Monday, June 8, 2015

Summer of Darkness Week 1

On June 1, the TCM Film Noir class started (there's still time to join!). Already I have learned some new things about Film Noir. I learned the definitions of these words (source):

Still of Orson Welles in The Third Man (1949) - an example of chiaroscuro

chiaroscuro Literally, the combination of the two Italian words for "clear/bright" and "dark"; refers to a notable, contrasting use of light and shade in scenes; often achieved by using a spotlight; also referred to as low-key lighting or high-contrast lighting (more examples).

Deep focus shot in Citizen Kane (1941)

deep focus
A use of the camera lens and lighting that keeps both the close and distant objects being photographed in sharp focus.

Example of diegesis - the beginning of M (1931) uses natural sounds
such as children's voices to set the creepy mood

diegesis, diegetic
The “world” of the story and all the elements that belong to it: the sight and sounds of the action (e.g., footsteps, explosions), including off-screen action and objects (e.g., birdsong, church bells). The most common non-diegetic sound is music, which would only be diegetic if the musicians or source of music were part of the action (great article).

Example of the Dutch Angle with low-key lighting in The Third Man

Dutch angle
A tilted camera angle that shows images obliquely slanted to the frame's vertical axis; also called oblique or canted angle.

Establishing shot of San Francisco in The Maltese Falcon (1941)

establishing shot
A shot that shows the environment in which the action will take place, usually early in the sequence.

Example of German Expressionism in M (1931)

expressionism and German Expressionism
A style of filmmaking that distorts physical reality in some way in order to "express" strong feelings about it. Typical expressionistic techniques include the use of distorting lenses, extreme camera angles, bizarre lighting and sound effects, and fragmented editing. The personality of the director is always paramount and obvious in this type of film (more on German Expressionism).

forelengthening The linear distortion caused by a wide-angle lens; the perception of depth is exaggerated.

high-angle lighting
Lighting coming from above a person or object, usually in order to outline the upper areas of the figure or to separate it more clearly from the background; also called top lighting.

Example of mise-en-scène from Laura (1944). Note the portrait of Laura in the background.

mise-en-scène French term from the theatre that literally means “what's put in the scene.” In the cinema it refers to the elements of a shot—the set, the props, the actors, the use of color and light—and the way these elements are composed or choreographed.

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I also checked out these books from my library:

Noir's preferred landscape is the night, that playground of our conscious fears and subconscious desires, the period of time when we're simultaneously at our most apprehensive and reckless (xvi).

Also the author of Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir

The book traces the lives and careers of six actresses: Jane Greer, Audrey Totter, Marie Windsor, Evelyn Keyes, and Coleen Gray, focusing of course on their contribution to Film Noir.

A femme fatale was...a figure of enticing eroticism and ambiguous motivation, a woman possessing far more urgency and power than the men who tried to possess her (from the introduction).

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One of the recommendations for this class is, of course, to watch as many of the films as possible. Here are the ones I have selected to watch that aired June 5th:


Since in Week 2 there is a podcast on The Maltese Falcon, I will include my thoughts on the film in my next Summer of Darkness post. You can find it and other podcasts on noir films here.

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