Friday, September 4, 2009

Who Gets To Classify Neo-, Pseudo-, And Actuo-Noir Anyhow?

So I’m confused... every time someone brings up the term Film Noir I assume I know what they’re talking about because I understand the “rules” of the “genre”. I put those two words in quotes because they are both facades.
Let’s talk the “rules” of Noir. 1) It must dabble in some form of criminal activity... that’s key. 2) It must pull focus to darker places like smoke or shadows, but that’s all camera work, right? 3) It must live in a world of anti-heroes and femme fatals. 4) And it definitely must be stylized. So if the film doesn’t factor in all of that... it’s not a Noir? Or could it be Pseudo-Noir? 5) This is the kicker (for extra points), the film in question must have been made between the years 1941 and 1959??
Let’s talk “genre”. How in the hell is Film Noir considered a genre? I say this with the upmost respect for the films therein, but every time someone lists to me which ones are Noir and which aren’t I find myself trying very hard not to ball my fist up and punch them in the face. See if we follow the “rules” then Noir is simply a specialized Crime-Drama or Thriller. But apparently that’s not how it works. It’s as if the French were just trying to confuse me by classifying something that it turns out is actually unclassifiable.
Seriously, if a film was made in the ‘60s to present day... it’s Neo-Noir? I understand the reasoning for some films to be classified this way, but someone’s trying to tell me we can never again make another Actuo-Noir. And that doesn’t fly. See, if you are honestly prepared to call this a genre, then it must be a genre... not an era of film, which is closer to what they seem to have pinned it as, just without the title.
So I say enough with the bullshit. M. Verdoux is not Noir because it is a comedy without the standards of Noir contained therein... it may be a Pseudo-Noir/Comedy or Crime-Comedy (why not?).  But it is not a Noir. The Maltese Falcon is certainly a Noir... so too are Citizen Kane, Double Indemnity, Sunset Blvd., and The Lady From Shanghai. The Naked City should not be titled Noir, but Pseudo-Noir. It’s closer to a Crime-Drama... with cops. And check this out, Miller’s Crossing is definitely Noir. Not Neo-Noir, not Pseudo-Noir... but full on Noir. It earned this title by not going too far over the edge with nudity and profanity (not TOO far).
See Neo-Noir was created because there’s too much cursing in the new Noir films... but that makes sense. Wouldn’t you curse in those situations? Hell yes.
I’m just saying, if Film Noir is to exist as a “genre” please make it a genre (without the quotes)... because it deserves to be a real entity. No other genre in the history of film has had as much trouble and confusion brought upon it. Westerns are easy (anything in the West), Sci-Fi as well (anything using Science as a mode of story telling)... and while both of these are the closest related genres to Noir, being that they are purely scenario and setting related, they have never been debated to such a bloody pulp (hah, I said pulp).
You know what else is a good Noir to check out? Brick. And that’s solid Noir. Believe me, it earned the title.
Clap if you agree.
P.S.- Other genres that may be confused for and connected to Noir: Mob/Gang, Mystery, and Detective which can all be more generally categorized under the Crime umbrella. And how sad is it that none of the films I mentioned are available on Blu-Ray? But this one is.

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