5 Comments

  1. “Obviously none of these films are listed as Film Noir, but rather as horror films, thrillers, crimes or dramas. They are almost all silent films and mostly German (or directed by Germans in Hollywood).”

    Indeed Alan. I wholeheartedly agree that the roots of film noir can be traced back to German expressionism, horror and that thriller-drama hybrid you broach here. In fact the greatest noirs would appear to showcase the best visual and narrative aspects of the films that fall under that earlier umbrella. I love the journey you have embarked on – it’s heaven for the noir fan but at least cinematic bliss for the movie lover in general. The tools to complete the task are all perfect, and I dare say I’ll do some investigation myself. Great post!

  2. Alan Fassioms

    Thanks Sam for your kind feedback. It’s also interesting that you mention “thriller-drama hybrid”, as ‘hybrids’ are another aspect of Noirs that are worth some digging, I’ve recently discovered. Particularly Horror-Noir hybrids that Hammer Film Productions in particular was notorious for. I use the word ‘notorious’ carefully, as Hammer didn’t have such a great reputation in the Noir department. However, if Martin Scorcese’s opinion is worth anything, there are definitely at least few Noir gems in the Hammer archives just waiting to be re-discovered. Perhaps this will be the subject of my investigation!

  3. Alan Fassioms

    Epilogue:
    Admittedly when I first wrote the above article, my passion for classic silent movies, and particularly the German Expressionist ones, were high. They still are! As is, and always will be, my passion for Film Noir. But now that the honeymoon phase with German Expressionism has passed, I can look at my article more objectively. The main mistake I make is to try to suggest that Film Noirs roots lie solely in Weimar, or early German, cinema. Irrevocably, I maintain that this is true to a certain degree. However after doing further research into this subject, it has to be said that my attempts to pinpoint exactly where Film Noirs origins lie remain inconclusive. The fact is Film Noir is the mongrel of the film industry…a ‘street dog’ with more than one owner. Sure, the themes, particularly of the earlier Noirs, reflect much of the post WW1 mood that was present in a traumatized and broken Germany. Cinematically, this translated into films about the ‘intellectual’ topics that I mention in my article, i.e. madness, betrayal, humiliation etc. Also from an aesthetics viewpoint, some important German cinematographers were responsible for helping to create film noirs distinct visual style (e.g. Karl Freund). But other key components, such as the dark, shadowy street scenes, criminals on the fringe of urban society, and femme fatales, can also find their roots in other genres. The Strassenfilm, or ‘Street Film’ genre, which grew out of the New Objectivity art movement in latter 1920’s Germany [‘New Objectivity’ or ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’ reflected more the mood of a Germany prepared to pick themselves up and welcome new ideas and more social awareness, and was a direct counter-reaction to negativity of German Expressionism]; the film movement known as French Poetic Realism where the pessimism and despair of the urban lower classes is expressed with romance and melancholy; French, hard-bolied crime fiction of the 1930’s; and the closer to home, American ‘hard boiled’ urban crime-fiction, from authors such as Cornell Woolrich, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, as well as stories found in the crime pulp magazine ‘Black Mask’, all had an important role in Film Noirs early development, and therefor deserve a big mention.

  4. Alan Fassioms

    Agreed Tony, It’s been fascinating opening this can of worms and finding so many pieces to the puzzle. It’s really opened my eyes to a lot of important directors and various genres that, had it not been for film noir, I’d never of had the pleasure of experiencing.

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