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Cynicism has always been at the heart of film noir, a genre full of desperate characters clinging to the shadows of world that’s forgotten them. It’s a cynicism born out of post-War disillusionment and anxiety that spawned the genre’s heyday from the early-40s all the way through the mid-1950s when suddenly “Dragnet” and “Leave it To Beaver” were reaffirming America’s squeaky-clean Eisenhower-era view of itself.
But with the post-Watergate 70s and Cold War 80s came a new slew of anxieties as the genre evolved, this time with less Hollywood restrictions. That meant more sex, more violence, more brutal cynicism, and frankly, more fun. Here are some Neo-Noir gems (both beloved and obscure) that helped bring the genre out of the shadows and into the modern era.
Noir - Screenwriter - Medium - Knotty - Plotting
Noir is often a screenwriter’s medium, with its knotty plotting and clever, snappy dialogue. So it makes sense that Lawrence Kasdan, the writer behind “Star Wars” The Empire Strikes Back” and “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”, made his directorial debut with “Body Heat,” a throwback-verging-on-remake of Billy Wilder’s noir classic “Double Indemnity.” William Hurt plays a sleazy Florida lawyer who strikes up a sexy-as-**** affair with a married woman (Kathleen Turner, in her breakout role) and gets drawn into a murder plot that (duh) doesn’t go as planned.
At first, “Body Heat” can seem like a spoof of noir conventions, but the movie’s eventual, ahem, heat comes from its intense eroticism. Sexual motivation has always been a basic ingredient in noir – the hubris of horniness – but not until Hurt threw a chair through those French doors was that desire put onscreen so explicitly. Needless to say, “Body Heat” was a huge hit, catapulting Turner to stardom (along with Mickey Rourke who makes a big impression in a small role), and introducing...
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