Fox Home Entertainment has today released the DVD set of three restored and remastered “film noir” titles: Boomerang! (1947), Moontide (1942), and Road House (1948). Bomerang! directed by Elia Kazan, and Moontide starring Jean Gabin in his first US film, are peripheral noir titles, while Road House has stronger noir credentials.
NY Times film critic, Dave Kehr, has published a balanced review of the release: On the Margins of Noir.
Kehr’s review raises the issue of how you classify a movie as a film noir:
Film noir is a notoriously difficult concept to define, and after years of futile attempts I’ve come to rely on the time-honored method of the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart: I know it when I see it, as he so succinctly observed in regard to pornography.
I would agree with Kehr here, but he seems to undercut his statement later in his article when he says: “all three titles… exist on the margins of noir, sharing some of its characteristics but not quite meeting all the requirements”.
My feeling is that it is sufficient to label a film as noir if it is informed by a ‘noir sensibility’. Again I suppose talking about a ‘noir sensibility’ opens yet another can of worms. In my essay, What is film noir?, I take a stab at a definition: ” a profoundly and deeply human response to the chaos and random contingency at the edge of existence“. I am sure not everyone will agree, and invite comment.