Background• Adapted from a short novella by James M Cain• Adapted for the screen by Raymond Chandler (a detective novelist)• Directed by Billy Wilder ( A Jewish émigré ) who went on to direct A list films like Sunset Boulevard• Nominated for best film Oscar and 6 others (didn’t win as was considered too risqué (adultery and murder!)• Was one of the films that bought film noir to the ‘masses’ – it was an A list film, because of its actors – when many were considered B list
Why do we study it?It’s considered one of the bestfilm noir examples because:• It has great actors (Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G Robinson and Fred McMurray were A list actors who drew in audiences)• Phyllis Dietrichson is a classic femme fatale• Walter Neff is a completely flawed male hero
Why do we study it?• It has typical noir themes of greed and lust leading to adultery and murder• It has a typical narrative structure – 1st person narrative (voiceover) and flashback• It’s a biased narrative because it’s first person
Why do we study it?• It has typical Noir visual style• It has fabulous double entendre – nearly didn’t get released because it was considered too risqué• It has its roots in hard boiled fiction (plot, character, themes)• It can be connected to the society of the time
Pulp Fiction Straight after the story was first published, film companies were competing to buy the property. Then the Hays Office put the kibosh on it. They said: “The general low tone and sordid flavor of this story makes it, in our judgment, thoroughly unacceptable for screen presentation before mixed audiences in the theater. I am sure you will agree that it is most important…to avoid what the code calls "the hardening of audiences," especially those who are young and impressionable, to the thought and fact of crime”The pulp novella by James M. Cainwas published in serial form in 1935.Pulp books often provided the plots Eight years later they decided to try again.to film noir. At first the Hays Office said no, then they What do you think changed between 1935 relented, although they did insist Phyllis & 1943 that caused the used a larger towel. Hays Office to change its mind?
You are looking for:• Corruption!• Innuendo• Expressionistic camera work (shadows, extreme angles)• Fatalism – a belief that you are unable to change your destiny.• A failure of crime to pay• Femme Fatale – wicked Spiderwomen• Flawed Males – ready to be led astray by the aforementioned wicked women.
The skull beneath the skin - Beautiful suburb, everything shouldbe ideal. Kids are frolicking in the streets, but look at the cracks in the road.
Who has the power? Look at the angles.“I hate to think of you having a smashed fender orsomething when you’re not, uh, fully covered”
The anklet - the 1940s tramp stamp “That’s a honey of an anklet” “We were talking about automobile insurance, only you were thinking about murder. And I was thinking about that anklet”. “… I kept thinking about Phyllis Dietrichson - and the way that anklet of hers cut into her leg”.
It’s all in the delivery / directionPhyllis: Nettie! Nettie! Oh I forgot, todays the maids day off.Neff: Never mind the beer, iced teall be fine.Phyllis: Lemon? Sugar?Neff: Fix it your way. As long as its the maids day off, maybe theressomething I can do for you...like running the vacuum cleaner.
Phyllis returns Walter’s hat – spot the very deliberate mistake.
Out of controlThe film opens with a car careening down the dark streets of Los Angeles.The car, like it’s driver, Walter Neff, is out of control.
The voiceover – influence from Pulp Fiction• One of the typical conventions of noir is the use of voiceover.• Double Indemnity lets you know right away who is speaking, when, and from where, but other films use voice-over and flashback more ambiguously.• We need to think about the motives of narrative voices, how much they know and whether they are telling the truth, when and to whom they are speaking. This is a biased version of what happened because it’s from Walter’s POV• In this way, Noir emphasises the narrative gaps, and the possibility that narratives can deceive.• The snappy dialogue you hear comes from the pulp novels
Influences on this film - Hardboiled• Generally refers to a type of detective crime fiction.• Contain unsentimental portrayals of violence and sex.• Began in the mid 1920s. Refined by Raymond Chandler in the late 1930s.• Plots were pillaged for noir films in the 1940s, and their authors were employed to write the scripts.
The Hardboiled Detective (Dick)• He works alone.• He is between 35 and 45 years or so, a loner and a tough guy.• His usual diet consists of fried eggs, black coffee and cigarettes.• He hangs out at shady all-night bars.• He is a heavy drinker but always aware of his surroundings and able to fight back when attacked.• He shoots criminals or takes a beating if it helps him solve a case.• He is always poor.• Cases that at first seem straightforward, often turn out to be quite complicated, forcing him to embark on an odyssey through the urban landscape.• He is involved with organized crime and other lowlifes on the "mean streets" of , preferably Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, or Chicago.• A hard-boiled private eye has an ambivalent attitude towards the police.• It is his ambition to save America and rid it of its mean elements all by himself. • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_crime_fiction#Hard_boiled_American_crime_fiction_writing
Alienation = Noir protagonist+ Obsession (flawed male)• What is the evidence that Walter Neff is alienated? – What are the societal causes of this alienation?• Who is Neff obsessed by? What is the evidence of his obsession? I was thinking about that dame upstairs and the way she had looked at me, and I wanted to see her again, close, without that silly staircase between us. – I knew I had a hold of a red hot poker, and the time to drop it was before I burnt my hand off. – I was all twisted up inside and I was still holding on to that red-hot poker. And right then it came over me that I hadnt walked out on anything at all, that the hope was too strong, that this wasnt the end between her and me. It was only the beginning.
Allure + Manipulation = Femme Fatale• She has been a feature of literature and art over the ages and in early noir was representative of the hard boiled novel women. Look here for more information:• http://www.detnovel.com/FemmeFatale.html• She is manipulative, deceptive, alluring, cat- like, over sexualised, independent, duplicitous, predatory, ego-centric, selfish, narcisstic…