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« On Bastille Day, Vive la France: the Marseillaise as orchestrated by Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) | Main | "Mandingo" (by Mitch Sisskind) »

July 14, 2019


Agree with you both. Speaking of Dassin, just re-watched Rififi, the French film about a jewel heist that's a terrific thriller with some very noir elements in tone and attitude. Not noir per se, but maybe noiresque? In any event, one of Dassin's best.

A favorite underrated noir of mine (at least I think of it as half-noir) is No Way Out, Joseph Mankiewicz's 1950 film and the debut of Sidney Poitier. Apropos Widmark, he plays a despicable petty criminal with whom Poitier's doctor character must contend. I think its a great effort at weaving classic noir elements (Widmark and his relationship with Linda Darnell's character) with some serious social drama about Poitier's experience as a young MD in a major public hospital prison ward. Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee also both make debuts here. The African American characters' lives are played out in this film with humanity and realism, not the kind of stereotypical caricatures common to the period.

Thanks again for some fun insights into two great movies.

Thanks for this thoughtful comment -- and for recommending the 1950 "No Way Out," which is superior to the movie of the same title starring the redoubtable Gene Hackman along with Kevin Costner and Sean Young. (That's a remake pf "The Big Clock" with Charles Laughton and Ray Milland, a much better film -- not noir but with similarities.) -- DL

Jeffrey, I tend to be a bit finicky about what is and isn't Noir, but I'm fine with calling Rififi Noir. Absolutely. It's French Noir, and those French have their own style. Good that you mention No Way Out, because I'll be mentioning it too in one of my forthcoming comments, an anecdote re. Richard Widmark during the filming. I sure do like Richard Widmark.

Thanks for giving noir its due in "Why Poets Love Noir." Poets see the "poetry" in the form. I'm a noir author and noir has expanded in its definition, no longer just defined by style and atmosphere, but more recently defined by content. Style is still important, cynicism critical, but in neo-noir and femmes-noir, the story can be about a strong woman in an icy, rural setting up against the world with justice not served. I'm reading an anthology of women writing noir right (CUTTING EDGE from Akashic Press) and Joyce Carol Oates has this to say: “In noir, women’s place until fairly recently has been limited to two: muse, sexual object. The particular strength of the female noir vision isn’t a recognizable style but rather a defiantly female, indeed feminist, perspective.”
Don't get me wrong--I love classic noir and studied it in college. But everything evolves (or devolves) and in this case noir has expanded to include domestic noir, cyber-noir, supernatural noir, etc. in the movies.
My vote for classic noir goes to THE ASPHALT JUNGLE for all the reasons stated. My neo-noir goes to MULHOLLAND DRIVE.

Dear Valerie, Thank you for this valuable comment. Joyce makes a a very good point, which we can excpand a loittle: "muse, sexual object, scorned woman, Ma Barker ['White Heart']." I do think of a few noir movies in which the woman has a real profession. Joan Crawford owns and operates a restaurant in Mildred Pierce, and if Hitchcock is eligible, Ingrid Bergman is a psychoanalyst in "Spellbound."
I agree about THE ASPHALT JUNGLE. My favorite neo-noir: "The Getaweay" (sam Peckinpah). Do Frankenheimer's "The Manchurian Candiate" and "Seconds" count as noirs? -- DL

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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