women in neo-noirs
Posted by Dan Hodges on 10/11/2020, 2:56 am
When I've checked IMDb about neo-noirs that I've enjoyed in the past, I find that they have ratings that are sub-par, such as The Net, Murder by Numbers, Sleeping with the Enemy, Deceived, Enough, and perhaps the best contender: Out of Sight.
But I don't consider myself a neo-noir expert. My interest is asking whether neo-noirs, like GONE, that focus on women have been properly addressed in the lists that have been so far formulated.
Re: women in neo-noirs
Posted by Solomon on 10/11/2020, 4:43 am, in reply to "women in neo-noirs"
"Properly addressed"? Absolutely not. A search on women in neo-noir turns up a number of scholarly works that address women in neo-noirs, and the list of 25 best does not explicitly take account of the female depictions in those works and the very long list of other movies. That would constitute a large scholarly effort and a book-length result, and it would not have a top 25 list as a focus.
That list of mine is aggregative, that is, based upon the overall impression that a movie makes on me. It's highly subjective. At several junctures here, I've attempted to abandon the whole project, and I'm about ready to drop it again. It has very little mileage left for me. I have even less interest in a second or third tier list.
There are quite a few top neo-noir lists on the internet. None are scholarly. None take any one facet of a film as a topic, like the lighting, the music, the treatment of females, the presence of sex on screen, nudity, hair style, romance, male-female relations, guns, murders, narration, comedy, language, etc. It's only a trivial and impossible game to make such a list of best. It's not aimed at a serious publication. It's only a blog, an op-ed, and at best it offers a list of movies that a fan of classic noir might find worth watching.
Re: women in neo-noirs
Posted by Solomon on 10/11/2020, 7:49 am, in reply to "women in neo-noirs"
I've earlier mentioned Tilda Swinton, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Reese Witherspoon in neo-noir. Naomi Watts has been in some. Virginia Madsen is notable in a few. You might be able to add the two Arquettes for a few.
And Jodie Foster should be added for some notable roles.
A good many of the roles are weak or stereotyped for both sexes. There are lots of married women who have had it with their policemen husbands. There are a fair number of women in positions of authority in government organizations. Then there are women who are put upon and beaten sometimes. In "Internal Affairs" the partner to Andy Garcia is a woman, senior to him, and she's described as a dyke. Garcia's wife is awfully frustrated with him. Another woman is hit in the face. One could go on and on about how the movies handle the female roles.
Tilda Swinton is excellent in both "Deep End" and "Julia". Jodie Foster stands out in the "The Accused" (1988). There are many women revenge movies.
Re: women in neo-noirs
Posted by Solomon on 10/11/2020, 9:44 am, in reply to "women in neo-noirs"
All of the films you mention appear on the long master list of neo-noirs. Some tears back, I made comments for myself and IMDb after watching them. They come next. They are no longer on IMDb because I removed them.
The Net (1995) (5.9, 51)
Murder by Numbers (2002) (6.2, 50)
Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) (6.3, 48)
Deceived (1991) (6.2)
Enough (2002) (5.8, 25)
Out of Sight (1998) (7.0, 85)
Your "best contender" does have competitive rating scores.
"My own comments 8 years ago follow:
Out of Sight (1998)
Cupidís arrow strikes an unlikely pair, 25 March 2012
Rather light-hearted romantic comedy that turns serious.
A bank robber and an FBI agent fall for each other in a mutual but not fatal attraction. She has to do her duty and he has to pursue his "profession", but for awhile they get together. Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Will boy get girl again? Don Cheadle turns our blood cold as a robber without bounds. Dennis Farina is Jennifer Lopezís father, and he is amused by her love interest. Just one of those things. George Clooney is the charming bank robber and Ving Rhames his Buddy (thatís his name).
A fun outing for the most part, except when Cheadle enters the scene. Then watch out. Recommended.
Oh yes, Out of Sight is not a neo-noir, no matter how many lists it appears on and no matter that it may be from a noir novel or that it was by Elmore Leonard. The heart of this movie is romantic comedy in an unlikely combination and crime setting. For an example of real neo-noir, see The Hot Spot with Don Johnson and Virginia Madsen."
Today, I'd just say that it's not a top movie among all neo-noir movies.
My review of The Net follows:
"The Net (1995)
Sandra Bullockís identity is transformed by a conspiratorial computer security outfit, 13 May 2016
By chance, the two movies I watched last night both bear the imprint of Irwin Winkler. I just reviewed "The Juror" (1996). This one, "The Net" was done a year earlier. Winkler produced both; he directed this one. Winkler is a famous and experienced producer (59 credits). We are talking many excellent films among them, like "Point Blank" (1967), "The Split" (1968), "Rocky" (1976), "The Mechanic" (1972), "Raging Bull" (1980), "The Gambler" (1974), "True Confessions" (1981), "ĎRound Midnight" (1986) and many more! Winkler is a great producer.
Winkler has also 7 directing credits. I reviewed his first directing effort, which was "Guilty by Suspicion" (1991). That was on 5 July 2012, almost 4 years ago. Although the movie is decent enough, I thought it came up short in some respects. I concluded "I would have to say that it falls short in the directing and acting departments, and perhaps as well in script deficiencies and faults. What we see on the screen lacks a certain REAL quality." Of "The Net", I have to say the same thing. Itís a reasonable enough thriller, quite enjoyable although overlong and over the top. Itís topical, working off dangers of computerized life. Yet it is lacking visually and in the actors coming through with that extra something. It needed the kind of direction that Winklerís other film, "The Juror" got in the following year from Brian Gibson.
Both movies have short and direct titles, the kind that Winkler likes. Both have women in distress. Both have them pursued by psychopathic men who can be charming. Here, itís Jeremy Northam, and he cannot be faulted. In both cases, the protagonists find it very difficult to secure help. Sandra Bullock is friendless and her mother (Diane Baker) canít even recognize her, being afflicted with Alzheimerís. But while "The Juror" is taut and features outstanding writing and acting in enough places to raise the entire movie, "The Net" tends to be more clunky and blase, despite the trials that Bullock is going through as Northam tries to recover one little disk from her. The movie makes a number of things out to be more plausible and easier to do on a computer than they actually are, but we can still suspend disbelief.
"The Net" is a neo-noir thriller of more or less average quality. Its distinction is in a plot that makes Bullock the victim of computer manipulations and in the clever conspiracy devised by a computer security company to gain power. The way in which Bullock loses her identity is clever. The movie is a reasonable watch without being exceptional. The IMDb rating of 5.8 reflects a lukewarm approval; itís about right."
My assessment of Sleeping with the Enemy from years ago follows:
Sleeping with the Enemy (1991)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Julia Roberts attempts to escape from her overly-possessive husband, 25 February 2013
"Sleeping with the Enemy" appears on neo-noir lists, which is why I watched it. Itís a modest thriller, however, with close to no noir properties. The closest it comes is the extreme mental condition of Julia Robertsí husband, played by Patrick Bergin. While approaching psychosis, his is a strong personality disorder. He treats Roberts as his property and attempts to dominate her, suppressing her desire to develop and shutting out her family.
Roberts escapes to Iowa, while relocating her mother to a nursing home. This part of the movie hooks you into the story quite well. In act 2, she meets up with a new man and recovers herself. Naturally, Bergin manages to track her down, leading to the climax, which is somewhat but not entirely predictable.
It plays like a straightforward and linear story with a mild middle portion that emphasizes romance between Roberts and her new love interest, Kevin Anderson. The movie relies heavily on the charisma of the leads and their efforts are worthy and stalwart. They are let down to some extent by a lack of richness in the story and mundane directing, which also cannot uplift the story. The extended romance slows the story down.
I came away feeling it was a decent if rather blah picture. Its inclusion as a neo-noir is questionable."
Re: women in neo-noirs
Posted by Don Malcolm on 10/11/2020, 2:47 pm, in reply to "Re: women in neo-noirs"
Of course, it's great that you saved them, Mike--very useful for context and comparison at this point in time.
As for the question of women in neo-noirs and whether the notable films should foreground "women in distress/women in peril" as opposed to women with agency or women with character flaws (which they do possess, just not nearly at the same frequency or level of toxic intensity as men), I think a look at the first three lists in the fourth pass demonstrates that they are well-represented in terms of all these character types.
Films with significant roles for women in terms of neo-noir can be found across all 50 years of coverage ...off the top of my head here:
1968 Pretty Poison*
1974 Bring Me The Head of Alberto Garcia
1981 Body Heat
1987 Fatal Attraction
1989 Last Exit to Brooklyn*
1990 After Dark, My Sweet*
1990 The Grifters*
1994 The Last Seduction
1995 Leaving Las Vegas
1997 Jackie Brown
(1998 Out of Sight)
1997 Lost Highway
1998 A Simple Plan
2001 Mulholland Drive
2004 Million Dollar Baby
2007 No Country For Old Men
2008 Frozen River
2010 Winter's Bone
*Films added back to our lists thanks to Chi-Bob's list (thanks, Bob!)
(By placing it on this list in parentheses, I'm suggesting that OUT OF SIGHT belongs somewhere in the overall collection of films that has expanded from the first cut Top 25 into a list that covers somewhere between 100-125 titles at this point. I would agree with Mike that it's certainly not going to make the Top 25, and probably not the Top 50, but it's the best film of the ones mentioned by Dan in this thread, even if it is very likely "neo-noir lite.")
The question of whether there should be more women in distress/women in peril neo-noirs is, of course, a separate issue--as is the question as to why there don't seem to be a lot of high-quality films focused on that condition, particularly given the continued, unfortunate and unacceptable prevalence of sexual assault crimes against women. (I think we can agree that the reasons for the relative scarcity of such films have to do with structural cultural flaws in Hollywood that have only begun to be addressed during the #metoo movement.)
In any case, the primary reason for any perceived shortfall of such films is due to the producers of the films themselves, not those of us who are slogging through the neo-noir filmography of the past half-century. (I also think that we would find more such films in foreign neo-noir, where the Hollywood influence is seriously muted.)
Re: women in neo-noirs (erotic thrillers)
Posted by Solomon on 10/12/2020, 7:48 am, in reply to "women in neo-noirs"
Edited by Solomon on 10/12/2020, 7:50 am
This author, Linda Ruth Williams, is a film professor, and this is one of her books that delves into women's roles in erotic thrillers, and she conceives the latter genre as drawing from both pornography and noir.
In searching for what people call neo-noir, I ran across this, but I don't buy or read books about films. I read snippets on Google. Erotic thrillers are excluded from my long list of neo-noirs. There were many of these in the 1990s especially.
She apparently places Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct into this category.
Re: women in neo-noirs (erotic thrillers)
Posted by Don Malcolm on 10/12/2020, 10:43 am, in reply to "Re: women in neo-noirs (erotic thrillers)"
In the post-Production Code era, sex/sexuality (sometimes limited only to a few seconds of female nudity) clearly helps sell a film, due to those well-known "changes in society" and a trickle-down effect from critics (who don't generally want to look too prudish, so their discourse helps to blur any standards of decency). But Williams is undoubtedly right that a separate sub-type of neo-noir that evolved around psychosexual perversity has sprung up, and it also radiates itself into other neo-noirs depending on how a "femme fatale" is characterized, or on how a "toxic male" uses gender relations to advance a suppressive agenda.
Williams also places BODY HEAT in the "erotic thriller" category, which suggests that we should examine her filmography in greater detail in order to determine the linkages and disjunctures in this sub-type. Clearly we can discount 95% of the output in this area as it is nothing but prurient product barely disguised with "thriller" overtones.
I'll have to check down at the office to see which of her books I've managed to acquire--the early part of the book per the Google Books link sounds familiar to me, but it would've been 10-12 years since I looked through anything related to neo-noir...