Book Reviews

Want to be a Film Noir Aficionado? Start Here.

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Film noir is full of surprises.

Dear Reader, we believe all humans have certain universal and inalienable rights; among them, the Right to be a Know-It-All.

If, for example, you’ve always wanted to know more about film noir – and who doesn’t? – you’ve come to the right place.

(Wait – we’re not suggesting we’re an authority on film noir. Good heavens! But, happily, we know folks who are.)

The first thing you need to do is start following blogs like Noirish, Shadows & Satin and Film Noir Detour, if you aren’t already. These people know film noir.

Secondly, you should find yourself a copy of the recently-published guide, I Found it at the Movies: Film Noir Reviews by Debbi Mack. This smart and amusing read introduces you to the genre and gives you a tour of the most notable films.

Firstly, you may be asking: What on earth is film noir?

“During a period running roughly from the early 1940s to the mid-1950s, Hollywood produced a downbeat genre or style of film known as ‘film noir’,” writes author Debbi Mack. “The phrase literally translates into ‘black film or cinema’. This style represented a backlash against the happy musicals and comedies that Hollywood was known for up until then.”

Mack divides her reviews into three sections. First, she explores the roots of noir, as influenced by writers such as Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler. “[I]t was a style captured well by the early pulp fiction writers,” says Mack, “whose lone detectives sought answers down the mean streets of whatever city they were in.”

One of the most famous stills from film noir, The Big Combo (1955). Image: Open Culture
An iconic film noir image, The Big Combo (1955). Image: Open Culture

The second part of the book examines what Mack terms the golden age of noir (1945-47). “It’s in this time period that film noir proliferated,” she writes. “And while many of these movies were considered B-movies, a.k.a. low budget flicks, they reflected the sensibilities of post-World War II America.”

Movies in this era include acclaimed classics such as The Lost Weekend (1945), The Killers (1946) and Out of the Past (1947). These films are still widely discussed and analyzed today.

Lastly, Mack surveys the years between the late 1940s to the late 1950s, when some of the most famous films of the genre were produced, such as The Third Man (1949), The Asphalt Jungle (1955) and The Sweet Smell of Success (1957).

Mack has an engaging, conversational style, much like a tour guide who introduces you to, and makes you fall in love with, a foreign city. Don’t be surprised if, halfway through reading this book, you abruptly begin searching online for noir titles to watch.

At 49 pages, I Found it at the Movies: Film Noir Reviews is an efficient and entertaining read. It’s a terrific guide, whether or not you aim to be a film noir expert.

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Notes:

  • You can order a copy of I Found it at the Movies: Film Noir Reviews by Debbi Mack (Kindle) HERE.
  • Check out author Debbi Mack’s movie blog HERE.
  • We were sent an advance reading copy to review.
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22 thoughts on “Want to be a Film Noir Aficionado? Start Here.

  1. It sounds like a great read, Ruth! What always intrigues me about film noir is the different definitions. Many people consider SUNSET BOULEVARD to be a prototypical noir, but somehow that doesn’t seem right to me (though it certainly is deadbeat…but also more satire).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hear you, and I agree re: Sunset Blvd. Debbi touches on defining noir in her book when she discusses Mildred Pierce. Every time I watch Mildred Pierce I’m determined to decide once & for all how noir it is, but 5 minutes in I’m so absorbed by the story, I forget about everything else.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Me? I haven’t seen enough film noir to know for sure. I don’t think anyone set out to make a noir as we understand the term back then. It may have started as a styleand evolved into a genre over time, but I’m just speculating.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Fab review. And I just love this whole thing! The time period and backlash against the shiny, happy musicals, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, and Raymond Chandler, pulp fiction writers… So cool! Will check this book out for sure. I think my husband would love it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So very late to the party, Ruth, and all of the centerpieces were already spirited away. I did get a copy of the book, however. I think I got the better deal. Thanks for the recommendation.
    Hope 2017 is a happy and healthy year for you and yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks a lot. I agree. However on the first section (where you talked about Hammett and Chandler), these two are a bit different from each other. Chandler is much more literary in terms of his use of language and creating atmospheric plots.

    Like

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