Discussion: What is your favorite neo-noir film?

Posted: September 24, 2009

Neo-noirs have been popular favorites since Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) brought the style back to modern filmmaking. What is your favorite neo-noir film?

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  • rayban

    “What is your favorite neo-noir film?” That’s a very difficult question. Perhaps, at the top of my list, I would put Jean-Paul Melville’s late 60’s masterpiece, “Le Samourai”. This film is about a contract killer, Jef Costello, who has just killed his “victim” and then realizes that the man who hired him is trying to kill him and that the police are really “on his tail”. It’s a great study in both stress and solitude and it has a great performance from Alan Deloin, as a man who has no soul. More recently, just for its extremely stylish quirkiness, I would have to say Michael Radford’s “B. Monkey”, which boasts two pairs of crazy lovers who get involved in a crime spree, Asia Argento and Jared Harris and Rupert Everett and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. The film feels like it was probably edited down to the bone, but it does give you a once-in-a-lifetime joy ride. It also has a most interesting array of highly-quotable one-liners. And to bring us up-to-date, 2007, I believe, I really enjoyed James Foley’s “Perfect Stranger” about a pair of investigative reporters, Halle Berry and Giovanni Ribisi, who go after a highly successful businessman, Bruce Willis, who, they suspect, actually killed Berry’s girlfriend. This film takes place in the blackest of nights and has a highly-unexpected twist. Maybe a little too unexpected for most moviegoers, but it certainly qualifies as “a whopper”. It also has a great performance from Ribisi as Miles Haley, a computer geek who is, make no mistake about it, “a power player”.

  • Bonnie

    Like the previous reviewer, I have to go with Jean-Paul Melville, the King of Noir. I like “Le Samourai” also, but my favorite is “Le Cercle Rouge”/The Red Circle with an oustanding performance by Yves Montand, as well as an excellent Alain Delon. Second on my list, also by Melville, is “L’armée des ombres”/The Army of Shadows. I also like his “Un Flic”/A Cop and “Bob le flambeur”/Bob the Gambler, but not as much as the previous two mentioned. (“Bob” was unsuccessfully remade by Neil Jordan as “The Good Thief” with Nick Nolte.) In fact, Melville is my favorite French director.

  • joseph

    What is name of movie shown Sat (9-26) 11pm to 12:30 Sun
    morning on Chan 13. Husband tries to blackmail the man
    who slept with husband’s wife and ends up killing him
    in self defense. Husband is charged with murder and is
    given the electric chair. Husband is a barber?

  • rayban

    Bonnie, you mention some first-rate Jean-Pierre Melville films – “Le Samourai”, “Le Cercle Rouge”, “L’armee des Ombres”, “Un Flic” and his very first one, “Bob Le Flambeur”.

    Unfortunately, I still haven’t seen “Le Cercle Rouge” and “L’armee des Ombres”.

    Do you know Melville’s 1962 film, “Le Doulos” with Jean-Paul Belmondo? It’s an amazingly layered film and it even has a twist ending. It’s film noir at an absolutely inspired level.

  • Jerry

    I’d rather see the old “noirs” rather than the neo-s. “Body Heat” is a nice retread of “Double Indemnity.” I prefer the original, as well as “The Maltese Falcon” and “Murder, My Sweet.” If I had to pick a neo-noir, why not Orson Welles'”Touch Of Evil”? It is already a spoof. The villain (delicious Akim Tamirov)is named Grandee, and even he contemptuously points out that his HQ is “Rancho Grandee”(Old song). Marlene Dietrich as a Mexican whore with an old pianola banging out tunes behind her. Welles is a parody of seedy border sheriff. “He was—some kind of man.” If “neo” means anything, then it’s a recognition that the genre is so well established, that the only thing you can do is play with it.

  • rayban

    I have to second Jerry’s statement – I, too, prefer the original noirs to the neo-noirs. And, in that category, I like “Double Indemnity” a great deal.

  • dancingwings

    Joseph, the film you are asking about is Titled “The Man Who Wasnt There” starring Billy Joe Thornton.

  • rayban

    I think that Barbet Schroeder has given us two very exceptional neo-noirs in recent years – “Our Lady Of the Assassins” (2000) about an aging author who becomes involved with two very bad boys, Alexis and Wilmar and “Murder By Numbers” (2002) about a dectective (Sandra Bullock) who becomes involved with two extremely perverse young men, Ryan Gosling and Michale Pitt, who seem to be modeled on real-life killers, Nathan Leopold, Jr. and Richard Loeb.

  • bonnie

    rayban – thanks for the heads-up on Doulos. I wasn’t aware that it’s been transferred to DVD. And I see that Le deuxième souffle has also been transferred. I ordered both from Netflix, although I probably should have just bought them outright. One can’t go wrong with Melville.

    Le Cercle Rouge is an absolute must! It is absolutely outstanding on so many levels, not the least of which is the acting of Montand, Delon. And the script and direction are superb. In 1955 Jules Dassin made the first film of this robbery, “Riffifi”, based on the novel. Melville said that he always wanted to make the film but it kept getting put off and was ticked that Dassin got to it first. “Riffifi” is excellent, too. One can watch both films of the same robbery and not see any redundancies. They’re unique in their own ways.

    “L’Armee” is technically not a noir – it’s a WWII French Resistance thriller. But the atmosphere and mood are tres noir-ish.

    I hope you get to see them both – and “Riffifi”. If you like Melville, you’ll be bowled over by these.

  • rayban

    Bonnie, I did not know that “Rififi” and “Le Cercle Rouge” were based on the same source material. I did see the Jules Dassin film a long time ago. But I really would like to see “Le Cercle Rouge”. I read a lot about “L’armee des Ombres” and a friend recommended it to me. But I still haven’t seen it. But, you’re right, you can’t go wrong with Jean-Pierre Melville.