Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir by Foster Hirsch

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I Read: The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir by Foster Hirsch

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: This ebook is a 2008 revision of a classic study of film noir that was first published in 1981.  Noir is known for its dark, shadowy visual style and effects, and Hirsch includes well-chosen photographs to illustrate his analysis of various filmmaking techniques.  A chapter titled “The Literary Background” discusses the impact of the “hardboiled” school of crime fiction on film noir.  Writers such as Raymond Chandler, Cornell Woolrich, and James M. Cain are discussed, including the film adaptations of their novels and short stories.  Another chapter is titled “The Cinematic Background.”  The influence of German Expressionism is discussed, particularly in the work of émigré directors such as Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak, and Billy Wilder.  Chapters are also devoted to “The Noir Actor” and “The Noir Director.”  Hirsch critiques iconic noir actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Barbara Stanwyck, and Gloria Grahame.  In addition to the directors mentioned previously, the book also surveys the noir-related work of Otto Preminger, Orson Welles, Jules Dassin, and others.

What I Thought: Foster Hirsch discusses film noir with a sweeping command of the cinematic genre/style/movement that flourished in Hollywood from the mid-forties to the mid-fifties.  His writing is both instructive and engaging.  The only negative aspect of reading this book in ebook format is the size and quality of the many photographs which accompany (and enhance) the text.  On my 6-inch Kindle screen these photographs were very small indeed.  Nonetheless, this is a most enjoyable and useful book for students and fans of classic films.  Watch some film noir—the library has several classic examples on DVD—and use this ebook as your guide!

Readalikes: Out of the Shadows by Gene D. Phillips; Encylopedia of Film Noir by Geoff Mayer

Or look this book up on NoveList!