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Their characters lived in a world gone wrong, a world in which, long before the atom bomb, civilization had created the machinery for its own destruction, and was learning to use it with all the moronic delight of a gangster trying out his first machine gun. The law was something to be manipulated for profit and power. The streets were dark with something more than night. The mystery story grew hard and cynical about motive and character, but it was not cynical about the effects it tried to produce nor about its technique of producing them.
—Raymond Chandler, Introduction to Trouble Is My Business
“The streets were dark with something more than night.” That’s how Raymond Chandler typified the pulp fiction of the 1940s and 1950s, and his pithy one-liner could apply equally to film noir, the cinematic genre inspired by those literary works. Film noir refers not only to the films’ stylistic and technical uses of camera, lighting, editing, and acting, but also to their themes, characters, and social commentary. Surveying film noir over a 60-year period, we study and discuss this influential and uniquely American film style, charting its evolution from its beginnings in the 1940s and 1950s to the neo-noir style it engendered in the 1970s, 1990s, and into the 21st century. In doing so, we develop a technical understanding of the style and vocabulary of the genre as a whole, while simultaneously learning to see each film as a distinctive work of art. Along the way, we become better viewers of film and deeper thinkers about the cinematic art form.
Students may enroll in any one, two, or all three of the seminar weeks. Each week presents a self-contained, individualized curriculum, and all three weeks taken together offer a survey of the film noir genre. Participants should view all movies before arriving on campus. Copies of the films and a suitable viewing area are also provided by the college for students' use on campus before each class. Classes meet Monday – Friday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. If you need assistance viewing the films prior to arrival on campus, please contact Summer Classics at santafe.classics(at)sjc.edu. Tuition for a Film at Summer Classics seminar is the same as other Summer Classics seminars.
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