or die. Bridget fits most of the characteristics of the femme fatale that Dickos lists in his article “Women as Seen in the Film Noir.” Bridget definitely “has an independent or rebellious will” that is shown throughout the film as she continuously uses everyone around her to her advantage (161). In her disregard for the rules, she slowly gets Mike to throw away the rules as well, beginning in his office when she first proposes that they sell murder to unhappy wives (46 minutes). Bridget’s indifference towards the rules is what gets her what she wants. The motives that Dickos outlines for the femme fatale also motivate Bridget. First, she gets involved with Mike purely out of “a lust for exciting sex” and continuous the relationship for the same reason, before she figures out how to use him in her plotting (162). Second, the main goal for Bridget is to get away with the money, going along with Dickos’s motive of “wealth and the power it brings” (162). Not only does Bridget want the money, she also wants the satisfaction of taking it from her husband, showing her dominating power over him. This desire for power goes along with Dickos’s third motive: “a need to control everything and everyone around her” (162). Bridget definitely wants the money but ultimately she just wants control. This is seen in her complete ease in every situation and scene in the film. Unlike the male protagonist or femme fatales we have seen in other film noir who seem to have more emotion or at least more reaction when things do not go exactly as planned, Bridget is completely cool the entire time, making the audience wonder if this really wasn’t what she had planned all along. For example, at the end of the film when Mike and Bridget’s husband Clay think they have her figured out and trapped, Bridget shows barely any emotion or shock (1 hr 39 minutes). The emotion is more annoyance than anything else. Then she gets to kill one man (Clay) and get the other arrested (Mike) while she walks away without a scratch. Her cool demeanor and emotionless reaction might be because she knew Mike wouldn’t be able to pull off the murder, or maybe even hopping it. Going back to her need for power and control, Bridget has both here and in the end.

The Asphalt Jungle: Blog Post 1

In The Asphalt Jungle, Dix Handley is a man stuck in the city of crime as Christopher describes in his article “Into the Labyrinth.” Dix takes out his feelings of being trapped in the city when his only desire is to get back to his home, Kentucky, on his farm and away from the risky, fast-paced life of the city on his ever faithful love interest Doll. He treats Doll aggressively, almost as a symbol of his dislike and wishes to ride himself of the city though she helps him every time he asks. Doll’s role mirrors Christopher’s description of one kind of female in noir: “In every labyrinth, as in every film noir, a woman plays a critical role. When she is a Beatrice-type, she is almost too good to be true. Nurturing to a fault, loyal beyond the bounds of common sense, she is like the faithful guide who appears suddenly in a nightmare” (20). This is exactly what Doll is to Dix. First she lets Dix bring in an injured man, Doc, after the men’s jewelry robbery and instead of asking question (Dix offers no explanation) she lets them into her apartment (1hr 19 min). Dix doesn’t seem to particularly like Doll but she continues to be his means of escape and he relies on her. As Dix is planning his escape to Kentucky, Doll gets him a car and sets everything up but then insists on going with him. She holds his fate in her hands, as she knows where the car is and threatens to not tell him unless she goes too, to which he replies “I don’t get it I just don’t get it” before allowing her to come (1hr 38 min). Her faith and desire to Dix is clearly not reciprocated yet she is unwavering until the end.

Student-Designed Assignment Draft

Description

For this assignment we will choose one of the following elements of noir and make a supercut of all the examples from films either we’ve watched in class or others outside of class. These elements are taken from this infographic but this assignment could be for any other element that we noticed.

1) Character types

2) Heavy smoking and/or drinking

3) Stolen money or valuables

4) Urban location

5) Bleak view of humanity

6) Asymmetrical composition

7) Deep focus

8) High contrast lightning

9) Use of reflections

10) Extreme high/low angles and close-ups

Pulling different parts of many movies that share this one elements would show how this elements is used either the same or differently throughout film noir. Also, we could find this characteristic in movies that might not be considered noir as a sort of counterpoint or, if we wanted to go farther into comparing noir to other genres, how the elements of noir influence other films.

Along with the supercut video, we would write a short essay explaining the element we chose and how it is used throughout noir, including any cultural significance it might have for the time period or how to is different from the classic hollywood films. How is the element used in each movie? What does the use of a supercut through each of these scenes tell us about noir?

Evaluation Criteria

This assignment would be evaluated based on explanation of the element chosen, clear examples, and understanding of how this element fits into the category of noir.

Schedule/Due Dates

This assignment would need as many as three due dates.

Week 5: Proposal of element chosen. (Why is it important to noir? How does it appear in                 the films?)

Week 6: List of examples (title of movies with specific sense)

Week 8: Supercut of the characteristic video and essay

Weighting

This assignment could be 15% – 20% of the overall grade.