We talk about noir plotting and tropes, but in fact it drew liberally from the gangster pics of the Depression/Prohibition era, crime procedurals, heist movies, horror films (again, the German Expressionist influence), romantic melodrama, Gothic thrillers, tawdry B-movies, and that other quintessentially American breed, the Western. We admire its heavily stylized approach—exaggerated camera angles, tension-crafting mise-en-scène, flashbacks, deep focus and trademark shadows—but also its neo-realist and documentary-like experiments.Let’s get going—don’t say we didn’t warn you.—Amanda Schurr 100.Angel Heart Director: Alan Parker Year: 1987 Voodoo plays a prominent role in this Alan Parker noir, equal parts hard-boiled detective mystery and horror movie. We think of a never-ending, rain-soaked night—sunlight replaced with neon and nocturnal reflections, the optical trickery of mirrors and shadows—but in contrast, the days of noir scorched its characters.Enter the private detective and his antihero ilk—a scarred, brooding fella who for his considerable flaws was sympathetic.(Had Will Hays, Joseph Breen, and their censoring kind not been around, noir would’ve been an even more nihilistic realm.) In any case, the M. was linear: Talk it out, trace the clues, tell us about it with a voiceover. Like the ink on those yellow hard-boiled pages, film noir was a smeared affair from the start—hard to define and harder to reconcile.Its characters were dirty, displaced, disillusioned, distrustful, just plain dumb.
Homes they didn’t recognize, communities that had gone on in their absence, workplaces that no longer needed them, and wives who weren’t dependent on them anymore.
You couldn’t say the same for the ladies, what with that Madonna-whore complex running rampant through noir’s icky Freudian gender dynamics.
Unless they were a good, subservient girl, women were brazen, sexual bitches, more often than not smarter, and more powerful, than the guys—at least at the outset.
The world was a cruel and perilous place, be it the crowded streets or open road, the inner city or a rural outpost. In fact, perhaps the only clear-cut element of noir was the razor-sharp, imminently quotable dialogue, and its venomous sense of humor.
And so noir cast its misfits—gun-toting, hard-drinking, lipstick and stiletto-wearing human chimneys of neuroses—into a seductive, violent postwar labyrinth, in which the terror was internal and external.