Film noir is a slippery concept. A style? Genre? Mood? However you cut its shadows, there’s more than enough trouble, desire, cynicism and cigarette smoke in this batch of classic-period (’40s) noir reissues, albeit no extras. We’ll take a slap and we’ll like it, right?
First up is Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity, which miraculously even made insurance look sexy. Between murder that smells of honeysuckle, shafts of light cutting up Fred MacMurray, James M Cain and Raymond Chandler’s story and script, and Wilder’s precision doom, it drags you along with its fatalist mechanics. Robert Siodmak’s The Killers is another genre-defining insurance noir, again told in fatalist flashback – Siodmak’s vivid black-and-white encapsulating post-war pessimism.
Flash-forward to ’47, when Euro B-movie poet Jacques Tourneur’s Out Of The Past nailed the state-of-the-art flashback. The skies hang heavy over Bob Mitchum’s doomed hero from the minute he claps eyes on Jane Greer. Like Mitch here, these films “live by night”.