“Film Noir,” the last Center for Constructive Alternative lecture series of the year, explored a genre of film characterized by its bleak energy. Its impact on film and culture at large is more present than ever, according to professor R. Barton Palmer of Clemson University.
“Film noir was not a self-conscious artistic movement,” Palmer said. “The filmmakers involved did not set up collectively to produce films that went against the Hollywood grain.”
In his overview of the genre following a showing of John Huston’s 1941 film “The Maltese Falcon” on Sunday evening, Palmer explored how film noir became a popular genre that is still present today. He detailed the rise of these films after World War II and how film noir was explored first by French cultural movements and sociologists.
Monday’s showing was Robert Siodmak’s “The Killers” (1946). Following was a cinematography lecture by Alain Silver, a director, producer, and film historian. Silver went on to describe and analyze more than 70 different film stills from noir movies.
“I subscribe to the concept of film noir as a movement, something that cuts across genre and is kind of like Italian neorealism or the French new wave.” Silver said. “In his 1972 essay ‘Notes on Film Noir,’ Paul Schrader asserted that ‘film noir was first of all: style – because it worked out his conflicts visually.’”
The lecturers said the French new wave movement was pivotal in film history, originating in Paris in the 1950s. It emphasized existential storytelling and avant-garde directing techniques.
Tuesday’s showing was Jacques Tourneur”s “Out of the Past” (1947). The evening’s lecture was by host of TV networks Noir Alley and Turner Classic Movies, Eddie Muller. His discussion on “Elements of Classic Noir” emphasized the importance of keeping these films alive.
“I want to make sure that these films are watched by successive generations,” Muller said. “I don’t want young people to turn away from black-and-white movies. I don’t want them to assume that that’s all in the past and it has no reference or anything to what’s happening today or in the future.”
Wednesday’s showing was Otto Preminger’s “Laura” (1944). It was followed by American Cinema Foundation film critic Titus Techera’s lecture, “Beauty, Tragedy, Law, and Advertising.”
The CCA will end today with a faculty roundtable featuring Professor and Chairman of History Mark Kalthoff, Chairman and Professor of Theatre James Brandon, Associate Professor of English Brent Cline, and Associate Professor of Spanish and Department Chair Todd K. Mack.
“I have really enjoyed the CCA so far,” freshman Kara Miller said. “It’s great to hear such intelligent speakers talk about these films. Cinema and film are newer forms of media that we can consume and discover new things about. It opens up an opportunity for students to learn.”