Muzzlehatch's Reviews > Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style

Film Noir by Alain Silver
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's review
Nov 24, 08

it was amazing
bookshelves: film, reference
Recommended for: anyone at all interested in noir, or 1940s-50s American film generally.
Read in November, 2008

First, the structure: the book has a lengthy, detailed introduction on what noir is, its importance to American film history, how it developed, etc. Then the bulk of the book, which is an alphabetical listing of 300+ noirs with plot summary and analysis; these vary from perhaps 200 to as many as 1000 words, depending on the author's/editors' impressions of the significance of the film. Following the main section are appendices describing major genres which occasionally interacted with noir but are not considered to be true noir by the editors (the gangster film, the western, the period film, the comedy), and then a listing breaking the pictures up by director, writer, stars, composer, cinematographer, and studio. There is a comprehensive index.

This well-produced large format book remains the standard introductory work to the style, I think, despite the almost 30 years since this edition, and 15 since the most recent. The analysis is nearly always on the money from what I can see, and the authors' insights into what makes noir, noir, are forthrightly and convincgly stated. A couple of points that may be controversial: proto-noirs and neo-noirs are included within the bulk on the main text, thus "M" and "Taxi Driver" rub shoulders with "On Dangerous Ground" and "Laura"; and foreign noirs, including British productions like "The Third Man" are completely omitted. I believe the updated editions make some changes in these areas. And a word of warning: don't read the plot descriptions until after you've seen the films!

Essential. The copy I read is a 2nd printing hardcover of the 1st edition.
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