Modernism & Blood Melodrama Screening: Scarlet Street (1945) Fritz Lang; The Third Man, Carol Reed (1949), The Asphalt Jungle (1950) John Houston; Touch of Evil (1958) Orson Welles Readings: James Naremore “Modernism and Blood Melodrama: Three Case Studies” pp 40-95 (recommended text).
Existentialism & Noir Soren Kirkegaard Nietzsche – if God does not exist then man must become god. Overman = Ubermensch Heidegger – the question of being dasein/ mitsein Sartre –being for others or being for one self? Existence precedes essence I am another (to myself)
A residual surrealism French discussion of film noir conditioned by concerns of Parisian Left Bank intellectuals. Existentialism as a residual surrealism? Publisher Galimard’s Serie Noire conceived & edited by Marcel Duchamel one of the authors of the ‘exquisite corpse’ game and Freudian surrealist research into sexuality during the 1930’s. Re: Naremore “More than Night” Chpt 1: 17
“The initial discourse on Hollywood's dark cinema coincides with the one of the last important moments in the history of international modernism” As previously noted, Nino Frank is attributed the first application of Film Noir to American Thrillers of the post war period
Existential alienation despair angst absurdity alienation boredom [Obstacles to living an ‘authentic’ life] The choice is “being for oneself” or “being for others” (J-P Sartre)
Existential noir themes Life is meaningless Life is endlessly repetitive There is no higher purpose to life… therefore one must get on with it. The self is the only knowable entity Individual subjectivity
The quotidian angst For the existentialist the responsibility therefore is of giving one’s own life meaning and living that life passionately and sincerely in spite of the many alienating obstacles and frustrations.
The noir anti-heroes as existentialists Are Hammet’s Sam Spade or Chandler’s Philip Marlow existentialists? A case of Hollywood's appropriation of existentialism c.w. Freudianism? The femme fatale as an existential position? The self as the only knowable thing? Solipsism? If man [woman] wills him/herself to be?
Four Exemplary Noir Films with existential themes Double Indemnity (1944) Billy Wilder Scarlet Street (1945) Fritz Lang The Third Man (1949) Carol Reed The Asphalt Jungle (1950) John Huston Touch of Evil (1958) Orson Welles
Director: Orson Welles Produced by Albert Zugsmith; Rick Schmidlin (1998 restoration & director’s cut) Script: Whit Masterson (Badge of Evil) Orson Welles, (screenplay); Paul Monash & Franklin Coen (uncredited) Musical Score: Henry Mancini
Cast: Orson Welles --- (Hank Quinlan) Charlton Heston ---(Miguel/Mike) Janet Leigh --- Suzie Vargas Marlene Dietrich This film is considered the last film noir of the so- called “classic noir” period from 1940-1958.
Double Indemnity (1944) Billy Wilder The Reading: Schrader, P., “Notes on Film Noir” pp53-63 in Silver, A., and Ursini, J., Film Noir Reader (Required reading). James Naremore “From Dark Films to Black Lists: Censorship and Politics” pp96-135 (recommended text);
The quintessential noir film Double Indemnity (1944) Paramount Director: Billy Wilder Screenplay: Raymond Chandler with Billy Wilder from the novel by James M Cain. Fred MacMurrray and Barbara Stanwyck Edward G Robinson
Plot summary for the ‘perfect crime’ A calculating wife (Barbara Stanwyck) as a femme fatale encourages her husband to take out a double indemnity policy proposed by Walter Neff (Fred MacMurrray) a smitten insurance agent. The would be lovers plot the unsuspecting husband’s murder but arouse the suspicions of claims manager ‘detective’ (Edward G. Robinson).