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Spend A Night In The Shadows With Film Noir

Misogynistic, visually dark, cynical, moral, amoral, bleak. These words help describe, but cannot completely define, the visual style and underlying tone of the cinematic genre known as film noir. A fellow librarian and I have a real appreciation for this genre and enjoy swapping recommendations as we come across new library s of films from the 1930s, 1940s, or later that are noir classics. A noir film is one I never have to be in the right mood for; once I start to watch one, it wraps me in a smoky cloud in which the plot twists along a winding path, scenes are made using strangely distorted shadows and camera angles, and the outcome is nearly always completely unpredictable. A visual and emotional feast. Yum.

The term film noir was originated by French film critics in 1946, but the style really came out of the artistic movement known as German Expressionism. This style developed in the Germany of the 1910s and 1920s. It was an artistic reflection of and response to the extreme conditions in Germany after World War I.  As Germany gradually fell under Nazi power, many film artists involved in the Expressionist movement found escape and opportunity in Hollywood.

One of my favorite noir films is the 1931 classic starring Jimmy Cagney, Public Enemy. What an ending! Besides the incredible collection of noir films, the library has some great books on this movie style. So, if you've got a spare afternoon, especially a rainy, gloomy one, check out a noir book and a couple of noir films. Search in our catalog under Subject Alphabetical and film noir to find a good list. Watching them just might make you feel lucky to be alive. 

  • Film Noir Classics I (DVD)
  • Murder, My Sweet (DVD)
  • Out of the Past (DVD)
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice (DVD)
  • Somewhere in the Night: Film Noir and the American City (Book)
  • Dark City Dames: The Wicked Women of Film Noir (Book)

AmazonSheila D. Says: Murder, My Sweet (DVD)
Amazon Says: A collection of classic film noir. Genre: Suspense Rating: NR Release Date: 6-JUL-2004 Media Type: DVD more...
Amazon Says: A collection of classic film noir. Genre: Suspense Rating: NR Release Date: 6-JUL-2004 Media Type: DVD less...
Amazon


AmazonSheila D. Says: Out of the Past (DVD)
Amazon Says: DVD Release more...
Amazon Says: DVD Release less...
Amazon


AmazonSheila D. Says: The Postman Always Rings Twice (DVD)
Amazon Says: Adapted from James M. Cain's story, the film relolves around the destructive relationship of two lovers whose troubles mount after they do away with her husband. more...
Amazon Says: Adapted from James M. Cain's story, the film relolves around the destructive relationship of two lovers whose troubles mount after they do away with her husband. less...
Amazon


Somewhere in the Night by Nicholas Christopher
AmazonSheila D. Says: Somewhere in the Night: Film Noir and the American City (Book)
Amazon Says: Acclaimed novelist and poet Nicholas Christopher explores the cultural identity of film noir in a seamless, elegant, and enchanting work of literary prose. Examining virtually more...
Amazon Says: Acclaimed novelist and poet Nicholas Christopher explores the cultural identity of film noir in a seamless, elegant, and enchanting work of literary prose. Examining virtually the entire catalogue of film noir, Christopher identifies the central motif as the urban labyrinth, a place infested with psychosis, anxiety, and existential dread in which the noir hero embarks on a dangerously illuminating quest. With acute sensitivity, he shows how technical devices such as lighting, voice over, and editing tempo are deployed to create the film noir world. Somewhere in the Night guides us through the architecture of this imaginary world, be it shot in New York or Los Angeles, relating its elements to the ancient cultural archetypes that prefigure it. Finally, Christopher builds an explanation of why film noir not only lives on but is currently enjoying a renaissance. less...
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AmazonSheila D. Says: Dark City Dames: The Wicked Women of Film Noir (Book)
Amazon Says: Film noir was the dark side of the movies' happily-ever-after mythology. Sinister and sexy, it forged a new icon: the tough, independent, take-no-guff dame. Determined, desira more...
Amazon Says: Film noir was the dark side of the movies' happily-ever-after mythology. Sinister and sexy, it forged a new icon: the tough, independent, take-no-guff dame. Determined, desirable, dangerous when cornered, she could handle trouble -- or deal out some of her own.If you thought these women were something special onscreen, wait till you meet the genuine articles. In Dark City Dames, acclaimed film historian Eddie Muller profiles six women who made a lasting impression in this cinematic terrain -- from veteran "bad girls" Audrey Totter, Marie Windsor, and Jane Greer to unexpected genre fixtures Evelyn Keyes, Coleen Gray, and Ann Savage. The book surveys the lives of these formidable women during the height of their careers circa 1950, as they balanced love and career, struggled against typecasting, and sought fulfillment in a ruthless business. Their personal stories -- teeming with larger-than-life characters like Howard Hughes, L.B. Mayer, Robert Mitchum, Otto Preminger, and John Huston -- offer an illuminating counterpoint to their movies, such as Out of the Past, Detour, The Lady in the Lake, and The Killing. Then Dark City Dames revisits each one of these women today, fifty years on, to witness their hard-won -- and triumphant -- survival. On every page their own voices ring through, reflecting on their lives with as much passion, pain, intelligence, energy, and humor as any movie script.Dark City Dames re-creates the excitement and glamour of a group of gifted performers who lived out their youthful fantasies -- and, along the way, remade the image of the American woman. less...
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