More Than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts

More Than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts

More Than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts

More Than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts

Synopsis

"Film noir" evokes memories of stylish, cynical, black-and-white movies from the 1940s and 1950s--melodramas about private eyes, femmes fatales, criminal gangs, and lovers on the run. In More Than Night, James Naremore discusses these pictures, but he also shows that the central term is more complex and paradoxical than we realize. Film noir refers both to an important cinematic legacy and to an idea we have projected onto the past.

This lively, wide-ranging cultural history offers an original approach to the subject, as well as new production information and fresh commentary on scores of films, including such classics as Double Indemnity, The Third Man, and Out of the Past, and such "neo noirs" as Chinatown, Pulp Fiction, and Devil in a Blue Dress. Naremore discusses film noir as a term in criticism; as an expression of artistic modernism; as a symptom of Hollywood censorship and politics in the 1940s; as a market strategy; as an evolving style; as a cinema about races and nationalities; and as an idea that circulates across all the information technologies. Interdisciplinary in approach, this book has valuable things to say not only about film and television, but also about modern literature, the fine arts, and popular culture in general. In a field where much of what has been published is superficial and derivative, Naremore's work is certain to be received as a definitive treatment.

Excerpt

When I was “at the cinema age” (it should be recognized
that this age exists in life—and that it passes) I
never began by consulting the amusement pages to
find out what film might chance to be the best, nor
did I find out the time the film was to begin.
ANDRÉ BRETON, “As in a Wood,” 1951

For most people, the term film noir conjures up a series of generic, stylistic, or fashionable traits from certain Hollywood pictures of the 1940s and 1950s. There are, for example, noir characters and stories (drifters attracted to beautiful women, private eyes hired by femmes fatales, criminal gangs attempting to pull off heists); noir plot structures (flashbacks, subjective narration); noir sets (urban diners, shabby offices, swank nightclubs); noir decorations (venetian blinds, neon lights, “modern” art); noir costumes (snap-brim hats, trenchcoats, shoulder pads); and noir accessories (cigarettes, cocktails, snub-nosed revolvers). There are also noir performances, often associated with the “radio voices” of actors like Alan Ladd and Dick Powell; noir musical styles, consisting not only of orchestral scores by Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, and David Raksin, but also of mournful jazz tunes, the essence of which have been captured on two retro albums made in the late 1980s and early 1990s by the Charlie Haden Quartet; and noir language, derived mainly from the hardboiled speech in Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. (“Is there any way to win?” Jane Greer asks Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past. “There’s a way to lose more slowly,” he replies.) To the informed tourist . . .

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