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Up until Gene Stavis wrote <<It is significant too that filmmakers who
were creating the style never thought of it as a "style". It was simply
their instinctive method of film-making, responding to the times in which
they lived,>> I was not shaking my head. I'm just finishing writing some
comments about Marc Vernet's eurocentric posturings in SHADES OF NOIR, and
I see the concept of critics "inventing" film noir continues to spread.
Maybe I'm a purist, but I think it's not terribly instructive to probe the
self-consciousness of filmmakers of the past. And to speak for them is a
little presumptuous. I commented on this at greater length two years ago
in an essay on "neo-noir" in the 3rd edition of FILM NOIR: AN ENCYCLOPEDIC
REFERENCE, excerpting Bordwell's "Case of Film Noir" to represent the
created-after-the-fact viewpoint and page 59 John Alton's PAINTING WITH
LIGHT for a viewpoint from the heart of the "classic period" of noir. A
couple of years and a lot more pondering later, I still have to conclude
that, then as now, most filmmakers had an idea of what they were doing.
John Alton told me that the University of California Press plans to
reprint his book. In the meantime it's worth tracking down a copy of the
1949 edition, to see what one cinematographer at least that about the
"style" of the times.