Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Eight weeks in the dark

I've mentioned before that this semester I have to teach The Maltese Falcon. I'm kind of excited about this project and since school starts back on Monday I'm putting together my lessons for the next eight weeks. I'm going to immerse the class in noir.

I'm thinking maybe one day a week, or two if necessary, I can show a noir film and have the kids write a paper on it after a discussion while the rest of the week we study the book.

So this week I get to excuse as work related a marathon of noir films and semi-noir films. I think aside from showing films in class I will also assign the kids to watch one noir film on their own from a list I will create.

So once again I solicit opinions from the gallery. Right now I'm watching Hitchcock's Rope, although I'm thinking Vertigo would be more appropriate as a noir film for class. I'll probably put Rope on the list.

For the moment I plan to show A Touch of Evil, Memento, Vertigo, and Chinatown. The district is also taking them to see The Maltese Falcon on the big screen at some point.

I don't want to make them annoyed at the genre by showing them film after film of similar plot lines, so I'm trying to stay away from conventional noir and show a few unusual takes on the genre - hence Memento. I'm also thinking about Blade Runner.

And to make sure I know what I'm talking about I'm researching the genre pretty thoroughly and reading a book on noir called Dark City. So basically I'm using my job to teach myself film studies.

Some of you guys made some terrific suggestions in the past and I loved some of the stuff you had to say about the Maltese Falcon so I'd love more advice here. What films would you show to encourage discussion and interest in noir?


  1. I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't seen it yet, but I hear Brick is awfully good. It might interest the kids to see modern noir in a high school setting.

    In that vein, you might even consider an episode or two of Veronica Mars.

  2. To start with some older titles, you could try Double Indemnity, Kiss Me Deadly, The Blue Dahlia (not, of course, The Black Dahlia), The Killing, The Killers (both versions), In A Lonely Place, Scarlet Street and the micro-budget Detour. Those are some fairly essential titles. There's more I could list, but for now I'll leave it at that.

    For more recent entries, John Dahl had a short run of noir-type films in the mid-90s. Red Rock West is particularly good. Out of Sight could work. Maybe even The Big Lebowski. You could even include Who Framed Roger Rabbit and run it on a double bill with Chinatown.

  3. Oooooh I like that idea about Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

    And yeah, Brick is a good choice.

    I'll put the others on the list. A couple of them are sitting in my queue.

  4. Anonymous2:56 PM

    Brick and Who Framed Roger Rabbit I would have suggested also.

    I would also think L.A. Confidential and Sunset Boulevard.

    Sounds like a class I wish I had in school!

  5. Anonymous3:15 PM

    I'd probably do something like (both versions) The Killers and probably something like LA Confidential, The Postman Always Rings Twice (both versions), and D.O.A. (both versions)...

    The idea behind showing both versions of film is in the desire to compare and contrast filmmaking/storytelling styles, etc.

  6. Anonymous3:37 PM

    Check out Out of the Past. It's pretty much the only bearable femme fatale I've seen in a noir (The Maltese Falcon notwithstanding). And the kids will see the young versions of a couple really old movie stars.

    Harry C

  7. Hafta Blade Runner.

    You can't not.

    Since all the usual stuff's been covered, let me go left field and suggest the 90's Batman animated series...some episodes of course better than others. "Beware The Gray Ghost" comes to mind, as a noir within a noir episode.

  8. Hmmm ... Sin CIty, and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang come to mind. I also think that Chinatown and L.A. Confidential are good choices. In the Sci-Fi genre, The Thirteenth Floor. There's alot of choices for Noir in Anime.

    On top of it all, there's many available online via google video, youtube, etc.

  9. I only have eight weeks so I'm only going to get to about six films because I still have to focus on literature and writing. That means I can't show two versions of something.

    LA Confidential is a good idea, but there's no way in hell I can show Sin City in a high school classroom unless I want to be fired.

    I think I'll go with Vertigo, Chinatown, Brick, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Blade Runner and Memento. And if there's time LA Confidential, but I may have to put that on my list. Most of the other suggestions will go on the list for their final project. Thanks for the tips, guys.

  10. Touch of Evil doesn't hold up too well because of it's depiction of the drug-using ruffians. The Orson Wells/Charleton Heston stuff is great, though.

    Another vote for Double Indemnity, which is a lot of fun. The dialogue is crisp and the story is very tight and straight-forward.

  11. damnit, why couldn't you have been my teacher when i was a kid?!?!

    everybody else here have excellent recommendations.

    Who framed Roger Rabbit? is definitely a classic, and I think your students will enjoy that.

  12. Who Framed Roger Rabbit! :)

  13. OUT OF THE PAST - it's the best noir... And you might try CAT PEOPLE (original) - a horror-noir. CRISS-CROSS is another good one - and LA based, lots of great landmarks. DOUBLE INDEMNITY is another one of those classics... and based on a novel by one of the big roman noir writers (where film noir came from). Hey, for a unusual bit of noir - THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY? - about a dance marathon.

    So, which of the 3 versions of MALTESE FALCON are they seeing? 1931, 1936 or 1941?

    - Bill

  14. 1941 of course.

    Thanks for the suggestions.

  15. If you have time for something quick in between all of the movies, one of the finest anime series of all times also happens to have a very solid noir streak in it: Cowboy Bebop. Episodes are a half-hour, something you can toss in real quick if you needed to fill a gap. You would need to pick and choose a bit, since some episodes are more noir than others. Pierre Le Fou comes to mind as a good stand-alone example.

    The other movie suggestions, at least the ones I'm familiar with, are spot on, though I can think of a good example that was left out - a modern noir (when it was released) called Black Rain. Showing a noir film set in a different culture might be a way to expand their thinking on the topic.

  16. You've got piles from those who've written in already, but you might add Dark City (the film, not the book you're already reading). You might want to look at film noir / western crossovers as well.


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