Show contents, with start times:
- Film Style Spotlight: Film Noir (1:56)
- Trivia Question: Eating a Boot (21:53)
- How To: Pull Off a Caper (22:40)
- Top 6: Distinctly Different Sequels (33:13)
- Movie Books: Making Movies and On Directing Film (52:53)
- Closing: Trivia Answer, Preview of Next Week (58:40)
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Film Style Spotlight: Film Noir
Continuing our discussion from Episode 19 about German Expressionism, Film Noir is the American take on expressionism. More a style and tone than a true genre, noir was the French term for a wave of dark and gritty films that populated American cinemas in the 1940s and ’50s. With the language and values of hard-boiled pulp fiction and a visual style from Germany, film noir remains dynamic and interesting today. Some milestones in the development of noir:
- Fritz Lang, the great expressionist director, came to Hollywood in the 1930s and applied the German styles to American stories. Fury (1936) is a clear link between the styles — the German director explores crime and violence in America.
- The Maltese Falcon (1941): Generally considered a proto-noir, John Huston’s debut follows private dick Sam Spade (played by Humphrey Bogart, in the midst of a transition from gangster actor to leading man) as he has to navigate a complex web of criminal intrigue.
- Many of the best directors during this period at least dabbled in noir, including Alfred Hitchcock, whose 1943 film Shadow of a Doubt brings a character from a noir film to a small town. Not usually considered a true noir, Shadow has a very strong noir look and explores some similar themes.
- Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) assembled all of the elements of noir: the femme-fatale (here played to perfection by Barbara Stanwyck), murder, temptation, and evil lurking behind every seemingly good person.
- Laura (1944), by Otto Preminger, mixes a love story and a murder mystery with a noir look and feel.
- Although black and white is a seemingly essential component of the noir style, there are exceptions, most notably Leave Her to Heaven from 1945, which features bright, lush colors.
- Gilda (1946) is one of the few noirs to have a happy ending, proving that laying down any hard and fast rules for defining noir is impossible.
- Another great noir starring Bogart as a detective is The Big Sleep (1946), based on the classic novel by Raymond Chandler. Though the movie by Howard Hawks deviates from the darkness of the novel in many ways, it is one of the most popular noir films.
- Though noir is a distinctly American movement, its influences will be felt across the globe. In 1947, Carol Reed directed Odd Man Out, a British film from this period that plays with noir styles.
- A third noir with Bogart is Dark Passage (1947), a movie whose first half is practically a series of point-of-view shots, making this one of the most expressionistic of noir films.
- Another Wilder noir is Sunset Boulevard (1950), though this time the director was playing with noir in a genre that is largely removed from the world of crime and intrigue, focusing the noir style on a more personal story.
- In 1958, Orson Welles‘ great film Touch of Evil is released, ending the classical noir period. As color becomes the dominant mode for American filmmakers and as people become aware of the noir style, noir undergoes a shift to what is called Neo-Noir.
Trivia Question: Eating a Boot
How To: Pull Off a Caper
You want to learn how to pull off a caper? Well, first off don’t listen to this week’s show. And certainly don’t doubt what I say. I would never lie to you.
Top 6: Distinctly Different Sequels
Movie Books: Making Movies and On Directing Film
Sidney Lumet’s Making Movies isn’t just a prize in the Academy Awards Predictions Game — it’s also one of our favorite books on film. Written by a director, the book covers every aspect of making a feature film. Lumet peppers this slim volume with wonderful stories about the films he’s worked on and describes how he approaches the various tasks a director undertakes. Even if you have no intention of making films, this is a wonderful look at the process by which they’re made. It’s as informative as many textbooks and a whole lot more interesting.
David Mamet is more known for being a great writer than a director, but his list of directorial credits is pretty impressive. His wonderful way with words and dialogue helps enliven On Directing Film, in which he describes how directors need to think. Though he wrote the book when he had only directed two films, his debut film (House of Games from 1987) is a minor classic, and even at this early point in his career Mamet’s considerable analytical abilities contribute to his discussion of what makes a good director.