Today’s list: 5 Must-See Classics of Golden Age Film Noir
To get you in the mood for DEF CON’s Noir theme, we offer some Film Noir knowledge and recommendations.
Noir is a slippery category, but it’s generally taken to mean films with a cynical worldview, moody, stylized cinematography and stories that turn on darker human impulses: lust, greed, vengeance. They are stories of the desperate and the doomed, the outsiders who will never really belong to polite society.
The golden age of film noir is the 1940s and 50s, but the genre left its mark all over popular culture and great noir (or neo-noir, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing) is still being made today.
Double Indemnity: Arguably the film that kicked off the genre. All the elements are present. The lighting is dramatic, the dialog is sharp and the plot turns on murder for easy money. Directed by the great Billy Wilder and written by detective fiction immortal Raymond Chandler. Double Indemnity is the heavyweight champ of golden age noir, with 7 Oscar Nominations.
Kiss Me Deadly: Adapted from the Mickey Spillane novel of the same name. Starts with a disreputable private eye picking up a terrified hitchhiker escaping from a mental hospital wearing only a trench coat, and then things get weird. A Cold War parable with a breakneck plot, a mysterious box and as pitch-black an opinion of the human condition as you could put on screen in 1955.
Out Of The Past: To create the mood of a good noir, you need actors with moodsetting skills - lurking, looming, smoking with intent. No one has ever been better at doing those things than Robert Mitchum. Pay close attention to his looming work in this film. 10/10 would cross the street to avoid. Bonus: You can check out Mitchum being extra foreboding in 'Night of the Hunter'.
D.O.A: Some of the plot tricks in this movie might seem familiar, but only because directors borrow from it all the time. D.O.A. was pretty avant-garde in its time.
Our protagonist is dying - soon. He uses the remainder of his rapidly expiring time to find out who murdered him and see justice done. Lots of newer movies use the forced clock, the backwards storytelling, the inside-out murder mystery but very few of them do it any better.
Touch of Evil: The opening shot - a long, unbroken meander through the scene of our intrigue - is a clinic on mood-setting. Questionable makeup choices aside, this is the platonic ideal of what a dark melodrama should look like.
Honorable mentions: The Killers. The Asphalt Jungle. The Big Sleep.