November is the time for noir! Roger Ebert wrote A Guide To Film Noir Genre, perfectly summarizing the characteristics and themes often featured in these films if you wanted more information on what exactly I will be talking about today. Here are my top five Film noir picks for Noirvember:
- Sunset Blvd (1950)
Billy Wilder truly understood what made a perfect noir, and it shows in both Sunset Blvd and 1944’s Double Indemnity. William Holden plays Joe, an out of work screenwriter who stumbles upon Norma Desmond’s (played by Gloria Swanson) house while on the run from debt collectors, and agrees to assist her with her monster of a script. Swanson’s performance is by far the greatest part of the movie. Her slow descent into insanity, her commentary on Hollywood’s transition from silent film to talkies, all of it. She’s phenomenal.
I guess there were other people in this movie too.
- Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
This movie took a second watch for me to truly appreciate it, and that’s because this is the most noir movie to ever noir in all of noir-dom. It’s jazz music, fedoras, bad attitudes, the whole kit and caboodle. Burt Lancaster is J.J. Hunsecker, the Broadway columnist and Tony Curtis plays his underling, Sidney Falco, who has been given the task of breaking up Hunsecker’s sisters relationship.
- Gilda (1946)
Starring Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford, Gilda is about a man who finds that his former flame is now married to his new employer. Ford and Hayworth give the greatest performances of their careers as the antihero and femme fatale of this story. The only other thing I think one needs to know about this movie is that at one point there is a scene where Hayworth is slapping Ford in the face, and in real life she had knocked out a couple of teeth. I don’t think I need to say anything else, really.
- The Naked Kiss (1964)
Okay, this one is a Neonoir, but it’s one of my favorites, so I had to share it. Constance Towers plays Kelly, a prostitute turned nurse who discovers her fiance has a dark secret. This film takes my favorite things about noir and my favorite things about 60’s films and smashes them together and is a spectacular watch.
- Double Indemnity (1944)
An insurance man, an unhappy housewife, and a plot to kill her husband. It doesn’t get much better than that. Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray are a match made in Noir-ville and I love the chemistry between them. Billy Wilder was an evil mastermind, and this is such a beautiful film.