NOIRVEMBER Day 5 – Crime jazz

Noirvember - Day 5

Hello lovelies! How is Noirvember treating you so far? Have you felt inspired to watch any movies?

What is the sound of film noir?

What are the must-have elements of a film noir? For me it’s the setting (a dark city), the characters (a femme fatale, a detective, a crook) and… the music. The style of noir is undisputably very visual, but the music also sets the mood for the dirty affairs taking place in the shadows. And what is the sound of noir? Why, of course, it’s jazz.

Up ’til 1930s and 1940s movie soundtracks were dominated by classical orchestral arrangements. Then, somewhere, Hollywood married the then-new jazz styles with the gritty, black-and-white mystery film, and linked them forever in the popular consciousness. Jazz became truly popular as a style of music used in movie and TV soundtracks in the 1950s. It was the music of the street, the music of bars and clubs, so whenever these elements were prominent in the stories on screen, jazz became the background sound. The particular type of jazz which we can hear in the film soundtracks is now dubbed “dark jazz” or “crime jazz”(a retroactively-given name, much like “film noir”). Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing defined this genre quite brilliantly as “jazzy theme music from 1950s TV shows and movies in which very bad people do very bad things”.

Get yourself in the mood for some noir with these tracks!

So, do you agree with these choices? Do you have your own Noirvember playlist? Share them in the comments!

NOIRVEMBER Day 4 – Moving pictures

noirvember
Well, hello there! Are you enjoying Noirvember so far? Have you watched any noir films yet?

Since I plan on infecting all of you with my love of film noir, today I decided to share a collection of my favourite gifs from noir films. Because everyone needs a good reaction gif, and these old movies are absolutely full of wonderful shots!

Rita Hayworth in “Gilda” (1946) gif by mattsko.wordpress.com

“Gilda” is actually full of really good shots, but I think this one fits as a reaction gif best 🙂

Paul Valentine in “Out of the Past” (Tourneur, 1947) gif by littleplasticthings.tumblr.com

Humphrey Bogart in “The Maltese Falcon” (Huston, 1941) gif by bellecs.tumblr.com

Dick Powell in “Murder, My Sweet” (Dmytryk, 1944) gif by ??? (if you recognize the author, please let me know!)

Lauren Bacall in “???” gif by rphelper.tumblr.com

Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity” (Wilder, 1945) gif by charlottecamillevale.tumblr.com

Humphrey Bogart in “The Big Sleep” (Hawkes, 1946) gif by ??? (if you recognize the author, please let me know!)

This might also be my favourite quote from the movie!

Gloria Grahame in “The Big Heat” (Lang, 1953) gif by filmnerdsunite.wordpress.com

Rita Hayworth in “The Lady From Shanghai” (Welles, 1947) gif by grafixandnoirandgarage.tumblr.com

The last one probably isn’t a good reaction gif, but it was just too good not to share…

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in “The Big Sleep” (Hawks, 1946) gif by bellecs.tumblr.com

Do you have your favourite film noir gifs? Please share them in the comments!

NOIRVEMBER Day 3 – Noir films you can watch on Netflix now!

Noirvember Day 3

It’s day 3 of Noirvember! We started talking about specific noir films so I wanted to prepare a list of recommendations to watch on streaming services such as Netflix (as this is the one I personally subscribe to). Unfortunately, their current offer available in Poland is not very rich when it comes to film noir 🙁 Nevertheless, I decided to list films that are, in my opinion, absolutely must-see.

The Maltese Falcon

Maltese Falcon on Netflix Polska

Double homicide? Call a spade a spade. Unless it involves unusual suspects, then call cool-as-ice P.I. Sam Spade. Humphrey Bogart stars as private eye Sam Spade in this noir classic that finds the sultry Miss Wonderly seeking protection from a man called Thursby.

L.A. Confidential

L.A. Confidential on Netflix

It’s 1950s L.A., where politics, Hollywood and cops collide. No one’s off-limits and no one’s secrets are “hush hush”. Three wildly different cops form an uneasy alliance to ferret out corruption in this Oscar-winning whodunit set in 1950s Los Angeles.

Sin City

Sin City on Netflix Polska

Revenge, passion and fear are the threads that connect these intertwined stories in a pitch-black world. In these intertwined stories, an ex-con avenges a hooker’s death, a gumshoe gets mixed up with dangerous vixens, and a cop saves a dancer from a rapist.

Do you agree with this list for Noirvember? Have you found some other films that you think would fit here? Let me know in the comments!

NOIRVEMBER Day 2 – FILM REVIEW – “Double Indemnity” (1944)

Noirvember - day 2

Classic Film Noir

Now that you are familiar with the concept of Noirvember, I thought it only appropriate to start with a review of one of my favourite noir films. “Double Indemnity” is a fascinating, tragic story of an insurance agent and a bored housewife.

No, really 🙂

The movie is a thrilling story about greed, heartbreak and human weakness. Walter Neff, an insurance agent, sits in his office, wounded, and records a story for his boss, Barton. It all started with the Dietrichsons. He recounts going to their house to discuss an insurance policy and instead of Mr. Dietrichson, he meets his wife, flirty, beautiful Phyllis. They both immediately take a liking to each other and Phyllis loudly wonders about the life policy of her husband. It doesn’t take long for them to come up with a plan that will not only free her from her married status, but also get them a nice lump sum of $100,000. With such an amoral plot, it can’t all end up happily, can it?

On rewatching the movie I was captivated by how the feeling of impending doom was conveyed since the very first scene. We know from the very first moment that this is not going to end well. Walter narrates his story bleeding from a gunshot wound, so we know there are going to be consequences for him. Wilder used this flashback device, telling us the ending from the very start, in his other famous film noir, “Sunset Boulevard”. I think it is a vital element of the gloomy mood of noir. What hooks us is how the plot to kill Phyllis’s husband is going to go wrong.

Another element of the film breaking up the convention is the lack of good – as in, sympathetic – characters in this film. Walter has no qualms about seducing a married woman and is quite ready kill her husband, both for love and the money. Cold Phyllis is almost a psychopath, motivated by little more than boredom. Barton, Walter’s boss is presented as the honest guy, dedicated to his work, but also kind of pretentious and charmless (although the father-son relationship between him and Walter is probably the one positive relationship in the movie). Phyllis’s doomed husband is rich, boorish and utterly dull. Nevertheless, the drama that ensnares them all is immediately captivating.

The movie itself is a collaboration of titans. Based on a novel by James M. Cain, with the script written by Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder, and directed by Wilder, it truly set a standard for many films of the genre. The same goes for the look of the film. It takes place in the City of Angels, and if a scene takes place outside, it’s almost always night. If it’s inside, it’s dimly lit, with sunlight coming in through the blinds, exposing dust in the air.

The only exception is Barton’s office. That’s because Barton, despite his lack of charisma, is the moral center of the film. He is, however, too blind to see that the person he is looking for, the accomplice in the murder of Mr. Dietrichson, is his friend of 11 years, someone “close – right across the desk […]”. “Closer than that” he says to Neff quietly. Neff smiles, and struggles to light up a cigarette. Barton takes the lighter from him and lights up the cigarette. There is tenderness in this exchange that enhances the tragic heroism of the story.

Does it stand the test of time?

To me, absolutely. It’s a must-see for any fan of not just film noir, but classic cinema in general. The movie did not gain universal acclaim when it first came out. Despite its popularity, many people were uncomfortable with its theme and saw it as too immoral. At the 17th Academy Awards in 1945, “Double Indemnity” received seven Oscar nominations, including one for Best Film, but did not win any. Its appreciation and popularity, however, grew in time. In 1992 the U.S. Library of Congress deemed it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, and thus selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Interesting tidbit about me – I once wrote a 10-page paper about just one scene from “Double Indemnity” for a film study class. It was about the first meeting between Walter Neff and Phyllis Dietrichson, starting with her descending from the stairs. Remember when the camera first focuses just on her anklet? That’s an introduction of a sensual femme fatale!

NOIRVEMBER Day 1 – What is it all about?

NOIRVEMBERIt’s Noirvember! And no, that’s not a typo 🙂

This year I decided to take up the challenge and make a series of posts related to the area of film noir, which is a subject near and dear to my heart (wouldn’t you guess, with that pseudonym).

What is Noirvember?

It’s a month-long celebration of film noir! The idea started back in 2010, when social media specialist Marya E. Gates decided to catch up on top noir films and tweeted on the experience using the hashtag #noirvember. It quickly became popular and today it’s celebrated all around the world as the month of appreciation for the moody, nostalgic film.

What can you do to celebrate Noirvember?

Watch movies, of course! But Noirvember can be a celebration of all things noir-related, be it music, literature, art, make up or fashion, etc. I am definitely planning on writing about more than just movies, so stay tuned!

But what is noir anyway?

Traditionally film noir is a style (rather than genre) of movies of the 1940s and 1950s. They are usually noted for the fatalism of stories as well as a literal and metaphorical darkness. Noir films are full of worn-out detectives and dangerous femmes fatales, murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery – all the things we hold near and dear to our hearts. I say “traditionally”, because movie critics argue about the definition of film noir to this day. The term itself was coined by critics rather than film makers, which means even the creators of the handful of movies that is universally agreed on as the film noir canon, didn’t know they were doing noir. Opinions also differ on whether noir ended in the 1950s or whether we can still find noir (or better yet, neo-noir) movies today.

I could write a lot more about the subject (it’s not like I wrote a thesis on it… or did I?) but there’s a whole month in front of us to explore what noir is and can be. Let’s get to it! Come back tomorrow to see what I write about!

bonus points to you if you recognize the quote I used in this post 🙂