New Wave, Old Noir
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Level: Undergraduate, Graduate
Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Media Studies
Department: Media Studies
Course Number: NMDS 5197
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
This course will examine a particular facet of the work of a group of French filmmakers whose films, as of the late 1950s, helped change the face of the movie world. Although engaging many experimental techniques, these films were intended for the commercial market, and it is that market that was, to an extent, revolutionalized. In spite of the highly original style of each filmmaker, the work as a whole became known as the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave). Although the New Wave filmmakers were young college students who occasionally “cut” movies to attend class, their taste in Hollywood films did not favor the Oscar-winning fare (such as Ben-Hur ) but rather the so-called “B” films of the 40s and early 50s. These filmmakers were also entranced by Hollywood’s crime films, A and B, and invented the term “film noir.” With that in mind, this course will alternate screenings of a group of New Wave films inspired, directly and/or indirectly, by film noir, with a selected group of films noirs, starting with the classic Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944). We will also screen two films by Jean-Luc Godard, who in some of his work was perhaps closest to the “noir” spirit: A bout de souffle (Breathless, 1959; remade with Richard Gere as Breathless in Australia in 1983) and Pierrot le fou (1965). Other New Wave films will include François Truffaut’s Tirez sur le pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player, 1960), Claude Chabrol’s La Femme infidèle (1969, remade in the US as Unfaithful , also with Richard Gere, in 2002), Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Cercle rouge (The Red Circle, 1970), Claude Lelouch’s Le Voyou (The Crook, 1970). Also included will be La Lune dans le caniveau (The Moon in the Gutter, 1983), based on a novel by David Goodis, who wrote Down There, on which Tirez sur le pianiste is based. The selection of films noirs will include Gilda (Charles Vidor, 1946), Dark Passage (Delmer Daves, 1947, based on a novel by David Goodis), Born to Kill (Robert Wise, 1947), They Live by Night (Nicholas Ray, 1949), The Big Combo (Joseph H. Lewis, 1955), and The Killing (Stanley Kubrick, 1956, remade as Reservoir Dogs by Quentin Tarantino in 1992). We will also screen a remake of They Live by Night, Thieves Like Us, directed in 1974 by Robert Altman, a filmmaker who had much in common with the New Wave. Students will be asked to view a few supplementary films, both New Wave and Noir, outside of class, and to read James M. Cain’s short novel Double Indemnity before the start of the class. Work for the course, besides class participation, will include a take-home midterm and a final paper.
Course Open to: Majors Only
Open to Graduate students.