Posted by Solomon on 8/9/2020, 5:15 pm
How is it possible that two films as different as "Get Shorty" and "Jade", both dated 1995, are both labeled neo-noir?
Easy, you have to allow neo-noir to include all stripes of comedy among its potentially criminal characters. I guess it's something like placing blues and gospel into the same musical phylum. Neo-noir is a phylum and beneath it are some classes. Take Bill Murray and De Niro in the 1993 "Mad Dog and Glory" as another crime-comedy neo-noir.
David Caruso appears in both "Jade" and "Mad Dog and Glory" and he delivers first-rate work. I've never seen the nerits of his work before, but now I do. "Jade" is a murder mystery with Caruso doing the detective work. Richard Crenna appears as a corrupt governor.
"Someone does a nasty hatchet job on a San Fransisco big noise and the Assistant D.A. takes charge of the investigation. Through a web of blackmail and prostitution involving the Governor, an old lover of the lawman emerges as a prime suspect and he has to deal with his personal feelings as well as the case."
William Friedkin's direction is a plus, but he cannot lift this movie into the A-rank. It's still a reasonably satisfactory B-picture. The concluding sequences are too rushed and on the obscure side as if the film editor gave up on it. The development of the conflicts leaves something to be desired. Viewers sense all this, which is why this carries a score of 5.3.
Re: Jade (1995) --a theory of "neo-noir morphology" transposed & applied from popular music analysis
Posted by Don Malcolm on 8/10/2020, 9:55 am, in reply to "Jade (1995)"
It's possible because of a phenomenon that seems to influence "works of art in the age of mechanical reproduction," something one of my long-ago collaborators (in the realm of music) and I noticed as a kind of metaphysical overlay on how popular art cross-pollinates. Boiling it down, it goes something like this:
--The basic form of the art is established, and works evolve/revolve around the boundaries of that form.
--Tension against those boundaries reaches a stage where the form is challenged, breached, inverted, intensified, undercut, parodied.
--Once the tension has been sufficiently explored (a point defined as when the public is aware of the formal elements due to what has been done with/to them by the folks producing the works), a series of ironic formulae are established, which creates a lapsed, "commodified" variant of the form, which is then exploited and run into the ground.
--In that phase, various individual syntheses within the lapsed form provide a newly idiosyncratic perspective on the form and the content, occasionally leading to a new form, but mostly resulting in hybrids are that are intriguing but ultimately circular.
Neo-noir would surely fit into a version of this sequence, but the question is whether it is part of the second phase or the third phase as paraphrased above.
Comedy seeps into noir in Hollywood in a very broad way (Bob Hope parodies it), while black humor and mild forms of farce show up in French noir during the Occupation period, in a temporary "second phase" which then proceeds in parallel with a recycled return to more basic forms after WWII. 50s noir in France apportions comedy in a scalar kind of way, from broad parody (think of Eddie Constantine or the Wilms/Dupuis sendups) to films that spoof the gangster modalities that become popular in the middle of the decade (note how L'ETRANGE M. STEVE sends up BOB LE FLAMBEUR, which is itself a parodic variant on GRISBI and RIFIFI).
Later on, when you lose B&W filmmaking, you've abandoned a key tonality for noir, so neo-noir is firmly in the "third phase" above, which means you can fold, spindle, and mutilate in several directions at once. You could call that "the tossed salad effect"--tracing all that through the films would be more arduous (and arguably less revealing) than simply listing them and applying Keaney's thematic keywords to the plots of the films.
Sidestepping such a notion and returning to the question--the biological classification model is adequate to explain it all at a coarse level. Whether there is much to be again from addition granularity is up for discussion, but I'm tending to think not--in this state of diffusion, the outstanding works are clearly anomalies of one sort or another.
GET SHORTY is barely neo-noir, but it is very amusing thanks to Travolta nailing a hybrid character with great precision and charisma. Works in the "fourth phase" are usually in the category of the sublime or bittersweet, but the central conceit ("all business ends up being run like mob business") is merely a lapsed form of the comedy underlying the bittersweet events in a hybrid film from post-WWII France, LES JEUX SONT FAITS, with its depiction of the torturous path of love and social liberation and the eternally ironic disconnection between heavenly bureaucracy and the earthly inclination toward tyranny.