Film Noir was the bedrock of cinema in the 40s and 50s, with the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum dominating the genre. Recent decades have seen the rise of ‘Neo-Noir’ – all the elements of a classic film noir, but with modern themes and visual elements. Film noir and neo-noir almost always involve a crime, and a subsequent hunt, and Frank & Lola sees Michael Shannon obsessively hunting down the man who damaged his paramour (Imogen Poots), in a tale of sex, violence, and domination, and is out on DVD on April 10th. To celebrate, here’s a look at 5 worthy additions to the genre.
Sin City broke the mould when its was released in 2005, with a stylised anthology of neo-noir tales playing out and crossing paths, each narrated by the protagonist. It follows volatile Marv (Mickey Rourke) on the tail of the man who killed the love of his life, Goldie (Jaime King); elsewhere a worn, hard-boiled cop (Bruce Willis), having tried and failed to save Nancy (Jessica Alba) from paedophile Roark Junior (Nick Stahl), son of the city’s senator is back on the case to absolve his failure and protect Nancy. Clive Owen, the late Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson and Benicio Del Toro all star, amongst a cast of acting superstars. The imagery is chilling, with ‘That Yellow Bastard’, and Elijah Wood’s Kevin bringing the fear in the film that sparked several visually graphic novel-esque films.
The Coen Brothers are known for their stories of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, and Minnesota set Fargo is no exception. An Academy Award winning performance from Frances McDormand sees heavily pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson investigation an elaborate web of kidnap plots and blackmail that lead to murder. Jerry Lundegaard (William H Macy), surely the inspiration for The Simpson’s hapless salesman Gil, hatches a plan to kidnap his wife and extort a ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. Naturally, nothing runs according to plan, with inept hired criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) well and truly messing up the kidnapping. A dark comedy with noir elements, the Fargo universe inspired a whole TV series.
Young detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) and aging soon-to-be retiree William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) are tasked with solving the mystery of a serial killer who draws inspiration and motive from the seven deadly sins. The story takes place in a rainy, unnamed dystopic city with Mills’ wife Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow) weighing up whether or not to tell him about her possible pregnancy. When ‘John Doe’ (Kevin Spacey) hands himself in having removed the skin from his fingertips to avoid leaving prints, he advises that there are another two victims, and lays out his terms for a full confession. In an elaborate set-up he managed to provoke the sin of wrath from Mills with a particularly twisted pay-off. What’s in the box?
Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film Memento saw Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) star as a man with anterograde amnesia, the inability to form new memories; he suffers short term memory loss every five minutes, which is probably the least helpful condition imaginable when you’re trying to find your attacker and your wife’s murderer. As a result, he tattoos information onto his body, a permanent reminder, and collates polaroid photos in an attempt to keep hold of the information he so frequently forgets. There are two timelines in the film, a chronological one in black and white, and a colour version playing in reverse, intended to give the audience a glimpse of Shelby’s experience.
Based on prolific science fiction writer Philip K. Dick’s novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, this neo-noir is set in a dystopic future, where robot ‘replicants’ are largely indistinguishable from humans, and are outlawed on earth. Harrison Ford’s iconic Rick Deckard is asked to come back for one last job, and uses his expertise to hunt down a group of recently escaped replicants and retire them. In a plot that likely inspired Ex-Machina, Deckard begins a relationship with Rachel (Sean Young), an advanced replicant that makes him question the nature of humanity. Released to largely mixed reviews by critics confused by the pacing, and a box office failure on release, several different cuts of the film were released. Ridley Scott’s director’s cut removed several elements of the theatrical version, including the narration from Deckard, the studio-imposed happy ending, with the film finishing on an open philosophical note. The film is now regarded as a classic of the sci-fi genre.
FRANK & LOLA is available now on Digital Download and releases on DVD on April 10th 2017