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November 1999, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 12 Nov 1999 09:14:21 -0500
text/plain (47 lines)
[please forgive cross-posting]

help . . . i'm trapped in a generational bog and need help
to extricate myself . . .  in talking about film noir to an intro
to film class i tried to evoke recognition by alluding to
an almost archetypal noir moment:

   a single guy, perhaps wearing a trenchcoat, in a
   crummy hotel room alone at night;   the hotel's neon
   sign is just outside his window blinking on and off, the
   light shining on him through the venetian blinds in the
   window;  outside it is of course raining;    on the
   soundtrack either a wailing saxophone and/or a voice
   over narration talking, saying something bitter and
   cynical on the order of  "everything seemed to be
   swell,  until . . ."

this iconic moment, so often parodied, seems indelibly
impressed on my [our?] cinematic memories, but to most
of my students it rang absolutely no bells . . . some recognized
one or another detail, but the package as a whole meant
nothing [and many of them didn't even know what a saxophone
was] . . . so i determined to find one or two moments from
classic noirs that i could show them and that would give
them this useful touchstone . . .   but then, to my chagrin, i
discovered that i could not off the top of my head think of
a single moment in any film that really represented this
scene . . . i could come up with lots of sequences that
had one or two of the elements, but not a single one that
gave me the whole package . . .

is it possible that  there are no such moments? . . . that in
fact this is just a parodic pastiche of elements that never
in the original films came together in quite this way? . . . i really
hope not  . . . . . .  so i'm asking for references to sequences
in films, preferably [but not necessarily] films of  the forties
and fifties, that embody all [or at least most] of these elements . . .

all suggestions will be very much appreciated . . . thanks

mike frank

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