PIXELS & SHADOWS

Though most attention focused on the technological detail, L.A. Noire offered
plenty for the film noir buff to savour…

By Vince Keenan

 

Pixels & ShadowsGather a bunch of film noir fans in a bar, admittedly not a difficult feat to pull off, and you’re guaranteed hours of conversation about not only whether a given movie qualifies as noir, but what noir exactly is.

For a term with a lot of currency, the meaning remains somewhat loose. When it comes to noir there are plenty of gray areas, which may be the closest we come to a workable definition.

A few parameters are broadly accepted. Film noir is an indigenous American movement spawned by a host of influences, specifically German expressionism and hard-boiled fiction. The classic cycle ran from the 1940s to the 1950s, with Stranger on the Third Floor (1940) and Touch of Evil (1958) serving as convenient bookends. The visual elements don’t have to be heightened but the psychological ones must be, with the characters forever in extremis.

Another undeniable fact is that, idiosyncratic spelling aside, L.A. Noire has brought the genre – assuming it is a genre; even that’s open to debate – its greatest exposure in years. For many, the game chronicling the rise of decorated World War II veteran Cole Phelps through the Los Angeles Police Department will serve as both introduction and guide. The question is, how well does it know the territory?

Titles from noir’s golden age loom on theater marquees and appear on film canisters strewn across the game’s landscape. But more clever homages abound. ‘The Set Up’ mirrors the opening shot from the 1949 boxing drama of the same name, and posters tout the upcoming bout featuring Stoker Thompson, the punch-drunk pugilist portrayed by Robert Ryan. The offices of California Fire & Life, where Phelps’ reluctant ally Jack Kelso toils as investigator, duplicate those in Double Indemnity, lacking only the uncredited cameo from the film’s co-writer Raymond Chandler. Being set in the quintessential noir burg helps. Los Angeles is the last stop on the desperation train, and Team Bondi’s Southland simulacra vividly recreates locations highlighted in numerous noir films that take place in the City of Angels, like Union Station and the Angels Flight funicular railway…

This is just a small extract from the full feature in issue one. To read the entire article, click here to purchase the complete digital edition of Continue for just $2.99/£1.99/€2.25.

 

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