For my analysis project I have chosen to look at the film Batman: Mask Of the Phantasm. I have chosen this film based on what I consider to be a great deal of noir elements that it contains. I’m not sure if its necessarily neo-noir, but I should hope to draw some parallels to the readings and other films we have viewed in class. Here is the trailer for the film and some images.
Just because something isn’t labeled “noir” doesn’t mean it doesn’t possess some of the same elements of a noir. The movie Charade (1963) is a movie that is technically categorized as a thriller/mystery, but there are some arguable components to consider it to be noir-esque. There trailer is here!
Looking at the following images, you can sense some parallels without even watching the movie — the movie poster tells it to you. Just from these images you see a man with a gun, a woman by his side, and violent scenes.
In my presentation, I will discuss elements of noir that I find and synthesize them with the readings and discussions from class.
Film Noir has paved the way for many opportunities in the contemporary media world. The themes of Film Noir, such as are still prevalent in today’s culture, whether it be neo-noir movies, books, video games, even music. But one such new medium holding true to the essence of noir are Marvel’s Noir comic books.
From 2009 to 2010, Marvel issued monthly copies of their new comic book. According to Wikipedia, the central premise “replaces super powers with driven, noir-flavored characterization.” Several bloggers have taken an interest in examining these elements.
In their blog The Mouth of Dorkness, Brad and Matt discuss and review the noir elements found in these comic books. Their familiarity with noir is basic as they fail to delve into appropriate detail. They explain themes of noir, but they, however, did not link it to the Marvel Noir comic books. For example, they identify themes, such as femme fatale, “moody” art, murder, and gangland war, but they did not explain how these elements are provided specifically in the comic book. In their last remarks, Brad and Matt personally perceive the comics to be more of a pulp series (a publication that is centralized around a hero avenging innocent victims) than a noir series, suggesting that some of the comics show no difference from their original stories. Their last critique was that they hoped to see these comics in black and white print rather than in color as it is. However, I do not fully agree with this. Noir doesn’t necessarily need to be black and white to hold true because there are several other elements that make noir noir. Some of these elements are ones that they have touched on, plus some more.
One things that I have noticed that they have not mentioned in their review was the idea of being a “hero.” Porfirio (1976) describes the heros of noir to be non-heroic. Further, he explains that the protagonist of noir is someone that has a past — something has been taken or missing to them (p. 84). The same could be said about the majority of these Marvel characters. Additionally, noir heroes are more likely to do things to satisfy their own self-interest. Take Daredevil, for example. He was orphaned and left blinded at a young age by a gangster mob (something/someone has been taken and has since been missing from his life). Since then, Daredevil has set out to avenge his own personal grief (satisfy personal interest).
As for femme fatale, all of the protagonists seem to fall victim to the women in their lives. The Wikipedia page on each Marvel Noir comic explains the plot of each story. In class, we discussed that women of noir are not passive, docile, or damsels in distress, instead, they take things into their own hands, which often causes danger for the protagonist. (Sticking with Daredevil) Daredevil has countlessly followed Eliza (lady-interest) to insure her safety, but she has always lead him into trouble, which results in a fight scene. Eliza is so independent and opaque that it was a surprise to find out that she was a killer herself. In the end, Daredevil fought her and left her unconscious (the inevitable punishment that women receive in the end).
As we can see, Noir continues to grow into different types of mediums, still carrying the essential themes and elements. Marvel included several themes of noir in their adaptation which stim from the original film noir. Brad and Matt had a good idea in their analysis of Marvel Noir, but it wasn’t executed fully. Delving deeper in, we are able to connect these comic books with what has been discussed in class and in readings.
Here’s the link to the website I mentioned in class:
Film Noir has truly left its mark on the face of cinema. Cynical attitudes, harsh contrasts, femme fatales, rugged detectives, plenty of cigarettes, and sexual motives, epitomize the once viral cinematic form. The uniquely stylized “genre” of Hollywood crime drama has managed to stay very much alive through modern day representations in mass media. In 2011, Rockstar games came out with the popular crime drama video game, L.A. Noire.
L.A. Noire blends investigative elements such as mystery and crime solving, with fast-action situations, including car chases, hand-to-hand combat, gunfights, and interrogations. The game quickly earned attention and eventually became one of the best games of the year . Soon after its release, the dramatic crime thriller was chosen to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, interestingly the first video game to be entered and accepted by the festival (vg247.com).
The aesthetic elements draw heavily from the imagery of classical hollywood film noir. The game does a great job mimicking “dark” lighting, almost always casting a shadow, with the right balance of darks and lights. It is obvious that the shots directly mimic that of Film noir, though the video game’s incorporation of graphic colors seem to introduce alternate moods that the noir period could not capture. It is my opinion that the success of this game is largely due to its representation of the ” dark visual style and black vision of despair, loneliness, and dread (Porfirio 80)”, that film noir so deeply encompasses. This participatory form of media re-creates and regurgitates this visual theme, in my opinion, perfectly. The game really defines itself as a neo-noir artifact, simply because of CGI and modern graphics. Otherwise, i’d say its almost exactly identical in visual style, and even in structure.
The protagonist, Cole Phelps, plays the niche of an L.A. police officer and later detective. The whole storyline of the game revolves around this one subject, following his path through his career as he deals with various cases. Both the gamers of L.A. and viewers of film noir are able to watch their “hero” take abuse, get into trouble, or even stumble into a sexual encounter, and be able to identify and grow with that character. Our not-so-heroic hero mirrors that of the noir protagonist’s status, as he is constantly “subjected to brutal stresses and strains”(Christopher 17). Intended for the demographic of young to middle aged males, L.A. Noir does a sound job at re-creating the structure of the game through the eyes of a man, for men. Ultimately, L.A. Noir is able to ignite a sense of “shared human responses” within the participator’s own psyche (Porfirio 81). For most of today’s video games, i think it’s safe to say that this isn’t the easiest thing to achieve.
Interestingly enough, TNT has recently ordered a pilot for their new drama series…. L.A. Noir. produced by former Walking Dead showrunner, Frank Darabont. Although there are many modern artifacts out there today that border on the line of noir, it will be a very different perspective to see true noir packaged into a TV series format. Since its creation from German expressionism, film noir continues to grow and transform, jumping from medium to medium, constantly re-surfacing within various artifacts throughout the world of media today.
If you haven’t played the game i suggest you do, however if you want to see more about how the game looks overall check it out right here!
An article devoted to an annual Noir Film Festival that shows obscure/forgotten noir films. It highlights the top 5 films shown this year at the festival. Just generating ideas for films you can delve into if you’re interested.
Objective: to understand how film noir has influenced other genres over time.
Task: watch two films- a noir film of your choice from the past and a modern film that is considered noir or has noir influence.
Give a presentation, PowerPoint, video essay, anything you’d like to do that covers the following:
Brief synopsis of each film
What makes the modern film noir
What elements of noir are important in the older noir film
Compare/contrast the two films
Summarize the importance of these films and how they influence society- now & today
Criteria for a good grade will include the following:
Does your presentation provide informative, new information?
Does your presentation help create a better understanding for what we have discussed in the class
Do you present information in a clear concise manner.
I was thinking that it would be interesting to take a piece of media categorized as noir (that isn’t film) and compare it to one of the films we’ve seen. The point of the assignment would be to see if noir is inherently film or if it translates well to other pieces of media like books and video games. The assignment would require a short essay (3-5 pages) and a short in-class presentation that shares your opinions and gives the class a little context about the work you’re analyzing. An excellent essay/presentation would be one that was clear and concise, with all of the necessary information. It would give the class a good feeling for the piece of media chosen and have 3-5 ideas compared and contrasted about the work.
Sorry it’s a little unclear, I have it all in my head, the keyboard was just inhibiting me.