Film Noir, A Distinctly American Genre, But With A French Name.

1773 words - 7 pages

1.Watch one of the cited German expressionist films. Write down the visual motifs you think film noir borrowed. Then watch a noir such as Double Indemnity , Laura , Out of the Past, or The Killers and note the visual similarities. Be specific.Nosferatu: The vampire's castle is in ruins. Shot at night, the scene is filled with deep shadows. The coach approaches the castle at a fast pace, on a road surrounded by deep shadows in a desolate countryside. Inside the castle, the young real estate clerk is dwarfed by the high ceilings and massive staircase, and trapped by the heavy doors. The ship is tossed by a storm of supernatural proportions. Only the rats survive the journey. The vampire's death scene finds him enclosed in a small room with deep shadows, while a shaft of light from the open window destroys him.Double Indemnity: Walter Neff is dwarfed by the large, expensive house, especially when he stands at the bottom of the stairs. The streets of Los Angeles are dark and desolate. Neff sits at his desk and dictates his story, while a shaft of light comes in through the window. He is dying.2.Optional: Watch Citizen Kane and write down all of the noirish techniques used, such as arty lighting, odd camera angles, deep-focus and the other characteristics we discussed.Kane's estate, Xanadu, falls into ruins. Its monumental architecture dwarfs the people who inhabit the film. Inside Xanadu, rows of pillars recede into darkness. The hardened reporter tries to learn the story of Kane's life. At the beginning of his adult life, Kane is shot from below, making him seem gigantic. Toward the end, however, he seems to become smaller because of the different camera angles. The femme fatale causes Kane to lose his wife and child (who are conveniently killed in an automobile accident), but she is a pale, weak shadow of the noir femme fatale. The conclusion is a scene of desolate darkness and destruction, as Kane's beloved sled ("Rosebud") is tossed into the incinerator with all the other "junk".1.2.Read the Introduction and first chapter, Towards a Definition of Film Noir, in the Film Noir Reader .3.Choose one or two of the films I mentioned from the 1930s gangster cycle (Howard Hawks Scarface , with Paul Muni, and William Wellman's The Public Enemy , with James Cagney, are personal favorites) and one or two from the noirs. Watch them on video and compare the overall tones of the movies. Pay special attention to:·The protagonist's attitude in each film. Is he optimistic and exuberant, or melancholy and fatalistic? Does he get a bang out of life, or is he resigned to it being a corrupt snake pit?·What is his fate? Does he survive? Get his just desserts? Escape penalty? Shamble off into the miserable darkness?·Are his problems material or psychological?The gangster films portray little men with big guns. For example, Edward G. Robinson plays the role of Rico in Scarface as a blustery caricature of a man, more ape than human. His brutal, ugly...

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