Monday, August 25, 2014

“The Hard Liquor of Crime Films”

In a piece for The Dissolve about Mark Fertig’s new book, The 101 Best Film Noir Posters from the 1940s-1950s, Noel Murray writes:
There’s something bracingly adult about noir. Even the best Hollywood movies from the 1940s and 1950s sometimes feel incomplete, because they’re populated by characters who never appear to feel any lust or shame. Film noir was a corrective to that lack. While still working within the limits of Hollywood’s written and unwritten production codes, noir directors like Anthony Mann, Fritz Lang, and Samuel Fuller acknowledged the shadow America where desperate men and women made bad choices. These people aren’t all that different from anybody else. They’re driven by sexual desire and greed, and they wear the stain of guilt that human beings carry with them like a birthmark--even though most have learned how to keep it concealed.

The posters for these movies are startlingly brazen. None of the artists and designers working in the studios’ advertising and promotions departments tried to hide what film noir was all about, because that would’ve defeated the purpose. The whole idea was to advertise seductive women in form-fitting dresses, rough-hewn men holding smoking guns, and underlit neighborhoods far from the local Bijou. To extend Fertig’s analogy, the best posters for noir films were, for some moviegoers, the equivalent of seeing a skull and bones on a bottle of rotgut. “
This,” the posters whispered, “is what you’re really looking for.”
Click here to see nine examples of posters that, in Murray’s opinion, are “especially evocative.”

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