Monday, 6 October 2008

Film Noir-3 (Neo-Noirs)

Modern Film Noirs: Neo-Noirs (or Post-Noirs)

Film noirs have recently been released in the modern era and have been refashioned for present-day sensibilities. A number of them in the 70s were hard-boiled policeman-hero films that contained film noirish characteristics. Most neo-noirs attempted to re-establish the moods and themes of classic noirs. Some examples follow:
  • maverick Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973), a revisionistic update of Raymond Chandler's novel, with Elliott Gould as worn-out private eye Philip Marlowe in 1970s Los Angeles
  • Roman Polanski's noirish detective thriller Chinatown (1974) starring Jack Nicholson as an ex-LA cop turned PI; followed by the sequel The Two Jakes (1990)
  • Arthur Penn's Night Moves (1975) with Gene Hackman as a doomed private eye in Florida
    the twisted, sexy noirish Body Heat (1981) with a marked resemblance to Double Indemnity (1944) - the directorial debut film of Lawrence Kasdan about a lawyer (William Hurt) enticed to murder a sultry femme fatale's (Kathleen Turner) husband (Richard Crenna)
  • the feverish, low-budget debut film of the Coen Brothers', Blood Simple (1984) about a murder plot gone awry; with M. Emmett Walsh as an amoral PI hired to kill a honky-tonk bar owner's (Dan Hedaya) unfaithful wife (Frances McDormand) and her bartender lover (John Getz)
  • David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986) about the seedy under-side of suburban Americana
    Bob Rafelson's Black Widow (1987) with a murderous and charming gold-digger femme fatale Theresa Russell
  • Alan Parker's stylistic post-noir Angel Heart (1987), based on William Hjortsberg's novel Fallen Angel - a religious-themed film noir/supernatural horror mixture set in the world of New Orleans voodoo, starring Mickey Rourke as a seedy, Mickey Spillane-type of 1950's Brooklyn private eye who is hired by a Satanic client Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro); more remembered for its notorious sex scene between Rourke and Lisa Bonet (in her film debut) than the plot
  • Stephen Frears' The Grifters (1990) featuring three lowlife con artists (John Cusack, his estranged mother Anjelica Huston, and his girlfriend Annette Bening)
  • David Mamet's-penned Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), a dark modern film noir about corrupt real-estate salesmen
  • Howard Franklin's The Public Eye (1992), set in a 40s NYC, is a modern film noir character study and crime thriller told from the perspective of Joe Pesci's character - Leon "The Great Bernzini" Bernstein
  • John Dahl's Red Rock West (1993) with Nicolas Cage caught in a twisting plot and Dahl's dark, erotic follow-up feminist noir thriller The Last Seduction (1993) starring Linda Florentino as an amoral, evil femme fatale
  • the contemporary, twisting neo-noir China Moon (1994) with Ed Harris as a straight Florida cop, femme fatale Madeleine Stowe as his unhappily-married, irresistible love interest, and Benicio del Toro as a rookie cop
  • Steven Soderbergh's The Underneath (1995), a loose derivative of the film noir thriller Criss Cross (1949), starring Peter Gallagher
  • Bryan Singer's convoluted thriller The Usual Suspects (1995), a cleverly-written tale (with an Oscar-winning screenplay) and with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar-winning performance by Kevin Spacey as a club-footed con man Roger "Verbal" Kint - and the unseen mobster Keyser Soze ("And like that, he's gone.")
  • Curtis Hanson's recreated early-50s Hollywood, Technicolor, retro-noir crime drama of scandalous sex and corruption, L.A. Confidential (1997), with an Oscar-winning screenplay, featuring three antagonistic police detectives (Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, and Kevin Spacey) in a corrupt LAPD investigating a mass slaying at a diner, and Kim Basinger in a Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winning role as a Veronica-Lake look-alike femme fatale/prostitute; a screen adaptation from several of James Ellroy's crime novels
    writer/director Christopher Nolan's Memento (2000), a confounding, mind-bending tale told in backward-jumping reverse, featuring a hero (Guy Pearce) without short-term memory, and Carrie Ann Moss as a potential femme fatale
  • The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), the Coen Brothers' semi-parody of film noir with impressive b/w cinematography from Roger Deakins, starring Billy Bob Thornton as a deadpanning, unassuming cuckolded barber Ed Crane, and his scheming wife Francis McDormand
  • David Lynch's complex and unconventional Mulholland Dr. (2001) with two femme fatales, each with two personas: the light Betty/Diane (Naomi Watts) and dark Rita/Camilla (Laura Elena Harring), both caught in a nightmarish, Los Angeles web of corruption after opening Pandora's Box


Tech-noirs are modern-day noirs set in futuristic settings. Ridley Scott's sci-fi thriller Blade Runner (1982) set its film noirish story in a decaying, tech-noir LA society of the future, with Harrison Ford as a 'blade-running' detective intent on killing androids. Steve de Jarnatt's chilling apocalyptic film noir Miracle Mile (1989) told about a musician (Anthony Edwards) who intercepted a phone booth call from a panicked missile silo operator and accidentally learned that a nuclear war had just been initiated. Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days (1995), a Millenium-New Year's Eve story, featured a hustler (Ralph Fiennes) who sold sexy and violent digital content fed directly into the brain. And Alex Proyas' labyrinthine tech-noir Dark City (1998), a combination of science fiction (inspired by Metropolis (1927)) and crime melodrama with the motif of a whirlpool, was also set in a futuristic, post-modern, and dark urban locale with a story about a malevolent alien race.

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