FILM 405                                                                           April 3, 2006

Dr. Ron Smith                                                                    Winter 2006


 Neo-Noir Films:  The Legacy of Film Noir

By Judy M. Kress



        Neo-noir films, like their antecedent film noir, are not a genre but a film style.  The defining and basic elements of socially charged content, non-linear plot structure, and haunting visuals, are found in the canon of noir films.  These classical film noir characteristics resurface in certain contemporary films to create the category of neo-noir; however, their post-1950’s release precludes their categorization as film noir.  According to Thomas Leitch, crime is one of the most popular genres in film transcending other genres and classifications including film noir and neo-noir.[1]  Films such as L. A. Confidential (1997), Mulholland Falls (1996), Fargo (1996), Blade Runner (1982/1992), and Body Heat (1981), each possess basic noir concepts plus themes centred on crime.  However, these films also contain other critical noir elements:  moral ambiguity and corruption, black comedy, middle-class crime, identity crisis, or the femme fatale. 

        The elements of corruption and moral ambiguity construct the central theme of L.A. Confidential[2] (Curtis Hansen, 1997) starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, and Kim Basinger.  This film, based on the novel by James Elroy, recreates 1953 Hollywood, the land of illusion and façade, where nothing is as it seems and where the shady side of life lies just beneath a polished veneer.  The Fleur de Lis Club, where patrons can have “whatever you desire…” is a front for a high-classes prostitution syndicate.   Pierce Patchett (David Strathairn) manages the women whom he has crafted to be look-a-likes of famous film sirens of the 1940’s and 1950’s:  starlet cones of Veronica Lake, Marilyn Monroe, and Rita Hayworth are part of his “stable.”  These “wanna be” actresses are grateful for the opportunity to act, albeit in the role of high-priced call girls.  The desire to eradicate organized crime, securely held by powerful individuals like Patchett, drives the L.A.P.D. to operate outside of the law.


        L. A. Confidential validates the noir concept by depicting illegal activity on both side of the law.  Corruption and graft exist at every level of the Los Angeles Police Department (L.A.P.D.) as officers put their own interests ahead of the law.   Vigilante justice contributes to the contradictions that unfold to display the unsavoury side of humanity as post-World War II America struggles to re-establish itself economically and socially.[3]  False identities and misleading securities add to create the sense of disillusionment and suspicion that are classic elements of traditional film noir.  It is this convoluted, dark side of human nature that further qualifies L. A. Confidential as neo-noir. [4]


        The three heroes of the film are L.A.P.D. police detectives who are burdened with moral ambiguities.  Even the most ardent law enforcement agent, sincere in his commitment to uphold the law, exhibits flaws that cannot be disguised.  Ed Exley (Pearce), whom viewers interpret as the “good” cop, soon reveals himself to be a self-indulgent, self-advancing individual with no compunction against informing on his fellow officers when misconduct and racism in the Force are investigated.  His youthful inexperience and blind ambition account for his decision to speak against his fellow members.  Exley soon learns that the cop’s life is full of contradictions and confusion.


        Bud White (Crowe) reacts to the demons of his childhood and presents the thug mentality.  As a law enforcer, White understands he must act only after careful assessment of each situation.   He struggles with the fact that his father abused and murdered his mother.  These haunting memories prevent him from acting professionally to the domestic violence he witnesses.  Ironically, his own violent tendencies overwhelm him when he confronts Lynn Bracken (Basinger) after he learns of her sexual liaison with Exley.  In spite of his penchant for defending women from abuse, he contradicts his personal edict by striking Bracken who has become his love interest.


        Jack Vincennes (Spacey) further solidifies the noir theme of moral ambiguity with his portrayal of a cop turn technical advisor for a popular television series, “Badge of Honor”.  When he contributes to set up a male homosexual prostitute for what ultimately results in the supreme sacrifice, the disgust and contempt he feels for this male prostitute quickly turns to pity.  Unfortunately, Vincennes fails to act in time to save the young man from death.  His feels guilty and commits to work with Exley to find out who is at the bottom of the atrocities that have rocked the City and the L.A.P.D. in recent months.


        The lines between good and evil, crime and justice are seldom clear when the underworld intertwines with law enforcement.  As in The Asphalt Jungle (1950), directed by John Huston, the murky boundary between law and crime is depicted as “the socio-psychological disintegration of everyday life.”[5]  In this film, the supreme criminal is the highly regarded lawyer, Alonzo Emmerich (Louis Calhern), who places himself above the law.[6]  Similarly, the 1958 Orson Wells directed film, Touch of Evil, stunned movie goers with the portrayal of Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles).  Quinlan, held in high esteem for his reputation for bringing criminals to justice, redefines the law to satisfy his own personal interests. [7] 

        Hanson makes no attempt to soften the duplicity of the L.A.P.D. that is the essence of L. A. Confidential.  The greatest crime of all is perpetrated by Cpt. Dudley Smith (Cromwell), L.A.P.D., who ruthlessly murders all who stand in the way of his ambition to rule organized crime in L.A.; he even sacrifices the officers in his charge.  When Vincennes comes too close to the truth, Smith silences him.  But not before Vincennes can plant the seed of revelation:  “Rollo Tomasi”.  This name Smith repeats to Exley to whom the name has personal significance.  It refers to Exley’s own fabricated personae for “the one who gets away with it.”[8]  The depiction of the “bad” cop is the yard stick against which the rest of the Police Force is measured, particularly when Exley and White become partners to stop Smith.  Audiences are willing to forgive their vigilante action and dubious behaviour for the greater good and ultimate justice they achieve.[9]  Film viewers are drawn to the “good cop, bad cop” genus, a scenario that has been replayed in various neo-noir films.

        In 1996, Metro-Goldwin Mayer Pictures, together with Largo Entertainment, presented Mulholland Falls[10] (Lee Tamahori, 1996) starring Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith, Chazz Palminteri, and Jennifer Connelly.  If director, Tamahori, and writers, Peter Dexter and Floyd Mutrux, intended to create a serious neo-noir film, they failed.  Mulholland Falls does succeed, however, as a production that mimics comic book cops in the genre of black comedy.  The vision of four stylishly dressed police detectives driving in an open convertible car, with their wide-brimmed hats screwed securely onto their heads corroborates that image.  The wind whipping around them as they speed down the highways and freeways around L.A. cannot dislodge either their hats or their resolve to rectify illegal activities in L.A..  “The chief function of these four tough guys is to light cigarettes with Zippos and model a peacock collection of suits and accessories.” [11]


        Mulholland Falls does resembles L. A. Confidential, however, with strong noir elements and its stylish presentation of the post-World War II America.  The expensive cars, lavish homes and beautifully dressed women present a lifestyle based on wealth and consumerism.  The cinematography is spectacular with a full complement of cityscapes and desert and valley landscapes.  The shot of the four well-dressed detectives standing at the edge of an enormous crater in the desert, while discussing the power of the atomic bomb, adds to the noir “thriller” component of the film.[12]  Unlike L. A. Confidential, however, Mulholland Falls cannot decide what it should be:  a hard-hitting crime thriller or a spoof on crime fighters, and in particular, the L.A.P.D..[13]  The sight of these detectives riding in their big, black Buick suggests other farcical elements in the film that take from the audience any sense that this is a serious film.


        The special team of detectives, comically dubbed the “Hat Squad” is lead by the seasoned and cynical Lt. Detective Max Hoover (Nolte).  This team routinely hunts down gangsters who threaten to take control of the L. A. underworld.  To reinforce their resolve and authority, the “Hat Squad” hands out vigilante justice by picking up suspected mobsters and pushing them over “Mulholland Falls”, the ironic name given to a dry ravine in the hills above L.A..[14]       Although the premise of the film is solid, the character and plot development have been subject to much criticism.


        Film critic, James Berardinelli questions the casting of Palminteri, Michael Madsen and Christopher Penn as Nolte’s supporting partners.  He does, however, approve of Connelly as the doomed and seductive call girl, Allison Pond, who personifies the 1950’s façade with her provocative and sultry appeal.  He also suggests that the acting is often uneven and Nolte’s character is somewhat incredible shifting from the blasé cop who views of the young woman’s smashed body, to the hyper-sensitive, caring man with a truck-load of personal issues that have been brought to the surface by this discovery.  Hoover waffles from one emotional extreme to the other as each situation dictates.  This according to Berardinelli, this is just the surface of the film’s failings.[15]


        Berardinelli feels cheated by the initial “solid noir thriller” impression the film presents in the first minutes.  Criticized as a poor imitation of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), Mulholland Falls develops too slowly to hold the viewers intense interest.  The unfolding plot hints at the breadth of corruption and moral ambiguity that swirls beneath the creamy surface of L.A., the land of hopes and dreams.  

Unfortunately, the many questions posed by the early scenes are too long in being answered.  The film tends to focus on the light and jovial camaraderie amongst the four detectives.  There is none of the hard-hitting ideological differences and battles that add a dramatic dimension to real-life police work as depicted in more serious police drama.  Instead, we see that Hoover has a close working relationship and friendship with Coolidge (Palminteri), while Eddie Hall (Madsen) and Relyea (Penn) seem only to be props for Hoover and Coolidge.  Their main contribution is to complain that they never get to drive the big black Buick convertible when the squad goes criminal hunting.[16]


         Incredibly, their form of rough justice leads them to confront the toughest of all authorities:  the U.S. Government.  General Timms (John Malkovich) who is charged with protecting and keeping secret a nuclear testing site.  Our dubious quartet easily penetrates the tight security surrounding the facility.   Their infiltration into this restricted zone makes the Militia a deadly adversary for Hoover and Coolidge.  This development poses questions about the credibility of the plot.  Once distracted, viewers begin to search for absurdities and incongruities.


        Movie reviewer Damian Cannon is critical of the illogical and cynical action scene the shows Hoover beating up an FBI agent for no apparent reason while he himself suffers no dishevelment.[17]  In the scene where Hoover and Coolidge attempt to land a military aircraft after throwing out two military personnel, they revive the dying pilot just long enough to land the plane safely.  Once on the ground, they promptly celebrate with no further concern for the pilot.  It is only when Coolidge reveals that he has also been mortally shot, that Hoover displays compassion.   At Coolidge’s funeral, Hall and Reylea place their hats on the casket before it is lowered into the grave.  Hoover, however, appears to place Coolidge’s hat on the casket but keeps his own.  Although Mulholland Falls does retain its noirish overtones, it can be easily relegated to the genre of black comedy.


        Mulholland Falls is not clearly defined as either a crime drama or a crime comedy.  There is no doubt, however, about the films of the Coen Brothers.  Noted for their several crime films that have a dark, comedic edge, Joel and Ethan Coen have directed and produced films starring their troop of actors, John Goodman, John Turturro, Steve Buscemi and Frances McDormand.  Their low-key productions, Blood Simple (1984), Raising Arizona (1987), Barton Fink (1991), and their signature piece, Fargo (1996), have a distinctive style.[18]


        Fargo[19] (Joel Coen, 1996), starring Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buescemi, Harve Presnell, and Peter Stormare, transcends the detective and comedy genres by moving into the sub-genre of crime comedy.  Reminiscent of classic film noir, Fargo presents a social commentary about the capability and willingness of a seemingly unassuming, middle-class citizen to commit crime.  Victimization within middle-class American has been well explored in film noir with characters such as Walter Neff (Double Indemnity, 1944), Webb Garwood (The Prowler, 1951), and Martha Ivers (The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, 1946).[20]  Fargo differs from these films, however, because it begins with a tone of high drama but as the plot and situations develop, absurd and incongruous events and characters skew the dire tone of the storyline.


        Crime comedy works because the audience willingly relinquishes its hold on moral decorum and accepts the outrageous:  they invoke suspension of disbelief.  The criminals are portrayed as bumbling, hapless incompetents who are destined to be caught and who reside in a world that falls just short of reality.  The stark, white, wintry scenes in the opening shots of Fargo add a sense of desolation.  The wide expanses of snow and endless frozen highways illustrate that this is a surreal world where the unlikely is likely to happen.  In this world, life seems uncomplicated.  The audience, however, is being set up to expect that even the simplest plan must go wrong and the straightest of plots will twist and turn with every event.  The protagonist, although thoroughly guilty of crime, redeems some pathetically justifiable qualities.  As with the bemused protagonists in classic noir crime films like Detour (1945) and Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), the guilty protagonist in Fargo receives the audience’s empathy because of his pathetic and laughable misinterpretation of moral human rights and the laws that protect all against crime.[21]


        In Fargo, Jerry Lundegaard (Macy) has embezzled thousands of dollars from the car dealership owned by his father-in-law, Wade Gustafson (Presnell).  General Motors Acceptance Corporation is on his tail and it is only a matter of time before Gustafson knows the truth and Jerry is prosecuted, unemployed, and homeless.  Gustafson is a powerful controlling figure who rules the dealership as well as Jerry’s life, his wife, Jean (Kristin Rudrud) and their son.  Jerry resides on the periphery of evil as he schemes to have Jean kidnapped and held for ransom.  His intention is to have the ransom paid by the wealthy Gustafson to him as the go-between for the kidnappers.  He intends to pay off the hired thugs, settle his debts, and pocket the rest of the ransom.


        The noir element is exemplified with the bizarre pair of kidnappers, Carl (Buuscemi) and Gaear (Stormare).  Like Johnny Prince (Dan Duryea), who is the off-the-wall criminal of Scarlet Street (1945), Carl and Gaear create a loathsome, albeit comedic release.  Carl, the brains of the pair, is constantly at odds with the verbally constipated Gaear, whose impetuous shooting sprees have turned them into wanted murderers.  Once Jerry realizes that Jean is in fatal danger, he tries to backtrack and cancel the contract; the kidnappers, nonetheless, have other ideas.[22]  The audience accepts that the inept Jerry would likely connect with this dysfunctional duo and expects that his plan can do nothing but go awry.


        At the release of this film, many Minnesotans expressed much criticism over the portrayal of rural Minnesota and its residents.  They took offense to the simpleton image the Coen Brothers brought to the screen that cast “their birthplace as a Grand Guignol house of horrors and the natives as yahoos whose laconic response to almost every utterance – the flat Midwestern ‘Yah’ – made them look like idiots.”[23]  Ironically, the Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan, are from Minneapolis and “speak” with some authority in spite of the hyperrealism that Fargo presents.


        The characters throughout this film are cold and removed from emotion and sincere feeling, save Marge (McDormand), the largely pregnant Brainerd Police Chief, and her stay-at-home husband, Norm (John Carroll Lynch).  Marge is the closest thing to the positive side of humanity and real emotion that Fargo is willing to offer.  Her state of hyper-pregnancy and her love for Norm elevate her above the rest of the characters and make her the perfect counterpoint to Jerry.[24]  In true film noir style, the perpetrator must face the consequences his crime.  Like Al Roberts in Detour, Jerry Lundegaard knows the eventual outcome; he simply waits for it to happen.


        Marge is a remarkable character who off-sets the criminal ineptitude of the protagonist, Jerry, and the kidnappers, Carl and Gaear, with her innate ability to read the clues and gather evidence.  Her tenacity identifies Marge as the conventional noir detective.  She is responsible for tracking down Gaear, in the process of feeding Carl to the wood chipper, and setting up the arrest of Jerry Lundegaard; thus, bringing the most gruesome murder spree in Brainerd to a successful conclusion.  Although the development of the female detective or investigator breaks from the male, hardboiled detective image in film noir, Fargo nonetheless promotes the detective image that we have become accustomed to expect in traditional noir and neo-noir crime films.[25]


        The 1982 release of Blade Runner[26] (Ridley Scott, 1982/1992) also redefined the hard-boiled detective.  This original release, starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, and Sean Young, offered typical noir features such as narrative and voice-overs and a convoluted storyline.  But the dismal acceptance by movie goers and low box office returns forced the studio to reassess the production.  In 1992 the director’s cut was released with the removal of the voice-over that allowed for a more direct storyline.  With much critical and popular acclaim, Blade Runner finally became recognized as a film ahead of its time and worthy of admiration.[27]


        Set in the 2019 dystopian Los Angeles, Rick Deckard (Ford) is hired by the L.A.P.D. to hunt down four renegade Replicants (human-like androids) who have escaped from “Off World” and threaten human existence.  The visual neo-noir elements of this film are as evident as in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927).  The futuristic cityscape and shadowy, dark imagery are deeply reminiscent of early film noir.  According to Vincent LoBrutto, Blade Runner must be considered “future noir, a category it established by placing the film’s time frame in the twenty-first century while still embracing the noir and neo-noir credo.”[28] 


         Image and vision are as critical to Blade Runner as to any classic film noir.  This is particularly true of the women who play a prominent role in the film.  Rachel’s (Young) 1940’s clothing and hair style, reminiscent of Joan Crawford in Mildred Pearce (1945), help to reinforce the film noir image.  These images allow Ridley Scott to translate a simplified plot through complicated visuals with sensual and complex sets, lighting, and camera angles.   It is dark, sullen, and depressing place where some undisclosed catastrophic event has transformed the earth and mankind.  Blade Runner examines the human condition and the future of our world: 

        “Not only does the film reveal ourselves to ourselves but it also        leads us to question the actions that have brought our world to         this dystopia in which human dominance is affecting the well-    being of other humans and other species.”[29]


It is a world where no one is safe or secure but all are watched and subject to scrutiny and predators.


        Predators come in various shapes and forms in this film; the femme fatale, Pris (Daryl Hannah), the Nexus 6 “pleasure model” with a manikin-like appearance, is designed to be intelligent, cunning, and murderous.   Her abilities are evident as she plays with J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson), the 25-year-old genetic engineer for the Tyrell Corporation who suffers from “Methuselah Syndrome.”  Pris has established a false trust with J.F. in order to guarantee Roy Batty (Hauer) access to Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel), their Maker and pseudo-God.  Roy, the prodigal son, confronts Tyrell about his creations and their longevity.  He seals Tyrell’s fate with a kiss, symbolic of the Jesus/Judas betrayal recounted in the New Testament.  Roy murders Tyrell but, surprisingly, not without personal cost.  The emotion displayed by Roy confirms that he is “more human than human”:

“Shivering and in shock, a dazed and saddened Roy (with tears flowing down his cheeks) descends along in the elevator from the top of the Pyramid building.  In one of the film’s best subjective moments, he looks up at the heavenly night sky full of receding stars, viewed through the clear top of the elevator’s glass-domed roof.”[30]


        The revelation that the Nexus 6 is the ultimate Replicant capable of human feeling and emotion creates an ambiguous identity crisis for Deckard.  Although class distinctions are evident in the relationship between Deckard and Rachel, the boundaries crumble as Deckard finds his infatuation has turned to love.  Rachel’s struggle to exhibit emotion is matched by Deckard’s inability to feel passion and gives them commonality.  The scene in which Deckard coldly confronts Rachel about her memories, reveals to him that in spite of his perceived superiority, they share some common remembrances.[31]


        Although he knows that Rachel is not human, the simple melody that Deckard plays on his piano is the same as the song Rachel remembers playing as a child.  His mysterious characteristics and these revelations lead many viewers to suspect that Deckard is the sixth Replicant.  It is clear that his duty is to retire the four renegade Replicants who threaten human security on earth.  What is not clear, but is suggested, is that Deckard’s underlying purpose is to be Tyrell’s Adam to his Eve, Rachel, in the genesis of a new world.[32]  This dimension supplements the noirish characteristic by providing the element of uncertainty and confusion associated with identity crisis.


        Rachel struggles with her identity but begins to understand that her life is tied to Deckard.  She saves him from Leon (Brion James), another rebel Replicant, by shooting him before he kills Deckard.  In the most subtle of ways, Rachel becomes the femme fatale to Deckard as he accepts that their fates are inextricably tied for whatever uncertain time they have remaining.  The final scene of the 1982 film release, is reminiscent of The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) as Deckard and Rachel escape the city to look for a new life in unencumbered regions of the earth.  As in traditional noir films, the femme fatale alters the life direction of the man she possesses.


        As a staple of film noir, the femme fatale has earned her place in film history.  As in the neo-noir remake of Double Indemnity (1944), Body Heat (Lawrence Kasdan, 1981)[33], the male protagonist is seduced into masterminding and committing murder to inherit the woman and assume the place of the unloved husband.  Body Heat, with William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, and Richard Crenna, recreates the classic femme fatale scenario.  Like Double Indemnity and The Prowler (1951), the male protagonist is the dominant force behind the crime to be committed.  But in reality, the driving force is the sly femme fatale who can be only as potent as the male hero is submissive and willing.[34]  It is the woman who implants the notation of her availability to the neatly seduced and enchanted lover.  She succeeds even though “the noir hero frequently agonizes about whether or not the woman can be trusted, whether she means it when she professes love for him, or whether she is seeking to dupe him in order to achieve her own ends.”[35]


        In Body Heat, we meet Matty Walker (Turner) the bored, vampish, wife of a local, wealthy entrepreneur.  She spies in Ned Racine (Hurt), a man whom she can manipulate to “entertain” her while her husband is away.  Ned, a local, second-rate attorney with a past record of incompetence, allows his sexual desires to rule his actions.  Matty controls Ned by feeding his libido heavy doses of lust, sex, and passion.  In the classic femme fatale style, she is in full control of the situation.[36]


        The setting of this film is purposely ambiguous; however, we are aware that it takes place in a small town in Florida not too far from Miami.  By carefully crafting the use of automobiles and other artifacts of the decade without pinpointing an exact timeframe, viewers sense that this plot has come directly from another era in the not too distant past.[37]  The post-World War II political rhetoric that a woman in the workforce is dangerous to male identity is nullified by the fact that the bored housewife is even more dangerous.[38]  Add to this boredom sizzling, oppressive heat, and we have a cocktail for murder.


        The heat wave adds to the steamy, sweaty look of the film.  This hot and cold effect is augmented by a filming technique that adds coloured gels to the shadowy effects that films of the 1940’s relied upon to create the right mood.[39]  The scenes of seduction and sexual exchange between the two leading characters take place in the darkness of sultry evenings.  Matty’s wardrobe consists of white dresses and blouses that confirm, in spite of the heat, that she is cool and in control.  The evidence of wealth and consumerism is apparent with the house in which the Walker’s reside, the expensive cars they drive and the rather large diamond ring Matty sports on her left hand.  But these items only add to the understanding viewers have that money is power, without which Matty is nothing.  She surreptitiously orchestrates the perfect crime.


        Matty’s plan is complete.  She has staged her own murder and tried to eliminate Ned in the process.  The last scenes of Body Heat give us Ned in prison confessing that he has figured out happened.  It is all too late to be proven or to redeem him of guilt.  Ned is responsible for the murder of Matty’s husband and will pay the price.  Matty does not die as is the usual fate of the classic femme fatale, but rather relocates to an exotic beach with her latest Latin lover.   As she sullenly contemplates her accomplishment, the camera pans to the distant vistas and fades.


        In reality, film noir has not faded into the annals of Hollywood but has given birth to a new style that succeeding generations can enjoy and explore.  The revival of film noir through neo-noir films has allowed this unique and entertaining style to continue to enchant old and new appreciative audiences.  Because the noir style can translate itself to virtually any genre, movie goers will continue to enjoy the uniqueness of an era when America struggled to reinvent itself economically, socially and morally.  The legacy of these films is attested to by the fact that the modern film stars, fans, and industry still hold film noir in high esteem.  The 2006 Academy Awards paid tribute to film noir in its Ceremony and thus confirmed its relevance to the film industry.




[1] Thomas Leitch, Crime Films (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2002) 1-17.

[2] L.A. Confidential, dir. Curtis Hanson, with Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger, and Danny DeVito, Regency Entertainment and Warner Bros, 1997.

[3] Ron Wilson, “The Left-Handed Form of Human Endeavor:  Crime Films during the 1990s,” Film Genre 2000:  New Critical Essays, ed. Wheeler Winston Dixon (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000) 146-47.

[4] Ibid., 146-47.

[5] Reynold Humphries, “The Politics of crime and the crime of politics:  Postwar noir, the liberal consensus and the Hollywood Left,” Film Noir Reader 4, eds. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New Jersey:  Limelight Editions, 2004) 227, 229.

[6] Wilson, 154-55.

[7] Cindy Fuchs, “Touch of Evil:  New Edits Provide Insight into Orson Welles’ Famously Murky Film Classic,” (2/7/2006). 

[8] Richard Alleva, City of Angeles:  Movie L. A. Confidential  (1/25/2006).

[9] Aaron Baker, “Beyond the Thin Line of Black and Blue:  Movies and Police Misconduct in Los Angeles,” Bad:  Infamy, Darkness, Evil and Slime on Screen, ed. Murray Pomerance (Albany:  State University of New York Press, 2004) 55-63.

[10] Mulholland Falls, dir Lee Tamahori, with Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith, Chazz Palminteri, and Jennifer Connelly, MGM and Largo Entertainment, 1996.

[11] James Naremore, More Than Night:  Film Noir and Its Contexts (Berkeley and Los Angeles:  University of California Press, Ltd., 1998) 212.

[12] Sean Cubitt, The Cinema Effect (Cambridge:  Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2004) 258.

[13] Wilson, 147.

[14] Damian Cannon, Mulholland Falls (1996) A Review (02/07/2006).

[15] James Berardinelli, Mulholland Falls, A Film Review, (2/7/2006).

[16] Ibid.

[17] Cannon.

[18] Leitch, 276-288.

[19] Fargo, dir. Joel Coen, with Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Stee Buscemi, Harve Presnell, and Peter Storemare, Polygram Filmed Entertainment and Working Title Films, 1996.

[20] Raymond Durgnat, “Paint it Black:  the Family Tree in the Film Noir,” Film Noir Reader, eds. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York:  Limelight Editions, 1996) 46-47.

[21] Leitch, 267, 287.

[22] Fargo.

[23] Leitch, 280.

[24] Jonathan Rosenbaum, Essential Cinema:  On the Necessity of Film Canons (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004) 152-58.

[25] William Covey, “Girl Power: Female-Centered Neo-Noir,” Film Noir Reader 2, eds. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight Editors, 2003) 319.

[26] Blade Runner, dir. Ridley Scott, with Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, and Edward James Olmos, The Ladd Company, 1982.

[27] Vincent LoBrutto, Becoming Film Literate:  The Art and Craft of Motion Pictures (Newport:  Praeger Pulbishers, 2005) 44-45.

[28] LoBrutto, 41.

[29] Mary Jenkins, “The Dystopian World of Blade Runner:  An Ecofeminist Perspective,” (03/03/2006).

[30] Tim Dirks, “Blade Runner (1982)” (03/04/2006).

[31] David Harvey, “Time and Space in the Postmodern Cinema,” Postmodern After-Images:  A Reader in Film, Television and Video, eds. Peter Brooker and Will Brooker (London:  Arnold, Hodder Headline Group, 1997) 72.

[32] Jenkins.

[33] Body Heat, dir. Lawrence Kasdan, with William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, and Richard Crenna, The Ladd Company, 1981.

[34] Frank Krutnik, In a Lonely Street: Film Noir, Genre, Masculinity, (London and New York:  Rutledge, 1991) 64.

[35] Krutnik, 63.

[36] Sharon Y. Cobb, “Writing the New Noir Film,” Film Noir Reader 2, eds. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight Editors, 2003) 212.

[37] Fredric Jameson, “The Nostalgia Mode and Nostalgia for the Present,” Postmodern After-Images:  A Reader in Film, Television and Video, eds. Peter Brooker and Will Brooker (London:  Arnold, Hodder Headline Group, 1997) 24.

[38] Krutnik, 60-61.

[39] Naremore, 192.






Alleva, Richard.  “City of Angels – Movie ‘L. A. Confidential’.”  January 26, 2006.


Baker, Arron.  “Beyond the Thin Line of Black and Blue:  Movies and Police Misconduct in Los Angeles.”  Bad:  Infamy, Darkness, Evil, and Slime on Screen.  Ed. Murray Pomerance.  New York:  State University of New York, 2004.  55 – 63.


Berardinelli, James.  “Mulholland Falls.”  February 7, 2006.


Cannon, Damian.  “Mulholland Falls (1996).”  February 7, 2006.


Cobb, Sharon Y..  “Writing the New Noir Film.”  Film Noir Reader 2.  Eds. Alain Silver and James Ursini.  New York:  Limelight Editions, 2003.  207 – 213.


Covey, William.  “Girl Power:  Female-Centered Neo-Noir.”  Film Noir Reader 2.  Eds. Alain Silver and James Ursini.  New York:  Limelight Editions, 2003.  311 – 327.


Cubitt, Sean.  The Cinema Effect.  Cambridge:  Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2004.


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Jameson, Fredric.  “The Nostalgia Mode and Nostalgia for the Present.”  Postmodern After-Images:  A Reader in Film, Television and Video.  Eds. Peter Brooker and Will Brooker.  London:  Arnold/Hodder Headliner Group, 1997.  23 – 35.


Jenkins, Mary.  “The Dystopian World of Blade Runner:  An Ecofeminist Perspective.”  Trumpeter (1997).  March 3, 2006.


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Leitch, Thomas.  Crime Films.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2002.


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Naremore, James.  More Than Night:  Film Noir in its Contexts.  Berkeley and Los Angeles:  University of California Press, 1998.


Rosenbaum, Jonathan.  Essential Cinema:  On the Necessity of the Film Cannons.  Baltimore and London:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.


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Arsenic and Old Lace.  Dir.  Frank Capra.  With Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey, and Peter Lorre.  Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., 1944.


The Asphalt Jungle.  Dir. John Huston.  With Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, James Whitmore, and Sam Jaffe.  MGM, 1950.


Barton Fink.  Dir.  Joel Coen.  With John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, and Michael Lerner.  20th Century Fox Distribution, 1991.


Blade Runner.  Dir. Ridley Scott.  With Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, and Sean Young.  The Ladd Company, 1982/1992.


Blood Simple.  Dir.  Joel Coen.  With John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, and M. Emmett Walsh.  Circle Releasing Corporation, 2000.


Body Heat.  Dir. Lawrence Kasdan.  With William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, and Richard Crenna.  The Ladd Company, 1981.


Double Indemnity.  Dir. Billy Wilder.  With Fred McMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson.  Paramount Pictures, 1944.


Fargo.  Dir.  Joel Coen.  With Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell, and Peter Storemare.  Polygram Filmed Entertainment and Working Title Films, 1996.


L. A. Confidential.  Dir.  Curtis Hanson.  With Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger, and Danny DeVito.  Regency Entertainment and Warner Bros. 1997.


Metropolis.  Dir.  Fritz Lang.  with Brigitte Helm, Gustav Frolich, and Alfred Abel.  Virgin Vision, 1927.


Mildred Pierce.  Dir. Michael Curtiz.  With Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, and Ann Blyth.  Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., 1945.


Mulholland Falls.  Dir.  Lee Tamahori.  With Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffiths, Chazz Palminteri, and Jennifer Connelly.  MGM and Largo Entertainment, 1997.


The Prowler.  Dir.  Joseph Losey.  With Van Heflin, John Maxwell, and Katherine Warren.  United Artists Films, 1951.


Raising Arizona.  Dir.  Joel Coen.  With Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson, and John Goodman.  20th Century Fox, 1987.


Scarlet Street.  Dir.  Fritz Lang.  With Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea.  Universal Pictures, 1945.


The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.  Dir.  Lewis Milestone.  With Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott, and Kirk Douglas.  Paramount Pictures, 1946.


Touch of Evil.  Dir. Orson Welles.  With Orson Welles, Charleton Heston, and Janet Leigh.  Universal International Pictures, 1958.