The 2006 documentary Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light, from director and film historian Gary Leva, was originally tucked away on various DVD film noir collections from Warner Bros. (it’s on Film Noir Classic Collection Vol. 3, and still shows up occasionally as a “bonus feature”), but it’s also available separately.
It’s billed as “feature-length,” although modern audiences may choke a little at its 68-minute running length. Feature length? Maybe back when most of the films being discussed were being made, but now? Not so much.
Still, it offers an often insightful and entertaining overview of the genre, breaking down the various bits and pieces that constitute film noir, taking dead aim and passing potshots at a wide range of topics, covering such potential minefields as its history and development (what was the first noir, anyway?), the femme fatale and what she really represents, the battle between idealism and cynicism, the moral and psychological terrain, the symbolism of cigarettes, the threats to male sexuality, the genre’s past and its future–and whether it does have a future. But the question that really burns through the whole thing is simple: “What is film noir?”
Well, simple to ask, anyway. The answer is a bit trickier to pin down.
Fortunately, there’s a star-studded batch of interviews, both new and archived, that try to light the way, offering vivid if often contradictory commentary from actors, writers, directors, film scholars, critics and more, including Edward Dmytryk, James Ellroy, William Goldman, Jane Greer, Brian Helgeland, Michael Madsen, Christopher McQuarrie, Frank Miller, Christopher Nolan, Nicholas Pileggi, Sydney Pollack, Kathleen Turner, Henry Rollins, Theresa Russel, Paul Schrader, Talia Shire, Alain Silver, Audrey Totter, James Ursini and (of course) Eddie Muller.
And just to play it safe, the producers haven’t skimped on the clips, either, which may be enough for many viewers whose eyes may roll when yet another talking head begins to expound. Watch close and you’ll catch snippets of such classics as Out of the Past, Murder, My Sweet, The Asphalt Jungle, Born to Kill, The Narrow Margin, White Heat, Detour and more.
But whether you came for the quips or the clips, either way, once you’ve seen this, you’ll be reaching for the nearest programming guide…
- FILM NOIR: BRINGING DARKNESS TO LIGHT | Buy on DVD
(2006, Leva Filmworks)
Release date: Julu 2006
Directed by Gary Leva
Executive producer: Gary Leva
With commentary by John Alton, Drew Casper, Roger Deakins, John Debney, Edward Dmytryk, James Ellroy, Glenn Erickson, William Goldman, Jane Greer, Haden Guest, Patricia King Hanson, Brian Helgeland, Peter Honess, Rick Jewell, Janusz Kaminski, Eric Lax, Carol Littleton, Michael Madsen, Christopher McQuarrie, Frank Miller, Eddie Muller, Kim Newman, Christopher Nolan, John Ottman, Nicholas Pileggi, Sydney Pollack, André Previn, Graeme Revell, Henry Rollins, Theresa Russel, Paul Schrader, Talia Shire, Newton Thomas Sigel, Alain Silver, Audrey Totter, James Ursini, Gordon Willis, Lili Fini Zanuck
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.