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Film Noir [Paperback]

Alain Silver
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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5.0 out of 5 stars A "Must Have" Aug. 1 2003
Format:Paperback
A "must have" for fans of noir. The book presents itself as an encyclopedic reference, and as a guide to the main body of noir it succeeds admirably. Each entry includes production crew, cast members (identified down to bit players), shooting and release dates, plus running time, along with a brief plot synopsis and critical comment by one of the staff of contributors. Naturally, where there's controversy, it's this latter that generates the most. But agree or not, the comments are almost uniformly informative and stimulating, and a testament to the continuing vitality of noir's golden age. The appendices, however, are a more mixed bag. The categorized lists are helpful as guides, but serious rethinking should have gone into Appendix C, which comes across as a somewhat heavy-handed and murky critique of noir's available literature, rendering doubtful its value as a reference guide. Appendix E presents a compilation of "neo-noirs" or recent films in the classic mode. As a work striving for encyclopedic range, I can understand the urge to extrapolate, but it's also clear that this Third Edition just about exhausts the possibilities and I am not looking forward to another sequel. Nonetheless the work itself remains an invaluable tool for serious fans of noir everywhere, and should not be passed up.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Torah. March 21 2003
Format:Paperback
For the Noir Geek, this is THE Sacred Book. Over 300 titles from the genre's "classic" postwar period are given the synopsis/analysis treatment. Reviews can be a bit "scholarly" (depending on the particular contributing writer) but overall very enlightening for fans who want to "go deep". As a collector who obsessively videotapes and archives obscure noir, I have reached for this book again and again and found it to be a valuable reference tool. One warning to those who wish to use it like a standard "movie guide"- the synopsis capsules are clinically outlined to the point of effectively becoming "spoilers", so you may want to see the film first, then read about it. Some reviewers have taken umbrage with the book's U.S.-centric focus. To them I would point out that while this volume excludes European-PRODUCED cinema, if one takes a closer look, a number of the films included were DIRECTED by people like Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang and Roman Polanski, all in fact native Europeans, so referring to them as "American" noirs may be a matter of semantics. Highly recommended for genre fans.
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5.0 out of 5 stars For Obsessives Only! May 3 2002
By Tribe
Format:Paperback
The casual film fan will be overwhelmed with this...academic jargon, much discussion of film theory, sensory overload of details. But, the obsessive film fan, who is a student (professional or amateur) of this genre will revel in the scope of what has become one of the standard texts on the genre (assuming there is any standard....whatever). A basically complete rundown on the Hollywood output of noir in the 30s through the early 60s...with all the detail on the films that it never occurred to you to ask in the first place.
It also has rather thourough essays on themes, threads, influences, settings...more than enough to explore other sources of noir citicism. It can be dry, it is sorely lacking in coverage of film noir outside the USA, the selection of neo-noir can be quibbled with (perhaps because the post-noir style still isn't settled..."Mullholland Drive", "Novocaine", and "Memento" are examples of how the genre is still evolving).
But all in all, an essential volume for the noir aficionado.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An essential Film Noir reference May 18 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This encyclopedia is a valuable addition to any Film Noir library. It contains production credits, plot summmaries, and brief analyses of hundreds of films noirs, as well as excellent appendices which include summaries of the Film Noir genre and a chronology. The analyses are in general quite good, if brief, with those by Robert Porfirio the most perceptive and well written. I question the book's stance that period films should be excluded based on the concept that "the action of film noir must be grounded in a contemporary setting." This not only eliminates many worthy films noirs, like Robert Siodmak's The Suspect (1945) from the book, but neglects those like The Suspect whose roots are clearly based in French Naturalism, itself a literary antecedent of Film Noir. However, the book's overall value supercedes their omission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
57 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Obsessives Only! May 3 2002
By Tribe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The casual film fan will be overwhelmed with this...academic jargon, much discussion of film theory, sensory overload of details. But, the obsessive film fan, who is a student (professional or amateur) of this genre will revel in the scope of what has become one of the standard texts on the genre (assuming there is any standard....whatever). A basically complete rundown on the Hollywood output of noir in the 30s through the early 60s...with all the detail on the films that it never occurred to you to ask in the first place.
It also has rather thourough essays on themes, threads, influences, settings...more than enough to explore other sources of noir citicism. It can be dry, it is sorely lacking in coverage of film noir outside the USA, the selection of neo-noir can be quibbled with (perhaps because the post-noir style still isn't settled..."Mullholland Drive", "Novocaine", and "Memento" are examples of how the genre is still evolving).
But all in all, an essential volume for the noir aficionado.
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Essential Classic Film Noir Reference. Nov. 14 2004
By mirasreviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This 3rd edition of "Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style" provides descriptions and analysis for nearly 300 film noirs that were produced from 1927 to 1976, concentrating on the classic period, 1940-1958. The authors are strict in defining film noir as a movement and a style -not a genre- molded specifically by the social, economic, technical, and aesthetic circumstances in post-WWII America, and therefore confined to that era. They exclude genre and foreign films produced in the post-war era that other critics might include. So "Film Noir" is a reference of "pure noir" of the classic period. It may be just as well that it doesn't explore impure noir in much depth, as this book is quite large as it is.

The authors introduce the book by defining the uniquely American classic noir style and discussing some of its common characteristics. The Encyclopedia, itself, is 314 pages long and organized alphabetically by film title. The entry for each of the nearly 300 classic noir films included provides, wherever applicable: the film's title (including working and alternate titles), it's year of release, director, producer, screenwriter(s), director of photography, music director, persons responsible for special effects, sound, score, set decoration, costumes, make-up, the production designer and/or art director, assistant director, and editor. This is followed by a cast list -divided into main and "bit" cast, the date filming was completed, the date the film was released, running time, a plot summary, and a critical analysis by one of the book's 18 contributors. The plot and analysis do often contain spoilers, including endings and surprise twists, which is probably necessary to provide analysis and to define the film as "noir". The plot summaries are useful in refreshing my memory of films seen long ago, but I avoid reading the entire summary or commentary for films I have not yet seen.

"Film Noir" has 5 informative Appendices that explore topics and films not covered in the main section of the book. Appendix A is a lengthy essay explaining the rationale for excluding genre films from the film noir movement. It addresses The Gangster Film, The Western, The Period Film, and The Comedy separately, discussing films that reflect the noir style and what they share and do not share with film noir. Appendix B is a series of lists: A chronology of film noir, listed by year, 1927-1976. Directors listed alphabetically with their films. The same for Writers, Directors of Photography, Composers, Producers, Actors & Actresses, and Releasing Companies, each category with its own list. The criterion for inclusion in the lists is participation in at least 2 film noirs. Appendix C is a survey of "Other Studies in Film Noir". It comments on significant articles and books published on the subject of film noir, from 1955's seminal work by Borde & Chaumeton, "A Panorama of American Film Noir", through 1992, when the latest edition of this book was published. Appendix D discusses "Additional Films from the Classic Period" which were not included in the earlier editions of the book, because they were unavailable or overlooked. Here, 50 films are discussed according to their characteristic noir elements -femme fatale, alienation & despair, maniacs & mayhem, etc. Why these films were simply not included in the Encyclopedia section of this 3rd edition is a mystery to me. Appendix E is a lengthy discussion of Neo-Noir,1966-1992, including a filmography. In the back of the book, you will find a fairly comprehensive Index of films, names, book titles, and most references you might want to locate in "Film Noir".

Film Noir aficionados and students will find "An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style" endlessly fascinating and useful. The critical analyses are thoughtful. The authors' inclusions, exclusions, and definitions of classic noir are always well-articulated and thought-provoking. A single source that collects the production details for each film is a big time-saver.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Torah. March 21 2003
By D. Hartley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
For the Noir Geek, this is THE Sacred Book. Over 300 titles from the genre's "classic" postwar period are given the synopsis/analysis treatment. Reviews can be a bit "scholarly" (depending on the particular contributing writer) but overall very enlightening for fans who want to "go deep". As a collector who obsessively videotapes and archives obscure noir, I have reached for this book again and again and found it to be a valuable reference tool. One warning to those who wish to use it like a standard "movie guide"- the synopsis capsules are clinically outlined to the point of effectively becoming "spoilers", so you may want to see the film first, then read about it. Some reviewers have taken umbrage with the book's U.S.-centric focus. To them I would point out that while this volume excludes European-PRODUCED cinema, if one takes a closer look, a number of the films included were DIRECTED by people like Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang and Roman Polanski, all in fact native Europeans, so referring to them as "American" noirs may be a matter of semantics. Highly recommended for genre fans.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Reference - and you CAN avoid spoilers... Sept. 17 2004
By S. McCallister - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Have others noted, this is both a great reference and a good way to discover these films -- a real gem. One of the reviewers here mentioned that the reviews are so clinical in laying out the plot as to constitute spoilers. I agree, but I would also point out that the reviews are very structured, making it easy to avoid "spoilers."

The first paragraph of each review is the complete plot summary, usually right to the last scene of the film. After the plot summary paragraph, the second and all subsequent paragraphs discuss the non-plot elements of the film, such as the production history, cinematography, etc. Thus you can read a sentence or two of the first paragraph to get the flavor of the story and skip to the second paragraph to learn more about the film without spoiling the typical noir twists and revealing the ending.

The structure of the reviews is so consistent that it has to be by design, and is just one more little touch that makes this an enjoyable, as well as authoritative, read.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential Film Noir reference May 18 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This encyclopedia is a valuable addition to any Film Noir library. It contains production credits, plot summmaries, and brief analyses of hundreds of films noirs, as well as excellent appendices which include summaries of the Film Noir genre and a chronology. The analyses are in general quite good, if brief, with those by Robert Porfirio the most perceptive and well written. I question the book's stance that period films should be excluded based on the concept that "the action of film noir must be grounded in a contemporary setting." This not only eliminates many worthy films noirs, like Robert Siodmak's The Suspect (1945) from the book, but neglects those like The Suspect whose roots are clearly based in French Naturalism, itself a literary antecedent of Film Noir. However, the book's overall value supercedes their omission.
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