Hello darlings! In today’s Noirvember post I want to write a few words about noir films created outside the US of A. Noir seems like a very American genre, but in reality, it took inspiration from German expressionism and Italian neo-realism. What is more, many classic film noir directors (Robert Siodmak, Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, Jules Dassin, Michael Curtiz) were in fact European immigrants.
The Third Man (1949)
The 1949 British film noir was directed by Carol Reed and written by Graham Greene. It stars Joseph Cotten, Valli (Alida Valli), Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard. The film takes place in post-World-War-II Vienna. It centres on Holly Martins, an American who is given a job in Vienna by his friend Harry Lime, but when Holly arrives in Vienna he gets the news that Lime is dead. Martins then meets with Lime’s acquaintances in an attempt to investigate what he considers a suspicious death. In 1999, the British Film Institute voted The Third Man the greatest British film of all time. It’s a true classic worth watching!
Interesting fact: the title music “The Third Man Theme” topped the international music charts in 1950.
Obsession (1949) (US Title: The Hidden Room)
This 1949 British film directed by Edward Dmytryk is based on the book “A Man About A Dog” by Alec Coppel, who also wrote the screenplay for the film, and turned the story into a novel. The movie is a slow-burning but pretty gruesome story of revenge. Dr. Clive Riordan, a psychiatrist, discovers that his wife, Storm (what a name, right?) is cheating on him. Soon, he resolves to kill his wife’s lover, an American diplomat. “Obsession” was entered into the 1949 Cannes Film Festival.
Shoot the Piano Player (1960) (French Title: Tirez sur le pianiste; UK Title: Shoot the Pianist)
A washed-up classical pianist, Charlie Kohler/Edouard Saroyan, bottoms out after his wife’s suicide — stroking the keys in a Parisian dive bar. The waitress, Lena, is falling in love with Charlie, who, as it turns out, is not who he says he is. When his brothers get in trouble with gangsters, Charlie inadvertently gets dragged into the chaos and is forced to rejoin the family he once fled. The film is a strange mix of slapstick comedy and heartbreak. A man swears to his honesty on his mother’s soul, and the camera cuts away to dear old mom as she falls down dead in her kitchen. The movie is also interesting for its mix of filming techniques. The director, François Truffaut, uses many elements of French New Wave cinema: extended voice-overs, out-of-sequence shots, and sudden jump cuts. The movie references the style of Hollywood B movies from 1940s, as well as Charlie Chaplin, the Marx brothers and “Citizen Kane”.
Le Doulos (1962) (The Finger Man)
At the beginning of the movie, there is an information for the viewer, that the title refers to a style of hat or a police informant. Naturally, the film provides an abundance of both. As is very often with noir films, “Le Doulos” is based on a novel by Pierre Lesou. Writer-director Jean-Pierre Melville blends Lesou’s words with twists on symbols and staples of American noir. Quentin Tarantino cited the screenplay for “Le Doulos” as one of his personal favorite, and said it was a large influence on his debut picture “Reservoir Dogs”.
Elevator to the Gallows (1958) (French Title: Ascenseur pour l’échafaud)
Since it was the French film critics that gave film noir its name, it’s no wonder that this list contains so many French titles. The mood of American noir is clearly visible in French movies of 1950s and 1960s. Here, the director pays an homage homage to noir and subverts its structure at the same time. As for the plot, the movie is about a pair of criminals, Florence and Julien. They plan on murdering Florence’s husband, but their plan quickly falls apart when the Julien gets stuck in an elevator. The film also contains an unorthodox, experimental editing and somber, Miles Davis-performed jazz score.
So, have you seen any of these films? Or maybe you’ve got your favourite non-American noir films? If so, write them in the comments. For more ideas, check out this list of international noir films by Flavorwire.