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Review: American Neo-Noir by Alain Silver and James Ursini August 24, 2015

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews.
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Another Netgalley review!

Silver and Ursini have been responsible for several of the key books on film noir over the last couple of decades, so I was glad to see this. But it wasn’t quite what I expected. Frankly, it’s not the kind of book you’ll necessarily sit down and read through for a few hours. It is, however, something you can flip through, refer to, and learn from. It covers so many movies so quickly that it doesn’t really go into depth on broader subjects. Instead, it breaks the several hundred movies that are covered into chapters by subject or movie type and races through dozens of movies, a few per paragraph, situating each within its own modern context and also pointing out connections to the classic noir era. And boy, does it find a lot of neo-noirs out there.

The book doesn’t do any in-depth chapters defining neo-noir or anything like that. That’s not what this book is for. But any classic noir fan can have a look in the index for a favourite movie and see if it gets discussed as a link to a few modern movies that may be worth investigating — and, likewise, someone who’s seen a lot of the modern movies but doesn’t know the roots can find some good pointers to classic movies they may well enjoy.

The book is well presented with a lot of colour photos — well, if you want to demonstrate an obvious break between noir and neo-noir, colour will do it. The book covers the movies you’d expect and, if you’re like me, a lot you missed along the way. Like the other books I’ve read from Silver and Ursini, this one makes me want to see a few movies. So, mission accomplished.

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