Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Noir and Naturalism 1946 - 1949 • "32 Days of Movies" Day 8

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Noir and Naturalism 1946 - 1949 • "32 Days of Movies" Day 8


The eighth chapter in "32 Days of Movies", an audiovisual tour through 366 films.
(2015 update: included Vimeo embed after the jump)


View "Chapter 8: Noir and Naturalism"


Noir and Naturalism

Waking up in the postwar world, it was as if all the jitters and anxiety that had been submerged for the war effort were now out in the open. Already, a new style/genre/sensibility/movement had been developing (though it was too unconscious and informal to fit some of those terms). Later dubbed "film noir," this perspective scanned the hardened landscape with jaundiced eyes, yet with an undercurrent of wounded romanticism that made this dark world something you wanted to plunge into again and again. Meanwhile, both overseas and Hollywood, an "opening" was occurring in the classically enclosed studio style.


There are several films here as lushly artificial as ever (two Dickens adaptations and a fairy tale) but interestingly enough, these period pictures or fantasies are not from Hollywood. Instead, America gives us hardboiled detectives, paranoid prospectors, and whimsical sheriffs striking a balance in the open sun. Increasingly, films were being shot on location; overseas, steps were being taken even further with nonprofessional actors, authentic locations, and close-to-the ground subjects. Originally this chapter was titled "Noir and Neorealism" but that latter term is a bit narrow; only one film fits the neorealist description, while several could be called naturalistic.

These twin impulses, the dark subjectivity of noir and the clear-eyed observation of naturalism, in large part characterized the cinema just after World War II.

Spoiler alert: The clip at 3:30 - 4:10 contains a spoiler, but only at the very end of the sequence. Most have probably seen it already anyway - the spoiler comes long after the title so you can check to make sure then skip ahead if need be.

Yesterday: Dreaming in Wartime
Tomorrow: A Violent Release

5 comments:

Hokahey said...

Glorious black and white! What a beautiful montage! Thank you!

Joel Bocko said...

You're welcome, hokahey, and thanks for your kind words.

Come to think of it, this will be the very last chapter to contain clips ONLY in b&w (and it's the first to do so since Chapter 3). There are still a few entries where color appears only once or twice (oddly enough, these are mostly in the 60s as the 50s are mostly pretty well-stocked with color clips, probably because there are way more European films than American films featured for that later decade - and they took longer to catch the color train).

Shubhajit said...

Here's what I've watched among those included in your latest upload, and my humble opinions on them:

The Big Sleep - a good enough noir, what with Bogart in it, but nowhere close to the brilliance of the Chandler novel it was based on

The Postman Always Rings Twice - another good noir, but again fell short for me when compared to the James M. Cain novella

My Darling Clementine - this John Ford masterpieces deservedly ranks as one of the great American movies

Out of the Past - one of my favourite noirs, would easily make my top 10 noirs, maybe even top 5; the character of Kathie Moffat sure ranks as one of the greatest femme fatale characters of all time

The Bicycle Thief - the quintessential neo-realist movie; interestingly this was also the movie that provided the final stroke of inspiration for Satyajit Ray to stop being just an ardent cinephile and start making movies

The Third Man - great Brit noir; Orson Welles provided a truly enigmatic turn, and the climax was absolutely terrific!

Great Expectations happens to be one of my favourite books, but unfortunately I've never gotten around to watch its movie adaptations.

Terrific video as always!!! By the way, I was just curious, approx how much time does it take to complete each of the video compilations?

Joel Bocko said...

Shubhajit, thanks again! Your comments here (discussing your reactions to the individual movies) are exactly what I hoped for when I began the series.

I can't really answer your question because I originally did not edit these as individual chapters but as one long 3-hour sequence which I ended up sending to my cousin as a birthday present (he was a movie buff as well, and we used to love watching clips of things to get an idea what to watch next). I knew when I posted it online, it would be split into 5-10 minute sequences (which ended up having to be 8.5 max because of file size for uploads) but I didn't know what form the "chapters" will take - that I'm sort of figuring out as I go (and right now I still have to sort out about half the chapters - figure out where they'll start and end, maybe rejigger clips around to make a better flow, and decide what the chapters will be called & what song will play over the end - which at this point has probably become my favorite part haha).

I will say I started putting this together back in mid-August and other than 2 1/2 weeks where I was in NYC and away from Final Cut (which I used to assemble this) I've been logging a fair amount of hours on it! Thing is, though, it was a blast, at least for me - even some of the more tedious aspects!

Joel Bocko said...

Lean's version of Great Expectations is wonderfully atmospheric and in many ways captures the spirit of the book perfectly. It fails, however, in getting at probably the book's most essential aspect, Pip's love for Estella. Valerie Hobson is just too prim, doesn't have the hearthrobbing allure that someone like Margaret Lockwood or Joan Greenwood could have got across. Mills is somewhat miscast as well, but works - it's really the miss on Estella that wounds the film. But it's still so good in other ways I'd call it great nonetheless, despite getting that crucial thing wrong. I'd say the Cuaron modern update, though slick and shallow in some ways, actually does a better job in feeling the book's romantic pulse.