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AS450 607 - Through a Glass, Darkly: American Film Noir

In Film Noir (French for dark, or black film), the city often provides the backdrop for stories featuring the dark underbelly of society. Morally conflicted, cynical hardboiled investigators, corrupt officials, low- lives, mysterious, double-crossing dames and set in a landscape of trash strewn alleys, dimly lit bars, tenements, and other dark corners. There are no happy endings in Film Noir and the mood is one of paranoia, pessimism, desperation and existential angst. The course will employ an interdisciplinary understanding of the characters, themes, and gritty visual style and mood of the classic Film Noirs of the 1940s and 1950s. Roots of the Film Noir form come through a fusion of German Expressionism and the hard-boiled detective stories and crime novels of the 1920s-1940s upon which some of the greatest noir films were based. The course utilizes a “read and screen” approach beginning with a close textual reading of each story that is followed by a screening of the film through which we will analyze the distinctive visual style (light and shadow, tilted camera angles, mysterious silhouettes) which contributes to the mood and defines the Film Noir formula. Major auteurs of the form such as authors, directors, and actors will also be studied for what they bring to this formula. The course concludes with a look an example of Neo-Noir from the 1970s. Important note: students will need to find the films included in the course to screen on their own.
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Spring 2021
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