Film noir: Out of the Past (1947)
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James and Thomas introduce one of the most influential genres of Hollywood’s golden age: film noir. Noir’s distinctively moody chiaroscuro look, suspense-laden plotting, and clever, “hard-boiled” dialogue deriving from popular crime fiction make it a most entertaining style. But why did a genre exploring the cynical, seedy and criminal side of American life thrive in the optimistic years of the late 1940s?
Here we explore the stylistic elements, as well as the strange morality and psychology, of film noir. James suggests that its popularity in the late 40s has to do with the breakdown of the relationship between men and women which was already taking place. A central aspect of noir is often the hero’s seduction and betrayal by a scheming femme fatale.
This episode focuses on an outstanding example of the genre from 1947: Out of the Past, starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas. Mitchum plays a former private eye who used to be involved in the seedy underworld of New York City, but has now retreated to a quiet life in rural California. As the title indicates, his past reaches out and threatens to pull him back in.
Music is The Duskwhales, “Take It Back”, used with permission. https://theduskwhales.bandcamp.com
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