The eighth chapter in "32 Days of Movies", an audiovisual tour through 366 films.
Noir and Naturalism
Waking up in the postwar world, it was as if all the jitters and anxiety that had been submerged for the war effort were now out in the open. Already, a new style/genre/sensibility/movement had been developing (though it was too unconscious and informal to fit some of those terms). Later dubbed "film noir," this perspective scanned the hardened landscape with jaundiced eyes, yet with an undercurrent of wounded romanticism that made this dark world something you wanted to plunge into again and again. Meanwhile, both overseas and Hollywood, an "opening" was occurring in the classically enclosed studio style.
There are several films here as lushly artificial as ever (two Dickens adaptations and a fairy tale) but interestingly enough, these period pictures or fantasies are not from Hollywood. Instead, America gives us hardboiled detectives, paranoid prospectors, and whimsical sheriffs striking a balance in the open sun. Increasingly, films were being shot on location; overseas, steps were being taken even further with nonprofessional actors, authentic locations, and close-to-the ground subjects. Originally this chapter was titled "Noir and Neorealism" but that latter term is a bit narrow; only one film fits the neorealist description, while several could be called naturalistic.
These twin impulses, the dark subjectivity of noir and the clear-eyed observation of naturalism, in large part characterized the cinema just after World War II.
Spoiler alert: The clip at 3:30 - 4:10 contains a spoiler, but only at the very end of the sequence. Most have probably seen it already anyway - the spoiler comes long after the title so you can check to make sure then skip ahead if need be.