Although I watch a lot of film noir, write about it, and attend as many Noir City festivals as I can, I’m really not what I would consider an authority on film noir, not even close. (Maybe I put on a good front?) When people ask, “Are there any film noir movies you haven’t seen?” I always answer, “Yeah, about 300,” depending on how you define film noir. Sure, I’ve seen most of the more famous noir titles, and some of those several times, but there’s still so much more to see (especially when you include international titles). But I’m always trying to bridge the gap.
For the past four years, I’ve celebrated Noirvember with 30 films a month for a total of 120 movies, besides what I watch during the rest of the year. I absolutely loved every minute of those Noirvembers, but a couple of weeks ago, I realized it would be impossible for me to keep up that pace this year. I still plan on a few Noirvember posts on individual movies (hoping to write something on at least 10 different titles, mostly classics I need to revisit), so please keep an eye on the blog. But I’m afraid 30 movies in 30 days is out of the question for this year for several reasons:
For one thing, I’m working on an article for the giant-sized December issue of The Dark Pages: The Newsletter for Film Noir Lovers, which will be devoted to the Fritz Lang classic The Big Heat (1953). I can’t tell you right now which aspect of the film I’m covering, but I’m finding it fascinating and hope you will as well. If you’ve never checked out The Dark Pages, what are you waiting for? You can receive a free copy by visiting All That Noir.
Second, I’m programming my very first Noirvember film festival at the Severna Park Library, showing a classic noir each Thursday in Noirvember (with the exception of Thanksgiving). You can read more about the festival here. While anyone can attend these screenings, they are primarily for those wondering, “Why film noir? What’s it all about?” With that in mind, I’ve chosen what I believe to be the best entry points into film noir. If you only see these three films, you’ll walk away with a pretty good idea of what film noir is all about. I’ll be introducing each film, putting them in the context of what was happening in America at the time of their release, how these films developed, and why they matter today. As you might imagine, the research for this festival is pretty extensive. I’ve been working on it for several weeks, but there’s much more to do. Fortunately, I love every minute of it. If you live in the Baltimore/Washington DC area, I hope you can join me.
But if you can’t make it, I hope you’ll still celebrate Noirvember. The good news is there’s lots of ways to enjoy the month. Here are just a few:
As I mentioned before, I have links to 120 film noir titles from 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, so you can watch these movies and see whether or not you agree with me. (If nothing comes up with the 2018 link, please type "Noirvember 2018" into the search box and it should load correctly. Sorry about that...)
Second, in addition to checking out The Dark Pages, you really should subscribe to the Noir City eMagazine. It only costs $20 for a year’s worth of great reading, and best of all, you’ll be helping the Film Noir Foundation’s efforts to restore and preserve film noir.
If you want to read some solid introductions to film noir, I highly recommend two books:
The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir by Foster Hirsch and
Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir by Eddie Muller. You can’t go wrong with either book. (You really should read them both!)
Maybe you’d like to read some of the source material for several of the best film noir titles ever made. I’d recommend reading at least two (short) novels by James M. Cain: Double Indemnity (1943) and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934).
You can’t go wrong with anything by Raymond Chandler, Charles Willeford, or any of the writers in the Library of America two-volume series Crime Novels of the 1930s, 40s, & 50s, which includes The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) by James M. Cain, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1935) by Horace McCoy, Thieves Like Us (1937, first filmed as They Live by Night in 1948) by Edward Anderson, The Big Clock (1946) by Kenneth Fearing, Nightmare Alley (1946) by William Lindsay Gresham, I Married a Dead Man (1948) by Cornell Woolrich, The Killer Inside Me (1952) by Jim Thompson, The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) by Patricia Highsmith, Pick-Up (1955) by Charles Willeford, Down There (1956) by David Goodis, and The Real Cool Killers (1959) by Chester Himes.
I’d also recommend one of my favorite noir novels, In a Lonely Place (1947) by Dorothy B. Hughes.
So stay tuned right here. You might find a few surprises. Happy watching and reading this Noirvember!
Photos: Journeys in Classic Film, Library of America, New York Review Books, Film Noir Foundation