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US Cinema of the 1970s:
Corruption, Neo-Noir, and Chinatown
Prof. Julia Leyda
September 10, 2013
quiz
Describe the final scene in Chinatown in as much detail as
you can: location, action, cause and effect, characters, a...
film noir
 from French “black film” because of dark images
 originally a group of 1940s-50s movies with dark visual
imag...
conventions of classic film noir
 dark visual imagery and dark themes: chiaroscuro lighting,
night scenes, crime
 disill...
cultural critic Mike Davis on LA
 “sunshine or noir”: history of noir in LosAngeles as a
paradox, dialectic of sunshine a...
neo-noir and revisionist noir
 from 1970s on: movies with dark visual styles, themes
 often revise race, gender, history...
corruption in US society
political: The Godfather,Part II (1974), Nashville (1975), All
the President’s Men (1976)
governm...
critics: Michael Ryan & Douglas Kellner
 [neo-noir] signaled the death of political liberalism, which
found itself sudden...
critics: Vernon Shetley
 the double plot
 water plot (political) and incest plot (family)
 both involve inappropriate o...
discussion questions
 Chinatown is often interpreted as a commentary onAmerican
society in the 1970s, although it is set ...
visual style: framing
framing: the way a shot is composed, and the manner in
which subjects and objects are surrounded (‘f...
interpreting framing
 how does the framing in these shots support the movie’s
meanings?
 relationships among the charact...
framing: doorway
framing: background
framing: mask
visual style: mise-en-scène
mise-en-scène: (Fr.“putting into the scene”) all the
elements placed in front of the camera an...
interpreting mise-en-scene
 how does the mise-en-scene in these shots support the
movie’s meanings?
 relationships among...
mise-en-scène: lighting
mise-en-scène: lighting, costume
mise-en-scène: décor, costume
mise-en-scène: décor, costume
mise-en-scène: props, decor
mise-en-scène: setting
mise-en-scène: setting
mise-en-scène: décor, position
discussion question
 How does the framing and mise-en-scene in Chinatown
express the movie’s themes of corruption and plo...
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Transcript of "70s3. Corruption, Neo-noir, and Chinatown"

  1. 1. US Cinema of the 1970s: Corruption, Neo-Noir, and Chinatown Prof. Julia Leyda September 10, 2013
  2. 2. quiz Describe the final scene in Chinatown in as much detail as you can: location, action, cause and effect, characters, and of course, plot. Did you expect that ending or not?
  3. 3. film noir  from French “black film” because of dark images  originally a group of 1940s-50s movies with dark visual imagery and dark themes; happy endings?  not agreed upon as a “genre”; visual style / mood  postwar / ColdWar atmosphere of cynicism, fear, betrayal, mystery, mistaken identity, dystopia  unlike most Hollywood movies, noirs don’t showAmericans what they want to believe is true
  4. 4. conventions of classic film noir  dark visual imagery and dark themes: chiaroscuro lighting, night scenes, crime  disillusioned anti-hero struggles against corruption, crime  often detective narrative or quest for truth or information  femme fatale (deadly woman) uses her sexuality to manipulate, control men  ex.: Double Indemnity, Gilda, Cat People, In a Lonely Place, The Killers, Mildred Pierce, Night and the City
  5. 5. cultural critic Mike Davis on LA  “sunshine or noir”: history of noir in LosAngeles as a paradox, dialectic of sunshine and noir  1930s and 40s noir authors Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, Chester Himes  OrsonWelles called LA “a bright, guilty place”  LA as capitalism itself, both utopia and dystopia  Hollywood as “dream factory”  CA as western frontier (“wild west”), sunny agricultural paradise
  6. 6. neo-noir and revisionist noir  from 1970s on: movies with dark visual styles, themes  often revise race, gender, history, sexuality, or setting  still feature some noir conventions, but not all:  corruption, crime, femme fatale  mood of cynicism, fear, betrayal  not always happy endings  protagonist not heroic or even center of conflict, more victim or dupe of outdated values ex.: Chinatown, Klute, Blade Runner, One False Move, Bound, L.A. Confidential, The Grifters, Sin City
  7. 7. corruption in US society political: The Godfather,Part II (1974), Nashville (1975), All the President’s Men (1976) government conspiracy: The ParallaxView (1974), Three Days of the Condor (1975) police: Dirty Harry (1971), Super Fly (1972), Serpico (1973), Soylent Green (1973) corporate: McCabe and Mrs.Miller (1971), Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973), Network (1976), Coma (1978), Alien (1979), The China Syndrome (1979) Chinatown fits all of them!
  8. 8. critics: Michael Ryan & Douglas Kellner  [neo-noir] signaled the death of political liberalism, which found itself suddenly powerless against the economic realities of corporate capitalism and the military-industrial complex  Chinatown is a striking articulation of mid-seventies cultural pessimism
  9. 9. critics: Vernon Shetley  the double plot  water plot (political) and incest plot (family)  both involve inappropriate ownership, confusion of public and private  Noah Cross represents unbridled capitalism and individualism consuming everything he wants (“the future!”)  John Huston: cowboy / pioneer image,“likable” strong man  women and Chinatown: mysterious, unknowable, dangerous  sexist and racist notions ascribed to Jake (or the film itself?)
  10. 10. discussion questions  Chinatown is often interpreted as a commentary onAmerican society in the 1970s, although it is set in the 1930s.Why do you think that is?  Do you agree with the critics interpretations of Chinatown? In what ways yes and in what ways no?
  11. 11. visual style: framing framing: the way a shot is composed, and the manner in which subjects and objects are surrounded (‘framed’) by the boundaries or perimeter of the film image, or by the use of a rectangle or enclosing shape (such as a shadow, mirror, door or hallway) within the film image
  12. 12. interpreting framing  how does the framing in these shots support the movie’s meanings?  relationships among the characters  characters’ mental or emotional state  atmosphere or mood of the scene  visual metaphors of the movie’ s themes
  13. 13. framing: doorway
  14. 14. framing: background
  15. 15. framing: mask
  16. 16. visual style: mise-en-scène mise-en-scène: (Fr.“putting into the scene”) all the elements placed in front of the camera and within the frame, and their visual arrangement and composition: settings, decor, props, actors, costumes, makeup, and lighting
  17. 17. interpreting mise-en-scene  how does the mise-en-scene in these shots support the movie’s meanings?  relationships among the characters  characters’ mental or emotional state  atmosphere or mood of the scene  visual metaphors of the movie’ s themes  foreshadowing of events later in the plot
  18. 18. mise-en-scène: lighting
  19. 19. mise-en-scène: lighting, costume
  20. 20. mise-en-scène: décor, costume
  21. 21. mise-en-scène: décor, costume
  22. 22. mise-en-scène: props, decor
  23. 23. mise-en-scène: setting
  24. 24. mise-en-scène: setting
  25. 25. mise-en-scène: décor, position
  26. 26. discussion question  How does the framing and mise-en-scene in Chinatown express the movie’s themes of corruption and plots of water rights and incest?
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