LA atatherly’s brand new book, ‘Broken Sky’, is set in a distorted version of 1940s America where war is illegal and harmony rules. And the date you were born determines your destiny. It’s the first in a new trilogy and we’re 100% in love with it. Lee was hugely inspired by film noir and she’s going to educate us on it!
Film noir is literally ‘dark cinema’ and is a style of filmmaking and storytelling that was born in the 1940s. It’s all about the darkness, baby. Shady characters. Plots full of twists and turns. Endings that you did NOT expect.
It’s all about the atmosphere, too: alternating bars of light and shadow from a half-closed window blind. Steam rising from a subway grate. Slowly-turning ceiling fans in smoky rooms.
These stories tend to be very urban and gritty. There’s often murder involved, or at least blackmail and corruption, and sometimes all three. They feature men wearing trench coats and femme fatales in bright red lipstick (even if they’re black and white films, you can still tell it’s bright red!).
So, yeah. I love all of this. And it was a huge influence in writing ‘Broken Sky’. The realization that the story was essentially film noir was a light bulb moment. I suddenly had a whole framework to place it within.
Best of all, I got to re-watch my favourite film noir flicks for research. And now I’m going to share them with you.
So, here you go: a film noir moviecation!
- ‘Double Indemnity’ (1944)
Director: Billy Wilder
‘Double Indemnity’ is the definitive film noir. It’s got it all: murder, deception, steamy passion. An insurance salesman teams up with a scheming wife to kill her husband and get the insurance money. He’s head over heels for her, but you just know it’s all going to go terribly wrong.
- ‘In A Lonely Place’ (1950)
Director: Nicholas Ray
You want psychological tension? Look no further. Humphrey Bogart plays a Hollywood screenwriter who’s down on his luck. When he’s accused of murder, the new woman in his life helps to clear his name. But she slowly comes to realize what a scary temper he has…
- ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (1950)
Director: Billy Wilder
‘Sunset Boulevard’ features one of the most iconic opening scenes ever: William Holden floating, dead, in a faded Hollywood starlet’s swimming pool. It just gets better from there. A dark, twisted tale of opportunism, ambition and passion. Oh, and murder, of course.
- ‘The Big Sleep’ (1946)
Director: Howard Hawks
‘The Big Sleep’ is known for its twisty plot. So twisty that even the author didn’t know who killed one of the characters. Watch it anyway; you won’t care. Snappy dialogue, murder and innuendo: this detective story is noir at its finest. Not to mention the real-life sizzling chemistry between Bogie and Bacall.
- ‘Mildred Pierce’ (1945)
Director: Michael Curtiz
A gunshot in the night. Passion and betrayal. This is probably my all-time favourite film noir. Joan Crawford plays Mildred Pierce, a gloriously strong woman in a man’s world who would do anything for her daughter. Anything.
(There’s a sneaky homage to ‘Mildred Pierce’ in ‘Broken Sky’. A million internet points to whoever knows what it is!)
*adds all five films to our To Watch list* Have you seen any of these films? Let us know your thoughts @maximumpopbooks!
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