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Cat's Cradle: The Noir-Watcher

Every year when November comes, there is an issue of people studying too much or not taking long enough of a break to relax. Rest and relaxation are a cornerstone of a good education, and what better way to relax than films? Steeped in the middle of Noirvember, a celebration of everything Noir for the month of November, students are given a reason to relax and unwind. 

So, what should you watch if you don’t know anything about Noir? Start in the early days of the genre, when style and form established the themes that carried throughout cinema history. This could be The Naked City, a riveting police procedural over a murder, or The Asphalt Jungle with an incredible paced heist and aftermath.   

It could be Touch of Evil in which the car bomb intro made cinema history with its long take, and quiet ticking, with a similarly iconic conclusion as well. I must also recommend Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog.

Sit in the aftermath of World War II, Japan is amidst the process of US lead reconstruction. Tensions are high, as Detective Murakami’s gun picks from his pocket as he rides the tram to work. 

What follows is a tense story of Master and pupil, as a veteran detective trains Murakami in the methods of catching the thief. While the plot quickly thickens as people are shot throughout the city. Having one of the best intros and conclusions of any film, Stray Dog is a classic of detective films.

In contrast to this is the luscious colors of Le Samouraï. Following a hitman in Paris as he goes on a series of contracts, the film sets itself apart from most films in this article: it has a lot of style. This style comes across in the form of jazzy nightclubs, tough one-liners and smooth actions.

Films like Tokyo Drifter and The French Connection exhibit a similar style. There is something about Le Samouraï that has formed a legacy. Specifically, elements of the film were inspirations to Jim Jarmusch's film Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai

From Le Samouraï, we have a further deconstruction of the genre. This is The Long Goodbye, Taxi Driver and Chinatown, where the tropes of ‘40s Noir are placed against or in post-Vietnam mindsets. Though, the perfect film to define this post-war mentality and the beginning of economic upturn is Thief

Starring James Caan, who is known today for playing the father of “Buddy the Elf,” plays a jewelry thief who is hired onto a difficult job. The film has a heist staged by actual safe crackers, scored by Tangerine Dream and filmed with an industrial color makes Thief a modern classic. 

Tied deeply to the “American Dream,” the film poses the question what would we do to achieve the ideal and what does it really cost.

Thief is the perfect pairing for fans of Casino Royale (2006) or Drive. The structures of each film bear a similar narrative arc of the heist, the construction of a dream and the destruction of that dream. 

From here we have the final development in the Noir genre as stories bring in elements of serial killer fiction. This is films like Manhunter, Se7en, The Silence of the Lambs and my personal favorite Zodiac

Retelling the Zodiac killings from a Noir perspective, Zodiac is Fincher’s best film. Blending the elements of all the films before it, Fincher uses the Zodiac killings to tell a detective story with a Noir vibe. This style of film has inspired recent Noir films in tone and style, blending a stark, modern style with classic Noir tropes. 

Benjamin Ervin is a senior studying English literature and writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Benjamin know by emailing him

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