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John Grant Interview

Guest Author: Below is an interview with John Grant, author of A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir, on Paul D. Brazill’s blog.

PDB: Can you pitch A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Definitive Reference Guide in 25 words or less?

Nope. I can’t. I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve . . . But I’ll see if I can at least keep this short. My latest book, published in October, is called A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide. It contains entries on about 3,250 movies, covering roughly a century of moviemaking, from the earliest protonoirs to recent neonoirs, drawn from all over the world.

As a sort of annex to the encyclopedia I’ve created the website Noirish, which is devoted to more expansive entries on a sort of ragbag of movies that are (generally) way out on noir’s fringes — too far out to have made it into the encyclopedia.

PDB: Which music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

The most recent piece of music to have bowled me over is Tubin’s Symphony #6. For the past few years I’ve been on a classical jag, although playing rock CDs occasionally. Among the latter, Vienna Teng’s Inland Territory stands out in my memory. Another to get played pretty frequently is Earth Opera’s self-titled album — which I bought way-back-when on vinyl, when it (ahem) first came out, and now listen to on CD.

I don’t watch TV much. I guess the last TV show I really liked was the first season of Sherlock. I wasn’t so enthralled by the second, but am hotly waiting for the third to reach these shores.

Books? I recently read Tara French’s The Likeness and loved it: a truly amazing piece of work, and bugger its occasional detractors. Rees Morgan’s The Freshour Cyclinders was good too. I’m currently enjoying the much more light-hearted Swing, by Rupert Holmes.

And movies. Friends – like Sam Juliano at Wonders in the Dark – have recently been talking about their Top Ten Movies lists for 2013. I don’t go in much for that sort of thing — if ever I try to make a Top Ten it ends up being a Top Sixty-Seven, and then I immediately change my mind about what should be in it! And, of course, by far the majority of movies that I watch are old ones, sometimes decades old. But my friends’ list-making activities got me to thinking about which were the movies I’d most enjoyed among the relatively few 2013 movies I saw. Of those, two stood out for me: Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep and Zal Batmanglij’s & Brit Marling’s The East. They have oddly similar themes, both being about radicalization and the difficulties of doing something to change a manifestly unjust, often brutal society without being demonized.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

I think so — in fact, I think writers may be better objective readers than most. I certainly hope so, because I’ve done a lot of book reviewing in my time! (Indeed, there’s even an ebook of my reviews: Warm Words and Otherwise, published by Infinity Plus Books.)

To finish the interview, go to Paul’s blog!

A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir

Featuring rumpled PIs, shyster lawyers, corrupt politicians, double-crossers, femmes fatales, and, of course, losers who find themselves down on their luck yet again, film noir is a perennially popular cinematic genre. This extensive encyclopedia describes movies from noir’s earliest days – and even before, looking at some of noir’s ancestors in US and European cinema – as well as noir’s more recent offshoots, from neonoirs to erotic thrillers. Entries are arranged alphabetically, covering movies from all over the world – from every continent save Antarctica – with briefer details provided for several hundred additional movies within those entries. A copious appendix contains filmographies of prominent directors, actors, and writers.

With coverage of blockbusters and program fillers from Going Straight (US 1916) to Broken City (US 2013) via Nora Inu (Japan 1949), O Anthropos tou Trainou (Greece 1958), El Less Wal Kilab (Egypt 1962), Reportaje a la Muerte (Peru 1993), Zift (Bulgaria 2008), and thousands more, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir is an engrossing and essential reference work that should be on the shelves of every cinephile.

 

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Guest Blogger: John Grant, author of A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide, due on shelves at the end of October. Check out Noirish, John Grant’s noir blog that goes above and beyond the Encyclopedia.

In one sense a meditation on the roles of nature and nurture in the emergence of sociopathic individuals; in another an extraordinarily chilling depiction of the noir nightmare told with all the twisty nonlinearity expected of a neonoir.

All we know at first is that something dreadful has happened in the fairly recent past of solitary suburb-dweller Eva Khatchadourian (Swinton), something that causes neighbors to abuse her and even daub her house in red paint, something for which she feels such guilt that she suffers their torments in silence rather than retaliating in any way.

Slowly we piece together her earlier life with good-natured but insensitive husband Franklin (Reilly), their son Kevin (played successively by Duer, Newell and Miller) and their much younger daughter Celia (Gerasimovich). As a baby Kevin screams incessantly, so much so that Eva sometimes pauses beside roadworks so that the jackhammers, drowning the noise of her infant, give her some moments of precious respite. A slow developer, Kevin grows up with one seeming mission in life: to make his mother’s existence a misery. Periodically she snaps under his relentless pressure, on one occasion pushing him with such force that he breaks his arm—an offense which he covers up from others, ever thereafter using it as a means to blackmail her.

Around people other than his mother, notably his father, he’s a charming, affable, ordinary kid; whenever Eve tries to tell Franklin of her concerns he assumes she’s merely voicing her neuroses. Eva is the only one who knows what really happened to Celia’s gerbil, stuffed by the teenaged Kevin into the sink disposal unit, and to Celia’s eye, destroyed when Kevin poured sink-unblocker into it. The sole activity that seems to bring Kevin out of himself is archery; it is this activity that he will use to commit the hideous crime that lies at the heart of Eva’s nightmare.

Keep reading on NOIRISH!

Featuring rumpled PIs, shyster lawyers, corrupt politicians, double-crossers, femmes fatales, and, of course, losers who find themselves down on their luck yet again, film noir is a perennially popular cinematic genre. This extensive encyclopedia describes movies from noir’s earliest days – and even before, looking at some of noir’s ancestors in US and European cinema – as well as noir’s more recent offshoots, from neonoirs to erotic thrillers. Entries are arranged alphabetically, covering movies from all over the world – from every continent save Antarctica – with briefer details provided for several hundred additional movies within those entries. A copious appendix contains filmographies of prominent directors, actors, and writers.

With coverage of blockbusters and program fillers from Going Straight (US 1916) to Broken City (US 2013) via Nora Inu (Japan 1949), O Anthropos tou Trainou (Greece 1958), El Less Wal Kilab (Egypt 1962), Reportaje a la Muerte (Peru 1993), Zift (Bulgaria 2008), and thousands more, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir is an engrossing and essential reference work that should be on the shelves of every cinephile.

Seven Pyschopaths (2012)

Guest Blogger: John Grant, author of A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide, due on shelves at the end of October. Check out Noirish, John Grant’s noir blog that goes above and beyond the Encyclopedia.

An intermittently amusing noirish black comedy, this is McDonagh’s follow-up to IN BRUGES (2008), which also starred Farrell. It’s at its best in its parodies of the Tarantino school of neonoir.

Wannabe Hollywood scriptwriter Marty Faranan (Farrell) has an idea for a screenplay title—The Seven Psychopaths—but not for the screenplay to go with it, except that it should abjure violence and promote peace and love. His best friend, actor Billy Bickle (Rockwell), moonlights for elderly Hans Kieslowski (Walken), who’s running a dognapping racket to help pay for the cancer treatments of his hospitalized wife Myra (Clay). Billy’s latest capture, Barney, is a shihtzu belonging to psycho hoodlum Charlie Costello (Harrelson), who’s prepared to commit major mayhem in order to get his pet back.

Billy feeds Marty stories about deranged killers, notably one about a Quaker (Stanton) who dogs the psychopathic murderer of his daughter until the latter, reckoning the father won’t follow him to Hell, slits his own throat . . . only to see the vengeful Quaker do likewise. Another psycho, Zachariah (Waits), responds to a newspaper ad Billy places and tells his own story, of how he and his girlfriend Maggie (Warren) in their youth were serial killers of uncaught serial killers; she left him when he balked at their savage murder of the Zodiac Killer (Wharton). A further psycho introduced tangentially is Vietnamese pseudo-priest Dinh (Nguyen), who has come to the US seeking revenge for the slaughter of his family in My Lai.

Keep reading on NOIRISH!

Featuring rumpled PIs, shyster lawyers, corrupt politicians, double-crossers, femmes fatales, and, of course, losers who find themselves down on their luck yet again, film noir is a perennially popular cinematic genre. This extensive encyclopedia describes movies from noir’s earliest days – and even before, looking at some of noir’s ancestors in US and European cinema – as well as noir’s more recent offshoots, from neonoirs to erotic thrillers. Entries are arranged alphabetically, covering movies from all over the world – from every continent save Antarctica – with briefer details provided for several hundred additional movies within those entries. A copious appendix contains filmographies of prominent directors, actors, and writers.

With coverage of blockbusters and program fillers from Going Straight (US 1916) to Broken City (US 2013) via Nora Inu (Japan 1949), O Anthropos tou Trainou (Greece 1958), El Less Wal Kilab (Egypt 1962), Reportaje a la Muerte (Peru 1993), Zift (Bulgaria 2008), and thousands more, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir is an engrossing and essential reference work that should be on the shelves of every cinephile.

Fog Island (1945)

Guest Blogger: John Grant, author of A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide, due on shelves at the end of October. Check out Noirish, John Grant’s noir blog that goes above and beyond the Encyclopedia.

A creaky but enjoyable gothic noir, with secret passageways and skulls galore.

Embittered after five years in the pen for an embezzlement of which he was innocent, during which time his beloved wife Karma was murdered, Leo Grainger (Zucco)—rendered as “Grainer” in the credits—lives in his spooky, pirate-built mansion on remote Fog Island with his stepdaughter Gail (Douglas), who likewise seeks reclusion because of the shame of Leo’s supposed crime.

Leo invites to the island the people he believes were involved in the theft and set him up for the fall: phony seeress Emiline Bronson (DeWit) of the Emiline Bronson Psychic Research Laboratory, erstwhile colleagues Alec Ritchfield (Atwill) and John Kavanaugh (Cowan), Leo’s personal secretary Sylvia Jordan (Borg), and another business associate, Jackson Kingsley, who proves in the event to have recently died; his son Jeff (Whitney) comes in his stead, eager for the excuse to reunite with Gail, his old college sweetheart. Also on the island, having come clandestinely, is the company’s accountant, sent up the river at the same time as Leo: “Doc” Lake (Keith).

The night of their arrival, Leo tells his guests he has called them here for retribution, although he obfuscates about what the word might mean in this context; if any of them are innocent, for example, their retribution might be against him for having lost them money. Since he has introduced Kavanaugh to his home with “Strangely enough, it was built by pirates . . . but you shouldn’t find any difficulty in finding your way around, John”, we can guess this latter definition of the word is not the one foremost in Leo’s mind.

Keep reading on NOIRISH!

Featuring rumpled PIs, shyster lawyers, corrupt politicians, double-crossers, femmes fatales, and, of course, losers who find themselves down on their luck yet again, film noir is a perennially popular cinematic genre. This extensive encyclopedia describes movies from noir’s earliest days – and even before, looking at some of noir’s ancestors in US and European cinema – as well as noir’s more recent offshoots, from neonoirs to erotic thrillers. Entries are arranged alphabetically, covering movies from all over the world – from every continent save Antarctica – with briefer details provided for several hundred additional movies within those entries. A copious appendix contains filmographies of prominent directors, actors, and writers.

With coverage of blockbusters and program fillers from Going Straight (US 1916) to Broken City (US 2013) via Nora Inu (Japan 1949), O Anthropos tou Trainou (Greece 1958), El Less Wal Kilab (Egypt 1962), Reportaje a la Muerte (Peru 1993), Zift (Bulgaria 2008), and thousands more, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir is an engrossing and essential reference work that should be on the shelves of every cinephile.

The Face at the Window

Guest Blogger: John Grant, author of A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide, due on shelves at the end of October. Check out Noirish, John Grant’s noir blog that goes above and beyond the Encyclopedia.

Although many histories claim 1940 as the start date for film noir, the truth is that movies in the idiom were being made years earlier in France, the UK and other European countries as well as in the US. It’s interesting, therefore, to compare some of the movies that used similar tropes and were being made at the same time yet which are quite manifestly not noirish. This old-fashioned mellerdrammer has a villain whose social position makes him, he thinks, untouchable, an innocent man whom he almost succeeds in framing for his crimes, and our hero’s plucky girlfriend, who believes in his innocence and helps him prove it. Just to complete the noirish repertoire there’s a slow-witted cop. Yet the affect could hardly be farther from noir’s, and similarly the subtext . . . if indeed this movie has any.

Paris, 1880, a city that’s been terrorized by the appalling crimes committed by a possibly supernatural monster called Le Loup/The Wolf. Whenever the stabbed victims are found in time, they whisper “The face at the window” before dying; in the air hang the echoes of a ghastly lupine howl . . .

In the latest atrocity, the bank owned by M. de Brisson (Mallalieu) is robbed late at night and one of its clerks is killed; the other late-working clerk, Lucien Cortier (Warwick), hears the howl and finds the body. Lucien loves and is loved by M. de Brisson’s daughter Cecile (Taylor); unfortunately, Cecile has also caught the lecherous eye of the middle-aged Chevalier Lucio del Gardo (Slaughter), who presents himself to de Brisson as the bank’s financial savior . . . on condition de Brisson permits the Chevalier to woo Cecile.

Keep reading this post at NOIRISH!

Featuring rumpled PIs, shyster lawyers, corrupt politicians, double-crossers, femmes fatales, and, of course, losers who find themselves down on their luck yet again, film noir is a perennially popular cinematic genre. This extensive encyclopedia describes movies from noir’s earliest days – and even before, looking at some of noir’s ancestors in US and European cinema – as well as noir’s more recent offshoots, from neonoirs to erotic thrillers. Entries are arranged alphabetically, covering movies from all over the world – from every continent save Antarctica – with briefer details provided for several hundred additional movies within those entries. A copious appendix contains filmographies of prominent directors, actors, and writers.

With coverage of blockbusters and program fillers from Going Straight (US 1916) to Broken City (US 2013) via Nora Inu (Japan 1949), O Anthropos tou Trainou (Greece 1958), El Less Wal Kilab (Egypt 1962), Reportaje a la Muerte (Peru 1993), Zift (Bulgaria 2008), and thousands more, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir is an engrossing and essential reference work that should be on the shelves of every cinephile.

Criminals Within (1943)

Guest Blogger: John Grant, author of A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide, due on shelves at the end of October. Check out Noirish, John Grant’s noir blog that goes above and beyond the Encyclopedia.

Professor Carroll (Lynn) is one of a number of scientists working on a new high explosive for Military Intelligence. When he’s murdered, attention turns to his brother Greg (Linden), a trickster corporal at Army base Camp Madison. The base appears to be riddled with spies, among them Alma Barton (Worth), who runs the commissary and who sneaks messages out to Fifth Columnists via crooked cobbler Carl Flegler (Jolley) in the trick heel of one of her shoes. (Although it’s nowhere stated which country the spies work for, by implication they’re Nazis.)

A list of the names and addresses of the scientists who’ve been working on the explosive goes missing from the office of Captain Bryant (Frazer), and Greg’s put in the guardhouse on suspicion of having stolen it; he breaks out and, when Bryant’s found dead, it’s assumed Greg’s the killer. With the help of his good buddy Sergeant Paul (Alexander), Greg escapes the base, finds Alma murdered, hooks up with reporter Linda (Doran), exposes the nest of vipers, dodges death and bullets, and discovers his “good buddy” isn’t everything he seems.

Keep reading at NOIRISH!

Featuring rumpled PIs, shyster lawyers, corrupt politicians, double-crossers, femmes fatales, and, of course, losers who find themselves down on their luck yet again, film noir is a perennially popular cinematic genre. This extensive encyclopedia describes movies from noir’s earliest days – and even before, looking at some of noir’s ancestors in US and European cinema – as well as noir’s more recent offshoots, from neonoirs to erotic thrillers. Entries are arranged alphabetically, covering movies from all over the world – from every continent save Antarctica – with briefer details provided for several hundred additional movies within those entries. A copious appendix contains filmographies of prominent directors, actors, and writers.

With coverage of blockbusters and program fillers from Going Straight (US 1916) to Broken City (US 2013) via Nora Inu (Japan 1949), O Anthropos tou Trainou (Greece 1958), El Less Wal Kilab (Egypt 1962), Reportaje a la Muerte (Peru 1993), Zift (Bulgaria 2008), and thousands more, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir is an engrossing and essential reference work that should be on the shelves of every cinephile.

The Caller (2008)

Guest Blogger: John Grant, author of A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide, due on shelves at the end of October. Check out Noirish, John Grant’s noir blog that goes above and beyond the Encyclopedia.

Jimmy Stephens (Langella) is a “numbers guy” who cooks up over-optimistic financial projections for US energy corporations so that the latter can use these figures in order to exploit developing countries and saddle them with debts they can never afford to repay. Sickened by the practices of the E.N. Corporation, whose habits include slaughtering foreigners who “fail to understand” the merits of having their nations economically ruined, he decides to blow their whole scam wide open—in so doing, of course, signing his own death warrant.

The corporation commissions a hit on him via artist and fixer Teddy (Ballerini), but Jimmy does a deal to postpone the killing by two weeks. During that time he makes his peace with his half-senile mother (Stenborg), his chanteuse girlfriend Eileen (Harring) and the local child whom he and Eileen have taken under their wing, Lila (Sosa). As importantly, he hires by phone—using a voice modulator and the false name John Doe—small-time PI Frank Turlotte (Gould) to follow one Jimmy Stephens (i.e., himself).

Find out the rest of the story on NOIRISH!

Featuring rumpled PIs, shyster lawyers, corrupt politicians, double-crossers, femmes fatales, and, of course, losers who find themselves down on their luck yet again, film noir is a perennially popular cinematic genre. This extensive encyclopedia describes movies from noir’s earliest days – and even before, looking at some of noir’s ancestors in US and European cinema – as well as noir’s more recent offshoots, from neonoirs to erotic thrillers. Entries are arranged alphabetically, covering movies from all over the world – from every continent save Antarctica – with briefer details provided for several hundred additional movies within those entries. A copious appendix contains filmographies of prominent directors, actors, and writers.

With coverage of blockbusters and program fillers from Going Straight (US 1916) to Broken City (US 2013) via Nora Inu (Japan 1949), O Anthropos tou Trainou (Greece 1958), El Less Wal Kilab (Egypt 1962), Reportaje a la Muerte (Peru 1993), Zift (Bulgaria 2008), and thousands more, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir is an engrossing and essential reference work that should be on the shelves of every cinephile.

The Lady Refuses (1931)

john grant2Guest Blogger: John Grant, author of A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide, due on shelves at the end of October. Check out Noirish, John Grant’s noir blog that goes above and beyond the Encyclopedia.

In London, Sir Gerald Courtney (Emery), desperate to get his son Russell (Darrow) out of the clutches of drink and unsubtle gold-digger Berthine Waller (Livingston), hires tyro prostitute June (Compson) to lure him away from Berthine and onto the path of virtue. The plan seems to work well: Russell dumps Berthine, sobers up, stops partying, and starts to do well in his profession of architect. But there are problems, too: although June thinks she and Russell are just good pals, he’s fallen in love with her; meanwhile, June and Sir Gerald have become enamored of each other. When June tells Russell the truth, he has a relapse, finally passing out from drink on her bed. Next morning, Berthine is discovered in Russell’s flat, murdered ‑‑ in fact by her jealous lover and partner-in-crime Nikolai Rabinoff (Lebedeff) ‑‑ and Russell is the cops’ Suspect #1. While Russell, Sir Gerald and the family lawyer Sir James (Hobbes) discuss strategy, June arrives and gives Russell the alibi he craves: he was in her apartment all night. Sir Gerald immediately assumes the worst . . . just the way he’d promised her he would never do.

The movie starts as a light romantic drama/comedy, lurches into more powerful drama and only in the final act ‑‑ with the murder and the exposure of upper-class social hypocrisy ‑‑ does it begin to seem a little more noirish. The ending is very noirish indeed: June, having ripped up the check Sir Gerald gave her for saving Russell, is back on the streets, just where she began; the nihilism is tempered, however, by the knowledge that a thoroughly repentant Sir Gerald has promised he’ll find her wherever she might be.

Keep reading this entry on NOIRISH!

Featuring rumpled PIs, shyster lawyers, corrupt politicians, double-crossers, femmes fatales, and, of course, losers who find themselves down on their luck yet again, film noir is a perennially popular cinematic genre. This extensive encyclopedia describes movies from noir’s earliest days – and even before, looking at some of noir’s ancestors in US and European cinema – as well as noir’s more recent offshoots, from neonoirs to erotic thrillers. Entries are arranged alphabetically, covering movies from all over the world – from every continent save Antarctica – with briefer details provided for several hundred additional movies within those entries. A copious appendix contains filmographies of prominent directors, actors, and writers. With coverage of blockbusters and program fillers from Going Straight (US 1916) to Broken City (US 2013) via Nora Inu (Japan 1949), O Anthropos tou Trainou (Greece 1958), El Less Wal Kilab (Egypt 1962), Reportaje a la Muerte (Peru 1993), Zift (Bulgaria 2008), and thousands more, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir is an engrossing and essential reference work that should be on the shelves of every cinephile.