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OUT OF THE PAST is perhaps the most carefully structured of all films noir--a narrative divided (like protagonist Jeff Markum/Bailey) between an inescapable past and an impossible future, teetering on the slimmest hope for the present such that any action taken by its poor players tips them down into the abyss. Director Jacques Tourneur, cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca and screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring perfectly synchronized their efforts on this film, creating a narrative masterpiece where every image perfectly accompanies or contrasts every line of dialogue, where the whole is so self-conscious that it forces us to view each moment through every other, creating a true mise-en- abyme. It would be as impossible for the viewer to enter into such a story as it is for the characters to escape it, if it weren't for the decision to create a "Meta" narration at exactly the halfway point of the film, allowing the viewer to sort past from present in a film that constantly blurs that distinction in order to show how lives are always lived in servitude to what comes out of the past. For all of these reasons, the film is a constant source of inspiration, and a constant obsession, for those who watch it carefully. Artist and novelist Jonathan Santlofer joins Clute and Edwards to discuss how the film has repeatedly inspired his work, and Clute and Edwards consider how the case they would make for this movie is reframed each time they reopen their investigation into its means and motives.

Direct download: 2011_11_24_OOTP2.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 4:14 AM
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Appearances can be deceiving. On the surface, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is pure science fiction, the tale of seed pods from outer space that produce emotionless body doubles of each citizen in the small town of Santa Mira. Often read as an allegory of either Communism or McCarthyism, where every person who becomes "one of them" loses autonomy by willingly buying into the unthinking collective, the film in fact plumbs questions of humanity in the modern era with subtlety and nuance more common to films noir than to science fiction movies. As Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) and Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter) fight to remain human, they question the mass hysteria of the era, recognize that all appearances are misleading in a mass media culture, and discuss how we lose our humanity in times of social dislocation. Director Don Siegal, screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring and producer Walter Wanger draw on their extensive experience in creating iconic films noir to craft a movie that self-consciously adopts a noir style and noir thematics whenever the stakes are high, demonstrating in the process that noir is ideally suited to addressing human questions in the years following WWII, when retaining our humanity in spite of technological progress is precisely what is in question.

Direct download: 2011_10_15_IOTBS.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 8:03 PM
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A product of Clute and Edwards' longstanding fascination with film noir and hard-boiled literature, this podcast investigates how certain mid-century visual and storytelling conventions evolved into Rockstar Games/Team Bondi's new video game L.A. NOIRE.  To some degree, noir and hard-boiled themselves evolved from a 19th-century literary tradition that involved contests of deduction and linear modes of problem-solving (a tradition established by Edgar Allan Poe), but in the wake of two world wars and other evidence of the havoc wreaked by modern "progress" those storytelling traditions evolved into something darker and more nuanced—something that offered less certain outcomes.  L.A NOIRE plays on both traditions: it is linear and problem-based in its narrative structure, yet its underlying worldview is as brooding and morally ambiguous as the finest films noir and hard-boiled novels.  Like all great digital works it is a mashup that weaves together swaths of historical events and pop culture yarns, and the result is a vast tapestry of noir at once familiar and altogether unique.

Direct download: OOTP_2011_08_15_LANoire.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:18 AM
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While many scholars have focused on noir as a dark visual style, or a worldview marked by the anxieties and stark realities of modernity, few have addressed noir's high degree of self-consciousness or its profoundly quirky humor. In their new book,The Maltese Touch of Evil: Film Noir and Potential Criticism, Clute and Edwards focus on these underappreciated characteristics of noir to demonstrate how films noir frame their "intertextual" borrowings from on another and create visual puns, and how these gestures function to generate both compelling narratives and critical reflections upon those narratives. Drawing on the on the concept of "constraint" articulated by the Oulipo (a French acronym for "Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle," or "Workshop of Potential Literature"), Clute and Edwards demonstrate that noir was the most constrained of film styles, and the constraints noir embraced gave rise to its infinite variability and unprecedented self-reflexivity--the very characteristics that have often forced scholars to bracket off noir, framing it as an exception to the otherwise tidy world of studio-era American cinema. In this video essay, Clute and Edwards use the simple constraint of run time percentage to recombine iconic moments from 31 films noir and neo-noir, and in the process create a short film that is at once a noir narrative and an investigation into the narrative constraints embraced by noir.

Direct download: MTOE_VideoEssay.mp4
Category:Video Podcast -- posted at: 8:47 PM
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Grab a copy of Clute and Edwards' new noir book today at Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/jCePwG and at other online booksellers. 

In December 2011, Dartmouth College Press (University Press of New England) released Clute and Edwards' new study of film noir, The Maltese Touch of Evil: Film Noir and Potential Criticism.  This exciting book builds on crucial insights from the Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir podcasts, and draws on the work of the experimental literary group Oulipo (an acronym for "Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle," or "Workshop of Potential Literature") to investigate the extreme self-consciousness and high degree of visual punning exhibited by noir.  In the process, the book proposes—and serves as a sustained demonstration of—an OuFiNoPo, or Workshop of Potential Film Noir.  Part thinking-man’s fan crush, part crazily inspired remix of the most beloved of film genres, this study will help scholars and film fans alike to view film noir afresh, and achieve new insights into even the best known movies.  

Clute and Edwards have never solicited donations for their podcasts, for like all good things these podcasts are a labor of love.  But they would ask you to…

PLEASE GRAB A COPY of The Maltese Touch of Evil: Film Noir and Potential Criticism, and consider picking up other copies for all your movie-loving friends.

Category:general -- posted at: 2:27 AM
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