Daily | Books | Noirs and Narratives

In Lonely Places

The latest in noir: looking for it outside of cities, and for that matter, the States as well

Imogen Sara Smith, a recent guest on The Cinephiliacs, has a book out, and introducing his interview with her for The Believer, Aaron Cutler writes: “Film noir is usually associated with urban settings, but in Imogen Sara Smith’s book In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City, she considers different noir locations—pristine suburbs, Western deserts, seedy border towns—to describe the genre as stemming from an existential condition. The book is an elegantly detailed tour through genre classics like Out of the Past (1947), The Reckless Moment (1949), and On Dangerous Ground (1952) in which Smith shows that no matter how far you run in noir, you can’t escape yourself.”

You’ll find more than just a taste of the book at The Chiseler, where Daniel Riccuito’s been reposting dozens of her articles. Read Smith on Joan Bennett and Joan Crawford, Joan Blondell, May Clarke, Joseph Cornell, Ann Dvorak, Jean Epstein (more), Jack La Rue, Edward G. Robinson, Fats Waller, Warren William, fashion during the Great Depression, Edward L. Cahn’s Afraid to Talk (1932), Roy Del Ruth‘s Blessed Event (1932), Mervyn LeRoy’s Big City Blues (1932), Ernst Lubitsch‘s Trouble in Paradise (1932), Howard Bretherton and William Keighley’s Ladies They Talk About (1933), Stephen Roberts’s The Story of Temple Drake (1933), Jean Renoir’s Toni (1935), Jacques Becker’s Antoine and Antoinette (1947), Abraham Polonsky’s Force of Evil (1948), Cy Endfield’s The Sound of Fury (1950), Hubert Cornfield’s Plunder Road (1957), and the 1997 documentary Riding the Rails.

The 12th annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival: January 24 through February 2


“This serious Hollywood novel is largely a creature of the late 1930s,” writes David Bordwell. “Wedding hard-boiled style to Depression-era realism, Nathanael West’s Day of the Locust (1938) and Horace McCoy’s I Should Have Stayed Home (1938) present stark, aggressively despairing accounts. In these books, Hollywood is America, only more so…. In 1939 F. Scott Fitzgerald had begun The Last Tycoon… Reading the book for my research on the 1940s, I became fascinated by its understanding of what we might call the Hollywood aesthetic.”

Jonathan Rosenbaum has recently posted his 1972 review of Paul Schrader’s Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer and his 2009 review of the Library of America collection, Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber, in which he argues that “both the nature and evolution of his taste and writing over 30-odd years, before he gave up criticism to concentrate on his painting, still make him the most remarkable figure American film criticism has ever had.”

About Nicholson from Pasquale Iannone.

“Phaidon Press’ Anatomy of an Actor series aims to look past the magic, to think critically about the art, craft, and even labor of film acting,” writes Phillip Maciak in Slate. “The books are, in essence, critical biographies—narratives of an artist told through close attention to 10 of his or her films…. Beverley Walker’s Jack Nicholson is, in many ways, a sharply written, phenomenally well-researched fan’s account of the actor’s career…. Karina Longworth has a much less rascally or showy celebrity persona to deal with in her book Meryl Streep, and, perhaps in part for that reason, it resists the play of mystification and demystification that occupies much of Walker’s study. Longworth, working with pages upon pages of Streep’s extemporaneous comments on her art, has fashioned a book that is as much a study of the actress’s idiosyncratic career as it is a treatise on the state of feminism in contemporary film.”

Jason Sperb‘s Blossoms and Blood: Postmodern Media Culture and the Films of Paul Thomas Anderson is now out; his Disney’s Most Notorious Film: Race, Convergence, and the Hidden Histories of Song of the South is now available in paperback; and he keeps plugging away at Haunted Nerves: Nostalgia in the Time of Digital Cinema.

More footage from a Flemish documentary about the making of Jerry Lewis’s unreleased The Day the Clown Cried (1972)

Have you heard? You can read Jerry Lewis’s The Total Film-Maker (1971) at Cinephilia and Beyond.

“The real factories that I love, they’re black-and-white experiences. Color putrefies them.” That’s David Lynch, talking to Liz Jobey in the Financial Times. The Factory Photographs is an exhibition opening at The Photographer’s Gallery in London on January 17 and a book appearing on the same day (it’ll be out in the U.S. on February 17).

In Fosse, Sam Wasson’s “done solid reporting in documenting [Bob] Fosse’s career over an impressive range of time,” writes Ben Schwartz for Bookforum. “In 2013, however, Wasson’s apologia for Fosse’s lifetime of piggery is a hard sell.”

In the Guardian, David Thomson remembers Tom Rosenthal, the publisher of The Biographical Dictionary of Film: “We did many other books—Suspects, Silver Light, Showman, a biography of David Selznick and two more editions of the Dictionary, which finally in the 1990s turned into what Tom admitted was ‘hot cakes.'”

For John McElwee, “2014’s First Must-Read” is Robert Matzen’s Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3.

J. Hoberman reviews Society is Nix: Gleeful Anarchy at the Dawn of the American Comic Strip, 1895–1915 for the New York Review of Books.

Listening (32’40”). On the Leonard Lopate Show, Anita Elberse discusses her new book, Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment.

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