A hot, sweaty summer is the season of noir.
June 18, 2015
HOT, SWEATY NIGHTS, Santa Ana winds, electric air. Summer noir at its dark best. Noir. What is it? Black and white films with femme fatales, hard-boiled cops or PI’s? Noir has many definitions, many incarnations.
The elements of noir best captured during and after World War II; the world was no longer innocent, if it ever was, but a new born cynicism, mistrust and loner against the world sentiment was born. Women were no longer a non-factor in crime or mere pawns of men. Now women were the brains behind the evil.
The FEMME FATALE. Women murdered just like men, motivated by greed, power, control, and freedom. Their quest for freedom often meant getting away from a stifling marriage, trapped by laws that decreed women nothing more than chattel of their husbands and fathers. The classic femme fatale was always the downfall of the men around her. Love twisted like the knife stuck in his back. The black and white movies classically shot shadows where the woman was in the center of web patterns – a black widow or behind prison bars.
Neo noir has kept much of the same elements: cynical characters, alienation, disillusionment, evil and of course, murder. Neo noir often has a story line that evolves from inner conflict more than the classic noir of bumping off the husband to get the insurance money.
Today, characters are born damaged, or psychologically tortured as young children, or victims of modernity, the doomsday clock ticking louder and louder each day. The characters are more complicated, and unlike classic noir, often lacking any social conscience. What’s best for some of us noirophiles is that woman is the protagonist who needs no man to carry out her evil deeds. Neo noir has stayed true to the classic atmospherics of darkness and often stifling heat that generates the feeling of physical or mental claustrophobia.
There is nothing like a wakeful summer night to plot or read a murder. The humidity, wet streets and often wet sheets are the perfect background for smart women and men tangling to see who did what to whom and why? One-way streets realistically and metaphorically take the reader to a theory that often goes haywire.
Purified, my novel, is an homage to my adoration of noir, set in a hot Chicago summer. In noir, the villain is most fascinating character and it doesn’t matter whether he or she is known in the very beginning as in Double Indemnity, or not figured out until the end, Gone Girl because the villain is in the atmosphere of the story. If you love noir, TCM is running noir every Friday night because summer is the season of noir.
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