The Noir Style.

The Noir Style

Alain Silver and James Ursini’s 1999 Harry N. Abrams/Overlook Press The Noir Style is a frequently seen bookstore sale rack and remainders table staple, and that’s where I got mine, the $50.00 (when published 20 years ago) oversize 244-page hardcover still in a shrink-wrap and for only $12.99. Now I can’t vouch for the trade pb edition, but this sumptuous hardcover, designed by Bernard Schleifer, is almost an objet d’art with 170+ duotone photos on matte coated stock, as nicely produced as any coffee table art monograph you’d buy in a museum store.

The book’s title and the glamorous cover photo might mislead you into thinking The Noir Style is about the costuming and wardrobe design of so many memorable film noir femmes fatales and heroines. But no, Silver and Ursini (supported by additional material from Robert Perforio and Linda Brookover) provide a glorious overview of the ‘look’, the ‘style’ and the visual motifs of both classic film noir and more contemporary neo-noir (well, ‘contemporary’ for a book published in the 1990’s). It’s packed with familiar and not-so-familiar images of memorable characters and stars, scenes and set designs, all crisply reproduced and accompanied by a generous amount of text chronicling the roots of film noir, the genre’s evolution, various noir themes (from a visual perspective) and more.

Film Noir Readers

Silver and Ursini have practically made a cottage industry out of film noir books of one sort or another, only a few of which are shown here, and it should be no surprise that I have a few. But they’ve also partnered on books about horror cinema, vampire films and other subjects. I’m usually cautious with film noir non-fiction books, having been burned by a few overly academic (make that downright snooty) ones determined to filter the genre through the author’s personal perspective, Marxist, feminist or other “ist”, which sometimes make sense and often times does not. But if you see The Noir Style at some puzzling low price on a bookstore’s sale table (particularly the hardcover!), snatch it.

Film Noir Books

Love Never Looked So Lonely: John Meyer.

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Born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, John Meyer is known primarily as a portrait painter and landscape artist, his commissions including public figures like Nelson Mandela and F.W. DeKlerk alongside multi-piece historical series.

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But here we’ll zero in on Meyer’s intimate scenes of very real and largely unglamorized people in what look to be – at best – troubled relationships and love affairs dissolving right before our eyes, whether in penthouse suites or desolate motel rooms. That they are grim and sad, they’re beautiful nonetheless, fitting comfortably under a ‘Noir Art’ label even without a shoulder holster or smoking .45 in sight. Love never looked so very lonely to me as it does here.

More work from this artist follow in the next post.

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The Dark Side In Color Or B&W.

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Largely self-taught photographer and filmmaker Quentin Shih works out of both New York and Bejing, and clearly has a flair for the dark side, the images sometimes evoking the look and feel of classic film noir, and sometimes indulging in sumptuous (but still deliciously dark) saturated hues for neo-noir homages.

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The Killer 1940’s.

Film Noir Style

Ahhh, Ava. I’ll have to wait till Summer winds down for this one: Kimberly Truhler’s Film Noir Style: The Killer 1940’s, which will look at popular men’s and women’s fashions from 1941 through 1950 as seen in twenty definitive movies from film noir’s first wave. The GoodKnight Books hardcover isn’t due till late September, and yes (big surprise!) I’ve already pre-ordered a copy.

Love Story.

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The editorial may be titled “Love Story”, but it’s kind of a darkly noir-ish looking affair, dontcha think? Vincent Peters shoots models Du Juan and Edwin K in “Love Story” for Numero China in 2011.

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David Seeley

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What gets you? Spiders, creepy clowns, snakes? For me it’s 1) deep water/drowning and 2) heights, either of those likely to plague my rare nightmares, and both frighteningly popular scenes among crime pulp cover artists, vintage paperback cover illustrators and many of the B&W’s and duotones in the prewar pulps and postwar men’s adventure mags. So artist David Seeley’s terrifying depiction of a woman being shoved out of a highrise window has been giving me the chills since I first spotted it. (Kinda shivering right now.)

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Neither prudish nor particularly political, normally I just yawn when it comes to contemporary artists doing pinup style art. Seventy years ago? That was then, this is now. And many of the subjects in David Seeley’s work do seem to lose track of their clothes, except for some skimpy lacies. But they never seem to lose sight of their guns, and maybe that’s what caught my eye and why the work reminds me less of peekaboo paintings and more of familiar Robert McGinnis 1960’s series paperback covers and the popular styles seen in so many 1960’s/70’s illustrated film posters.

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Boston based artist David Seeley studied architecture and first worked as a successful architect until some serious soul-searching led him to pursue art full-time. In a modern day spin on many postwar illustrators’ shared NYC studio spaces, Seeley shares a virtual studio with fourteen other artists including the likes of Greg Manchess. Seeley’s technique is an intriguing blend of digital photo-composition merged with traditional oil painting on archival printouts, and he details his process at his site, www.daveseeley.com. Check it out…it’s pretty interesting even if you’re not an artist.

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Dancing In The Street.

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At first glance you might expect a drive-by hit or something sinister, but it was only a brief but intimate dance they had in mind. That, and apparently a hand or two of cards to wait out the downpour. From a photo suite by Christopher Pillitz.

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Love On The Run.

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Is it only a lover’s clandestine meeting? Or, is something more sinister going on here? It’s usually hard to tell with narrative style fashion photography, and in the end, who cares? The Mikael Jansson shots are deliciously dark in this vintage 2000 Donna Karan campaign photo suite, “Love On The Run”, starring Milla Jovovich and Gary Oldman.

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