Monday, 23 April 2012

OUT OF THE PAST : ADVENTURES IN FILM NOIR – Barry Gifford, 2001

This is essentially a book of short reviews and, as such, could be considered as the would-be Michelin guide of film noir. It, however, makes no attempt to sort the wheat from the chaff. Gifford does not claim to have seen them so you don’t have to.

There is controversy lurking within these pages.  If we concede that film noir is confined to a style and not to an age, we can be pleased to see the inclusion of Chinatown. But Mean Streets? Really? A fine crime film it may be but film noir it is not. To be fair, Gifford addresses this very point in his introduction. Unfortunately his answer is that it is time to forget definitions. It seems strange, therefore, that he has chosen to study an area of film history which depends upon definition for its very existence.

The reviews are fairly ordinary. I bought it because of the title but didn’t learn anything new except that Gifford doesn’t like Barbara Stanwyck. The conversational style is also highly irritating. He does not refer to Bogart’s character in Key Largo by name, writing instead:  “Bogey knows Rocco will kill him at some point.”

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