The Neo-Noir Renaissance

Thanks to the slow, cold burn of  Winter’s Bone and the mass-appeal of Inception, 2010 has become the year of the Neo-Noir Renaissance.       

An Idea not spinning out of control...

 

The seeds for this renaissance were planted in 2007 when films that could not be categorized outright as neo-noir but were still “dark as hell” in theme and style (i.e. the dueling banjos that were There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men) left the most indelible impressions, if not on mass audiences, then on fellow filmmakers lurking in the shadows.  In my yearly wrap-up, I specifically looked at the grim melodramas not nominated for Best Picture when I said, “Flicks like Zodiac, Eastern Promises, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and Gone Baby Gone point towards a film movement not unlike the film noir of the 1940′s that mirrors America’s anxiety towards the chaotic outside world inward against the intimate settings of neighborhoods and families in stylish and unsettling ways.”  But it wasn’t until 2010 that those seeds planted in 2007 bloomed.       

It started in February, the coldest and most obscure of months — a time of year that is usually an artistic black-hole for film.  Yet it was on the same weekend when two of filmdom’s greatest living masters delivered what appeared to be larks Continue reading

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Killing Kin in the Ozarks

Writer/director Debra Granik opens her quietly stunning Winter’s Bone with a shot of a ramshackle little house nestled in the Ozarks that immediately sets the place and the mood.  A strum of a banjo and a woman’s heartbroken and warbling voice accompany the shot, which is followed by scenes of seemingly happy children playing in their yard.  This is their home.  And they don’t want to leave it — no way, no how.

Seventeen year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence, in an assured and definitive performance that will likely haunt what should rightfully be a long and flourishing career) is the accidental matriarch of this clan of kids.  Momma is hopped-up on pills to the point of being mute and helpless.  Meanwhile, the law is about to take this home out from under them if Ree’s deadbeat, crank-cookin’ poppa don’t show up at court for his hearing.  Thus begins Ree’s quest to find daddy come hell or high water.  Continue reading