Film noir (simply translated as “Dark Film”) is a term popularized by French critics by 1946-1960. They used the term to analysis the then black and white American films having seemingly contradictory dark, melodramatic elements into a uniform style. Film buffs as well as French critics were amused by those urban-based slick dark American Films of early 1940’s to 1960’s.Those utterly dark, cynic, murky and fatalistic films have influenced later film – making throughout the world than most other film period. I am going to discuss film noir more as a film-stylistic of tone and mode rather than a genre.
Can film noir rejuvenate in our country?
Before answering that, let’s have a look at the chase sequence of Carol Reed’s British film noir classic “The Third Man (1949)”.In this rat-chasing quirky sequence, bunch of police and Holly((Joseph Cotten) chase Harry Lime(Orson Welles) through sewer system. Along with crisp lighting, wild shadows, baroque character placement, grotesque music, jittery cinematography, horrendous tension and rapid cuts this sequence can teach you a great deal about fundamental characteristics of techniques in a film noir.
According to Paul Schrader, central catalytic elements of Americans film noir were :
1. War and Post-war Disillusionment
2. Post-war Realism
3. The German Influence
4. The Hard-boiled Tradition.
These catalytic elements passionately developed very own stylistic of film-noir. Stories or plot-devices were based upon : corrupted and imbalanced social system, rising political tension, vulnerable human desire, multifaceted sexual identity, wild hunger for wealth and recognition, crisis of social security, psychoanalysis of troubled personas, escapism, underlined horror and racial discrimination and many more eccentric themes.
These themes popularized iconic characters like – private detective, corrupt policemen, idealistic protagonist, voluptuous femme fatale, disturbed antagonist.
Stylistic elements passionately used, invented, glamorized in film noirs were- chiaroscuro lighting (in simple – extreme expressionist lighting of lights and shadows), profound night-setup; puzzling locations having tight streets and side-walks; rainy, smoky, dark, mystique environment ; geometric, zigzag-light entering interior; fetish-styled filming of object, stairways; complex chronological order; unclear motif; non-reliable narration; neurotic monologue; baffling time and space; twisted ending; sharp use of unusual camera angle; poignant music and so more.
Now, let me ask the question again; can film noir rejuvenate in our country? My answer is – YES! With a little more cautiousness; great deal of smartness and maturity; lot more enthusiasm and honest practice of storytelling-in-style approach, WE CAN MAKE OUR OWN FILM NOIR. We can use our cities and available film-making tools to make our noir films. We have to give our stories aesthetic treatment in this purpose. Minimalist storytelling, twisted plot, metaphorical approach toward themes can help us.We have to be innovative, smart and raw to tell a story of our soil, our city. We can’t just put a Fedora-Hat or “Humphrey Bogart-outlook” on a Bangladeshi character. In characterization we have to create character of our soil. But we certainly can rejuvenate themes and stylistic elements of noir in our films. Film noir has its very own tone and taste. I believe there is a great scope for mixing crime, courtroom and melodrama genre smartly to make an entertaining and artistic noir film. It wouldn’t be wise to think that making a noir can give you poetic stylistic of Bergman or Bresson. But it certainly can put a spell on you as a film-maker. As it have energy of Alfred Hitchcock, artistry of Akira Kurosawa, gun-fighting craziness of Jean-Pierre Melville, guerrilla-film-making spirit of French New Wave, mystic night-cinematography of New Hollywood. Most important is it will give our rising directors a great chance of achieving trans-directorial style by working on this mass-appealing film-mode. A good example of film noir can be both commercially satisfactory and artistically charming.
A film noir can bring a new dimension to our film industry
I can name a handful of great directors who made successful film noir as a director. Akira Kurosawa,Billy Wilder, Nicholas Ray, Robert Wise, Jules Dassin, Richard Fleischer, John Huston, Robert Aldrich, Orson Welles, Max Ophuls, Fritz Lang, Elia Kazan, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher and so on. Even Indian film industries have paved their way to new-film progress by mixing up genre with heavy setup of film noir. From this point of view, film noir can also give us chances of making raw, low-budget independent films which can attain box-office success and give a rising director great scope of making more original work. I think it would be more satisfying than just copying Tamil-Telugu films.
Making film noir will give us chance of utilizing our literature treasure. We have many interesting short stories in Bangla which can be a good basis of a screenplay. It will give our young people scope of practicing work all-in-style. Why not we try making edgy, rough, slick films with more references and relations with film history and theory?
I am also cautious about the chance of making something hotchpotch. But, there is the challenge for us. Making an artistic, excellent full-fledged noir can certainly be inspiring. Glorified examples of neo-noir are not so rare in world films. You can certainly name- Chinatown, The Usual suspects, Se7en, Pulp Fiction, Memories of Murder, Hard-boiled, L.A Confidential, Fargo, Blood Simple and so on.
Even, a deep look in our film history will tell you something about that. When Spaghetti-Western influenced our film industry we have seen our heroes like Jashim, Manna, Rubel on the horse. These films were no closer to “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” or “Seven Samurai”. But, they had cinema hall-going audiences. Even, Shahidul Islam Khokon, Kazi Hayat and their contemporaries tried to blend crime genre with melodramatic values. Success isn’t the big question here but a film-making practice that can revive our film industry and audiences. And, on that purpose, I think film noir can be fresh, energetic and fruitful both for directors and audiences. So as an avid lover of film I think rejuvenating film noir with Bengali-novelty and maturity we might can save our cinema halls from extinction. Film noir should be celebrated.