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Water Cooler: Neo-noir films on Kanopy

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 10, 2020

Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce in 1997's Oscar-winning "L.A. Confidential" directed by Curtis Hanson.  (Courtesy)
Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce in 1997's Oscar-winning "L.A. Confidential" directed by Curtis Hanson. (Courtesy)
By Rachel Baker The Spokesman-Review

Noir had its heyday in the ’40s and ’50s, but it’s far from gone. As noir died out in its classic sense, it was reborn as neo-noir, a genre that permeates pop culture with all the same coolness, style and rough sensibility as the original iteration. Films like “Chinatown” directed by Roman Polanski in 1974 and starring Jack Nicholson and Fay Dunaway took the revisionist approach by adding a modern flair to the themes but kept the story set in the genre’s period of original prominence.

“L.A. Confidential” directed by Curtis Hanson, released in 1997, took the same approach. Then there are neo-noirs that not only updated the themes and sensibility of genre, but reimagined its world as well. “Blade Runner” directed by Ridley Scott in 1982 and starring Harrison Ford, kept the meandering, unfolding plot and atmosphere of noir but brought it to a future dystopia. The retrowave fad of the early 2000s gave birth to the iconic, pop world of neo-noir in Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive,” released in 2001, starring the silently stone cold Ryan Gosling and saturated with the crisp yet languid synth-pop.

The Coen Brothers’ “Big Lebowski,” released in 1998 and starring Jeff Bridges, flipped noir on its head by replacing the hard -boiled twists and turns of classic, noir detective work with the meandering misadventures of a low-life stoner, giving neo-noir a place in modern comedy. Robert Altman could be said to have been the person who first gave neo-noir this nonchalant, modern flair with his 1973 film, “The Long Goodbye,” starring the mellow private investigator Philip Marlowe, portrayed by Elliott Gould. Dive further into the world of neo-noir to see how this genre has been reinterpreted over time by streaming films on Kanopy, free with a library card. Here are a few neo-noirs they offer to get started with.

“I, Anna” – A beautiful divorcee and a haunted detective cross paths during the investigation of a vicious murder. A spark emerges between them on the rainy, grim streets of London and soon evolves into a tangled web of intrigue, passion and deceit. Directed by Barnaby Southcombe. Starring Charlotte Rampling, Gabriel Byrne, Hayley Atwell and Jodhi May. 2012. 88 minutes.

“The Missing Person” – A private detective is hired to tail a man on a train traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles. The detective slowly discovers Harold’s identity, revealing him to be one of the thousands of missing persons who were presumed to be dead after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Impelled by a large reward, the detective becomes set on trying to return the man back to his wife against his will. Directed by Noah Buschel. Starring Michael Shannon, Amy Ryan and Frank Wood. 96 minutes. 2010.

“The Nile Hilton Incident” – Based on a true story. A police officer in Cairo investigates the murder of a pop singer just weeks before the 2011 Egyptian revolution. What first appears to be a crime of passion reveals itself to be a complex case with involvement of Egypt’s powerful elite. Directed by Tarik Saleh. Starring Fares Fares, Mari Malek and Yaser Aly Maher. 2017. 111 minutes.

“Män Som Hatar Kvinnor” (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) – Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering more than 40 years ago, and although her body was never found, her uncle is convinced it was a murder carried out by one of the family members. He employs a disgraced financial journalist and a troubled but resourceful computer hacker to investigate the case. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev. Starring Lena Endre, Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Peter Haber and Sven-Bertil Taube. 2009. 153 minutes. R.

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