Desperate men and treacherous women. Neon lights pulsing outside smoky jazz bars, betting joints and flophouses in seedy parts of town. These are some of the iconic images, sounds and spaces that Film Noir has given us. But what exactly was film noir or "dark film"? Made between the forties and mid-late fifties these crime films had a distinctive visual style with stylized lighting and dramatic contrasts between light and shadow. The films often shared complex narrative structures, deeply pessimistic themes and oneiric or dreamlike sequences.
From the police procedural (He Walked By Night) to the melodrama (Mildred Pierce, Gilda), heist film (Asphalt Jungle, Rififi), and even the Western (Johnny Guitar), and enriched by the stories of writers like Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep, Farewell my Lovely) and James M Cain (Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice), this influential group of films shaped a later cycle of ‘neo-noir’ films, from Taxi Driver to Chinatown and Bladerunner, leaving their mark on contemporary filmmakers' work like Christopher Nolan (Memento, Inception). Titles may include screenings or selections from The Maltese Falcon, Gilda, Out of the Past, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Double Indemnity, Kiss of Death, Murder My Sweet, Rififi, Raw Deal, T Men, The Big Heat, The Killers, The Hitchhiker, Naked City, The Big Clock, Elevator to the Gallows, Mildred Pierce, Asphalt Jungle, some of which you will be required to watch on your own for assignments. Image: Alan Ladd as The Raven in This Gun for Hire. "A Dame with a rod is like a Guy with a Knitting Needle" Out of the Past