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Showing posts from November, 2007

Elements of Film Noir in the 1941 Classic, " The Maltese Falcon "

As Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton point out in "Towards a Definition of Film Noir", prior to World War II convention dictated a beautiful heroine and an honest hero; we expected a clear line between good and bad, as well as clear motives, and the action should develop logically. But the 1941 film adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's 1930 detective novel "The Maltese Falcon" set these expectations on their ears, creating a first installment in the dark and unpredictable film genre called film noir . This is no Superman with a chaste fiancee, but a flawed hero with a depraved, murderous, doped-up, or drunk heroine. The difference is clear in one of the final scenes in "The Maltese Falcon". The coveted black bird has been revealed a fake, and the crooks have fled. Sam Spade has called the police to tell them the entire story, and he’s left with Brigid O'Shaughnessy. There is no talk of running to some hideaway; he bluntly asks her why she killed his

Satire in " The Prioress ' Tale " by Geoffrey Chaucer

In a modern tent-revival meeting, someone might stand before the crowd and tell a story. She might be a slim, well-dressed woman whose words deeply stir the congregation’s emotions. The hero of her story might be pure as the driven snow, and elicit the smiles and applause of the audience; her villains might be the blackest of men, bringing cries of “shame” along with booing and hissing. Her story would serve its purpose and stir the crowd into a religious frenzy; everyone would agree those men were the tools of satan and the hero was a heavenly servant of the Lord. But long before our modern tent revivals, we had a room full of religious pilgrims in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales . We had the Prioress, a stately and slim woman, who was as skilled as a revivalist preacher in telling a tale designed to stir the crowd. Her holy young boy, Hugh, could bring smiles from the men and tears from the women. Her villains were vile, and anyone who didn’t agree must be part of Satan’s league. But