It's November again, and in our house that means one thing - Noirvember.
Noirvember is a celebration of the greatest film genre of all, film noir. Film noir refers to the stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and motivations. It's the genre that provides us the smooth talking detectives, the hard as nails femme fatales that get them in trouble, and the criminals we love to hate.
It remains my favorite genre of film and of literature. I've spent the last couple of years reading through the works of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and James M. Cain. And now that I've finished there, I've switched to the precursor with Agatha Christie and murder mysteries. I've poured over the film careers of Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Dick Powell, and Richard Widmark.
To me, film noir is best served in black and white, as only that setting can provide the dark enough shadows to make it so perfectly captured. This puts the best films in the 1940s and 1950s, which unsurprisingly, is the era I have logged the most film viewings in my Letterbox app.
Like last year, we've seen quite a few film noir new discoveries, a few of which I'd like to pass along as recommendations today:
- The Killing - Stanley Kubrik's tight heist noir. It breaks the rules in all the fun ways.
- Force of Evil - We saw this at the TCM film festival with a live introduction by Eddie Muller for a live Noir Alley. A fairly straightforward noir with a fantastic performance by Thomas Gomez, an underrated character actor.
- The Bad Sleep Well - Kurosawa's tale of revenge and corporate corruption. Tense all the way through and while the ending can be frustrating, it sticks with you. A great use of black and white and lighting in a famous alley scene.
- The Hitch-Hiker - Ida Lupino's directorial triumph and the first film noir directed by a woman. Tight, tense, three person film based on a real life crime. Keeps you on edge to the end.
- Boomerang - bit more of a court-room drama, but compelling performances, nonetheless, by Dana Andrews, Arthur Kennedy, and Lee J Cobb.
- Panic in the Streets - this one was a trip to watch in the height of the CoVID. Elia Kazan film with Richard Widmark as an officer of the US Public Health Service trying to stop a pneumonic plague from spreading through New Orleans. Really interesting parallels.
Let me know your favorites. Until next year, there's more Noir Alley ahead.
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