Production Reflection

In our short film we employed several different characteristics that are typical of film noir that we have discussed over the course of the semester in order to create our own distinctly “noir” film. Our approach to this was really to pile as many noir elements into the story as we could, which perhaps was not the best thing to do. I think it would have been better for the narrative to focus strongly on one or two elements instead of a bunch. That way, we could make sure we were doing justice to those specific noir elements and build around them. The corruption theme within our film seemed particularly forced and we were unable to create enough of a backstory for the characters Julia or Richard to make it work convincingly.

In spite of these problems, we did have several elements that worked out pretty well considering our time and experience restraints. One element was our use of voiceover. Voiceover is a very typical characteristic of film noir, used most notably in the classic noir film Double Indemnity. Voiceover is an easy way to convey information and I think we used it well to convey the backstory as well as Brian’s thoughts and feelings towards Julia and the situation she had gotten him into. As J. P. Telotte writes in “Noir Narration,” “in this [technique of voiceover], the narrative can insert some significant information from the past or set up a context for present events…” (15). In our case, the voiceover functioned as both a way to show significant information from the past, such as Julia’s, Richard’s and Brian’s relationships to each other and to give context as to why Brian was holed up in his room staring at a blank television screen.

The femme fatale character also worked well enough, though I think having more screen time to build up her backstory and deviousness would have been beneficial. Though it wasn’t entirely clear that Julia really used her sexual appeal to manipulate the men around her, she still exhibited a key characteristic of film noir femmes fatales: her ambition and ruthless in order to achieve it. As Dickos writes in “Women as Seen in the Film Noir”, “three things motivate the femme fatale: a lust for exciting sex, a desire for wealth and the power it brings, and a need to control everything and everyone around her” (162). Our character Julia doesn’t portray a lust for exciting sex, nor especially a desire for wealth, but she does have a need to control everyone around her. I believe we exemplified this pretty well, as she is pulling both male characters along on strings throughout the entire lab scene and again in Brian’s apartment. She knows what she is doing and, as long as she is in control, she has no qualms about it. Although it would have been more convincing if we had shown more of Julia’s backstory, I think we pulled off an adequate femme fatale character.

Our film really helped me to zero in on what we believe noir to be, and figure out how to write and tell a convincing noir story, as well as put a set together in a noir style.

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Project Reflection

Before taking this class, I had little to no knowledge about noir films or everything that represented the idea of this “genre”. I would like to think, at this point of the semester, I have a much clearer idea of the production and styles that tie this all together. I think a key role in establishing the means to these elements was our student assignment of making a short film as a group. Not only were we able to use our own imagination to create a story line and create our own characters, but we were pretty much in control of the entire project with little leadership from Brett. I thought this was neat because this allowed us to explore our ideas of noir films and apply it to a project that all of us found pretty interesting. This project allowed us to reflect on everything we have learned throughout the semester and apply it to what we thought would expand on this idea of dark films that students would hopefully understand and see the messages we were trying to portray. I think our film related to previous ways, especially the scene in the lab with the multiple cuts. This reminded me of the fight scene we discussed in class covering Unforgiven and how it affected the scene as a whole. Although we were just arguing and not actually fist fighting, the quick cuts added suspense as a whole to the film and left the audience on edge when myself, Julia, stepped over Richard and grabbed the flash drive. This angle is seen throughout noir films, like the one I mentioned above, to add suspense and keep the audience engaged. As well with the scene cuts, I really liked how our film emphasized highly on the dark lighting and use of street lights and such. I felt like this compared to Touch of Evil when the couple is first walking in the street to their car and there is a huge emphasis on the street lights and other natural night lights. The scene where Brian and Julia are leaving dinner, the street lights and use of neon signs behind them reiterate the importance of these elements in noir films and compare well with the elements of the scene I mentioned above from Touch of Evil. I think we did a fantastic job thriving with these elements and adding our own twist to them. This semester, we have talked highly on the idea of the female fatal. I find this idea to be extremely prominent throughout noir films because it offers a romantic side to a crime feel. I think we touched on this element well when introducing Julia and all the things she brings to the film. She offers somewhat sexual characteristics when we learn she is playing both Brian and Richard in order to get what she wants. We see on the couch that she seems empathic and caring for Brian but we later learn that’s not the case at all. Again, I really enjoyed this project. It allowed us to take what we learned over the semester and apply it to our own work in a very unique way.

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Noir Short Film Reflection

In our noir short film we explored many aspects of film noir, in both writings and visual style, in an attempt to make a video that portrayed these elements as we have seen them used before. As a genre we did not add anything new but rather put together multiple themes and styles we had seen in other noirs. We might have had too many themes going at one time to really understand what was happening in the story. The main difficulty of the film was how short it was. The theme of corruption and of the femme fatale work best when seen from the beginning and continued throughout a story. It might have been ambitious of us to try to get that into one short film. The main difficulty with making noir is the fact that there is such a debate around what “film noir” is: a genre or a style? We seem to have mainly focused on the style instead of the genre. Because of this, we compiled a lot of different elements of noir when writing, producing, and editing this short film. In this way, there was not a lot of room to make something very unique.

The main element of noir that I saw the use of was voiceovers and flashbacks, which were possibly our strongest and closest connect to noir. Starting the story at one point and jumping back in time is a very noir element and I started to see the difficulties in writing that type of story but also how beneficial it is to capture the tone of a film noir. Breaking up a narrative added suspense and was enough foreshadowing to keep the story interesting. In the article “Noir Narration,” J.P. Telotte writes that “the voice-over, usually introducing and accompanying a flashback to some prior action or event, is often seen as the most characteristic noir narrative strategy” (14). The reason that voiceover and flashback is such an essential part of noir is because one theme is this obsession with the past. Our use of voiceover and flashback was a direct reference to how often we saw this used throughout the films we saw this semester. We used it in such a way that we have seen before but not necessarily as a way of showing the obsession with the past. Our use of voiceover was more just an issue of explaining and setting up our story.

Our lighting in Brian’s apartment scene fit in with the film noir. In the article “Some Visual Motifs of Film Noir,” Janey Place and Lowell Peterson define “the key light” as “the primary source of illumination, directed on the character usually from high and to one side of the camera” and “is generally a hard direct light that produces sharply defined shadows” (66). This is the kind of lighting that we used on Brian when he is sitting on his couch, with the voiceover informing the audience of what he is thinking about. This part of the short film fits well with the dark style we have come to see as essential to film noir.

Overall our short film was a good indicator of what we have learned about noir. Creating the story and film allowed us to look more closely at these elements and figure out ways to make them align and make sense in order to tell a story.

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Project Prospectus

The core of my Project Prospectus centers around the idea of gathering as much research as I can from discussion boards on iMDb, other blogs, and in some cases magazine articles regarding at least 4 Noir Films (in class) that we have watched over the course of the semester. In addition, my plan is to also gather research from other message boards regarding films/tv shows outside of class that I feel are relative to the discussion of Noir. The purpose of my research is to analyze the information that I have researched to draw compare/contrasting evidence that will portray my argument for how Noir is discussed (who’s the Noir audience & why?; characteristics such as themes, styles, femme fatales, flashbacks, lighting) in each of these message boards/blogging sites that range from original Noirs to Neo-Noirs–along with what the authors from our readings are saying about Noir.





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Blog Post 5

Oh man, is Pulp Fiction just one of the strangest movies you will ever see with all sorts of twists and turns and different plots interwoven all throughout the film. The scenes of the film were definitely pretty dark and uncomforting. There are a lot of flashbacks into earlier and later periods on the time table consisting of significant cuts of the puzzle to be placed together at the proper time. The erratic attributes of the film’s plot were definitely much more confusing than would be expected in the previous noir screenings we’ve had thus far in the semester. Probably the main thing that I felt made this  film much more different than the others was its lack of a true protagonist while at the same time consisting of a plethora of antagonists. There was somewhat of a femme fatale kind of character played by Uma Thurman who absolutely soaked up all of her sexuality for what it was worth to tempt the men in the film and mainly Vincent, in particular, the scene where they are out to eat and she gets him to participate in the dancing contest. What is curious is that in previous noirs, the femme fatalle type of character is similar in that the scenes took place while one or more characters “dancing”

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What makes this movie interesting is how it combines the attitude of Bogart classic detective noir films in a modern high school setting, like The Maltese Falcon. What really contributed to this film as a noir was the variation in characters. There’s Brendan, who is played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, that resembles a heroic detective conscionable like Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon). And he’s definitely not the only tough guy in the film, being that there is a huge drug and crime kingpin; examples include, Tug an eccentric thug who is basically there for physical threat, and the Pin who would be a tough guy but who actually can and does get slapped around. Like Casper Gutman and Wilmer Cook who is Gutman’s ‘punk-kid enforcer’. There’s also the character who represents authority in the film. Usually it’s played by the police contrary to the private detective main character, but in this film the role is filled by the high school principal who constantly warns/ makes threats to the main character. Particularly there is a most interesting character, who conveniently is never really too invested in the actions that are taking place in the film, who knows, sees, or guesses right about everything that is going on. Brendan’s friend, Brain, sits by the sidelines never getting into the open. In The Maltese Falcon it’s Effie, Sam Spade’s devoted but never too involved assistant. The best comparison to be made between these two films is how the story is never really clear while it progresses, but both of the films provide depth in character behavior, action or events, and great dialogue.






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Post 5

Brick is an interesting type of neo-noir, in that it ascribes to many elements of classic and neo-noir, but the setting and characters are largely different than what is typically expected out of the genre.

Brick includes a significant amount of violence; the main character Brendan can be seen getting the crap beaten out of him at several points throughout the film and the scene where Tug viciously beats The Pin to death is particularly memorable. Violence is a key element in the classic noir and neo-noir films we have seen thus far and this film bears no exception. Dickos says that “neo-noir is generally more violent, and more graphically violent at that, than the classic film noir ever was” (238). This is applicable to Brick as well, as there is a lot of blood and vicious beating throughout the film that we see firsthand (that is, nothing is left off-screen as it was in classic noir).

Brick also involves a femme fatale character in Laura, who is working behind-the-scenes the whole time and was behind setting Emily up to take the fall for her crime of stealing the brick of heroin. She also uses her sex appeal to get what she wants; she kisses Brendan to try and get him to trust her but ultimately it doesn’t work.

Dickos quotes Rich in his article, saying that “[neo-noir’s] power stems from those end-of-the-line dramas in which nobody could be trusted and not even the final frame held any explanation” (236). This explanation applies very well to Brick in that we as an audience are left guessing the truth of this entanglement even to the very end of the film, where Laura suggests to Brendan that Emily was carrying his child. In addition, we really can’t trust anyone except Brendan because we don’t know their motives or what their connections are in the drug plot.

These are typical elements of noir that we have analyzed so far, but the setting and characters in the film are quite different than other films we have watched. Brick is set in a Californian suburb, mostly at a high school and the characters are all high school kids or young adults. This offers me, being close to that age, a sympathetic view of the characters and I find it a bit incredulous that high schoolers could be wrapped up in all this drug and murder business at such a young age. Typical classic noir and neo-noir usually involve a grimy city setting and older characters, so in that way Brick is very unique.

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Pulp Fiction, A Neo-Noir: Blog Post 5

In the article “Comments on the Classic Film Noir and the Neo-Noir,” Andrew Dickos breaks down the elements of neo-noir films as opposing or reflecting the classic film noir. These neo-noirs are “taking into account the cultural and political changes… as well as its aesthetic modifications” to better fit a modern audience (235). According to Dickos, film noir and neo-noirs both seek “to communicate visually and verbally the inchoate, the helpless, the terror-stricken, just as they need to confess, lie, and reveal” (238). These elements of the neo-noir can be seen in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction in 1994, about fifty years after the unofficial end of the film noir. Most notably in its difference from classic noir, Pulp Fiction, along with other neo-noir films, is “generally more violent” than the film noirs. While most film noirs have guns and the victim or the villain are shot in the end, the violence either takes place off camera or the wound and amount of blood are subtle. In Pulp Fiction, there are several bloody, violent moments. After taking Vincent’s drugs, Mia Wallace overdoses and there is an entire scene that shows her passed out with blood oozing out of her nose and foaming from the mouth until they get to Vincent’s drug dealer, Lance’s, house where Vincent violently gives her an adrenaline shot through the heart (54 minutes – 1 hour). Another show of violence is in the scene where Vincent accidentally shoots Marvin in the back of Marcellus’s car (1 hour 56 minutes). There is blood everywhere, all over Vincent and Marcellus as well as the car. The partners then have to enlist the help of Winston Wolf to help them clean up the mess. The characters describe having to pick up brain matter and bits of skull. A character overdosing or having his brain’s blown out would not happen in a film noir, and if it did, it would not have been so violently done. The film shows many close up shots of Mia, bloody and unconscious, and Vincent and Marcellus stay in their bloody suits for a long time. The deaths in film noirs are always cleaner in a way than in neo-noirs, as Dickos points out, where the film takes “glories in the aesthetics of violence” (240). The more explicit use of violence is just one way neo-noirs reflect the time they were made, as these types of violent scenes are allowed in modern movies but would not have been in the 1940s or 50s, while still using the themes of film noir.

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Blog Post 5:

Brick, unlike any other noir film we have seen this semester, follows the story of an outsider main character, whom wishes to figure out how his girlfriend was killed. His plan of staying out of trouble and all that comes with fitting in with the crowds gets destroyed when he has to become the detective of the murder. I found this story line to be very unique compared to recent films we have watched, not only because it was made more recently so the elements differ from the other films, but because of the story it tells. In this movie, it emphasized the common idea of high school and all the cliques that make it up. It was apparent Brendan wanted nothing to do with this but yet it seemed to still be a large part of the story line. This might have been due to the fact of dealing with the “druggies” but also it is often very stereotypical in today’s society. The media portrays high school to consist of different cliques such as the common druggies, jocks, nerds, and popular kids. This film coming out in 2005 still carries the weight of this being apparent to this day. I wonder why more noir films did not take the approach of being a breakout film in Hollywood and following many of the stereotypical ideas that we see every day. Not saying this film was huge, but it definitely seemed as though it could be seen by more audiences with an easy story line to understand and the typical stereotypes being portrayed.

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Project Proposal

For my project proposal, my goal is learn more about what the overall perspective  of my peers or students gain in regards to how to decode film noir and how it can be discerned from genre. Noir in itself has evolved into a number of different directions and as such, it can be quite confusing. Knowing that our class as a whole has spent quite a deal of time analyzing film noirs over the course of the semester, it would be intriguing to see how my own peers can evaluate the same context in a limited amount of time and bring up some discussion and even debate about the topic of Noir vs. Genre.

I would certainly like to get a few screenings of noirs with a handful of students or my peers together to watch. I would also consider implementing some noir-ish type of video games for students or my peers to play. We could evaluate and analyze the media texts as a group or individually.

Some trouble I may run into is trying to decide how I’m going to get data for project. I could conduct a series of interviews with sample sizes from my audience and analyze what they discussed or decoded in that sense; OR I could put together a generic survey or questionnaire of some sort to get their thoughts or opinions. Probably the biggest issue I would run across would be coordinating a schedule and a screening with either my peers or students to come watch. Nonetheless, it would be a lot of fun!

As far as resources, I would need a handheld video camera, tripod, and maybe some lightbars. The project itself would have to be done somewhat quickly to allow me time to edit my video essay and put it together for an in-class presentation.



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