An Animation World Reception for Film Noir

10 Jan

3rd article in our 4 week series on Film Noir

When it was decided that LIH would try to honor this genre with a series, it was hard to ignore how the animated world has attempted to celebrate this largely historical cultural phenomena.  Predictably those on the art and design side of the filmmaking world would be some of the most dedicated to this stylistic genre and the following animated films should illustrate this preoccupation thoroughly.  Yet to be honest these creators we’re also some of the most mature respondents to this film expression (or style) also.  O.K. lets be honest, normally when creative people get nostalgic about old trends, methods, or ideas it isn’t uncommon that the quality of work suffers.  Post modern or not, worshiping antiquated ways of looking at the world can be novel.  Why because we also appreciate it when artists try to look at the world with bold contemporary visions instead of looking at the world the way their grandparents did (no matter how innovative).

When looking at “Film Noir” of the past, LIH’s collective detailed how successful the previous ages were.  By looking at animated approaches, we chart how responsible many of today’s artists have been. These approaches either demonstrate how enslaved this cultural event has become or detail how brilliantly contemporary audiences have responded to the previous phenomena with current work. But please be warned; the quality of offerings don’t always reflect well on the masterpieces of the genre.  Like fighting quicksand, this range of films do illustrate how desperately many (across the contemporary film worlds) are struggling to detach themselves from spectacular films created earlier in the last century.

So let’s start our survey. The first example of affinity or imitation might not count as flattery at all.

2007’s “Film Noir” by directors D. Jud Jones and Risto Topaloski is more of a cautionary tale and an example of what artists should not to do.  These Yugoslavian directors were clearly impressed by frequent hallmarks of the genre. This is short a list of film noir’s frequent accomplishments.

  • Surprise or unpredictable story endings
  • Unusual camera angles
  • The use of non-linear storytelling
  • Unique and dramatic lighting
  • Use of compelling dramatic actors
  • Traditional antagonists typically win, traditional protagonists frequently lose
  • Stories told as remembrances or as flashbacks
  • The use of stylish clothing in unexpected scenarios
  • Dynamic narrative details in other wise predictable situations
  • The presentation of improbable characters that are typically ignored
  • Psychological intrigue or even torture predominates
  • Allegorical responses to real world events the audience may collectively remember

But by the example of the trailer, the duo seemed to be confused about what was genre homage verses what was genre parody.

If you can stomach the cheesy voiceovers and over-the-top stereotypical situations of the self-titled “Film Noir,” you probably aren’t a big fan of this genre.  This film was mentioned because this film is so earnest (sorry that’s the best this reviewer can do).  A wonderful technical reel at best, ultimately reducing an impressive genre to a series of cliché’s doesn’t do much to honor the genre’s best efforts.  Still you may find this trailer entertaining.

ADAPTIVE:                                                                                                                                                                       A far better entrant is 2006’s “Renaissance” by Christian Volckman.  This film actually tries to add something to the genre by being bold enough to attempt an expression of this genre in a sci-fi locale.  As the example illustrates this genre is just that durable as adventure fantasy as fictional crime drama.  Receiving some accolades and winning on major award[1] before its run was over, “Renaissance” achieved far more than just being an engaging Roto-scoping reel. Many may not know it but actor Daniel Craig actually lent his dramatic talents to this production.

INNOVATIVE:                                                                                                                                                                       Positively Post-modern, being one of the most circulated examples on this list, the raucous “Sin City” is more of a mix of live action and not an entirely traditional and animated approach.  Bold in CGI comic content as well as related graphic novel scenarios, if not for the savage stylishness an unfamiliar viewer might overlook the send up to the Film Noir film genre. The 2005 film popularly attributed to Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez even has another attribute.  Many describe the film as “Neo-Noir”, firmly complimenting it as an attempt to interpret the genre in both a fresh yet reflective manner. With a 2014 sequel in the works, the acclaim of the creative careers of the director’s likely assured the stellar acting cast of the film.  When the duo lets color cinematography occasionally provide some evocative detail one can tell these directors had no intention of being nostalgic or sentimental about yester year Hollywood.

Hope you enjoyed this survey of animation world responses to Film Noir.  Let us know, do you think Hollywood can celebrate the innovations of the past without avoiding the kinds of responsibilities we appreciate in bolder contemporary artists and their work?

Also see:

Film Noir Past & Present: By Open Book & Parisienne

Sunset Blvd.: By Littlebells

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