Paul Schrader Film Noir Essay

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“I am Matthew Macauley,” says a face superimposed over imagery of radiant clouds. But so much of me is still living that I know now that the end is only the beginning.” This is indeed a beginning, of (1943).

Having died in the war, Matthew will guide us back to his hometown and his household’s daily routines.

So let’s look at posthumous narrators in the Forties, with some glances at a trio of more recent efforts.

As a non-dead and highly reliable narrator, I must warn you of spoilers ahead.Guiding spirits (1943) gives us a dead man explaining episodes from his life to an inquisitive official in the afterlife.The more flagrant cases, however, involve dead narrators who recount the entire film we see in voice-over, as in our prototype (1938 play, 1940 film).The noir hero dreads to look ahead, but instead tries to survive by the day, and if unsuccessful at that, he retreats into the past.Thus film noir’s techniques emphasize loss, nostalgia, lack of clear priorities, insecurity; then submerge these self-doubts in mannerism and style.In such a world style becomes paramount; it is all that separates one from meaninglessness….(5) This moral ambivalence and relentless cynicism, the overall tone of hopelessness and bleakness is one of the defining features of this class of films.We will limit our subject matter here to the classic film noir period of 1941-1958, recognizing that all modern noir variants seek to emulate this period.These modern While there is no decisive list of these films, and critics tend to add or remove films from their own personal lists of films noir, those that are commonly classified as such share a common theme perhaps best described by Paul Schrader in his 1972 “Note on Film Noir”: There is a passion for the past and present, but a fear of the future.The classification and cataloging of items seem to fulfill a basic need in human beings, whether it is vegetable, mineral or animal.It seems that this basic need to analyze and categorize items applies also to objets d’art, including film – and the recognition or dismissal of film noir as a genre has been argued since the term was coined.


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