With the commencement of graduate studies in the fall, comes preparation assignments for the summer. One of these tasks is to watch a number of designated films and read like short stories, which fall under the description of Film Noir. I’m not sure how this research will play into my education but the MFA Acting class begins with an examination and exploration of this iconic style. For those of you not familiar with the genre, Film Noir is a cinematic term used to describe Hollywood crime dramas, which emerged around the mid-1940’s.
Confession, I had not seen one of these films until last nigh,t when I stretched out on the sofa to enjoy massive amount of cigarette smoke, classy hairstyles, guns and a young Bogart in “The Maltese Falcon.” For someone who has an affinity towards most things vintage, classic, etc., I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t seen any of the films listed on the required viewing list. (Sigh) I am a Film Noir virgin no more.
“The Maltese Falcon” is pretty good, granted I don’t have many things to judge it off of, but I shall when the summer concludes. In regards to the genre itself, there are a couple of items which stood out.
The camera work in Film Noir is really quite beautiful. The natural shadows of the black and white aside, there is an architectural element and character to the shadows of the Film Noir cinematography – they seems to breathe life as much as the actors which inhabit them. I found my eye dancing about the screen to catch every angle as the scenes shifted. I happen to find black and white film rather stunning but the unique use of shadows added a sinister element to the already existing beauty.
If you are a woman in Film Noir, you are also “baby,” “precious,” “honey,” “doll” and such. I’m not even sure I remember the character name of the woman who played the secretary (my favorite female character in this film) of Humphrey Bogart, only that she was called “Precious.” If you are not the Femme Falate, you are someone’s “baby.” It was hard to get into this story because almost all of the characters are completely corrupted; someone always has a motive, always has a secret, always has a “past.” I was waiting for the detective to flash his cape and save the day (not that I need this optimism or idealism) but it was hard to root for even him, due to his chip-on-the-shoulder-do-things-my-way-only kind of attitude. All the same the characters are extremely entertaining and because everyone always seems to have a secret or something they are lying about, the plot continues to progress and twist at a moments notice.
The execution of speech was a harder element to ignore. Everyone spoke and engaged in a rhythm of speech that bordered on pedantic. Phrases were delivered in short starts and in rapid pace that only seemed to accelerate.
This is my first taste of the Film Noir….but I will be back for more. Up next…..”Double Indemnity.”