I recently mentioned that I attended some of the screenings at the Noir City film festival in Austin. Sadly, it was only possible for me to attend 2 films this year. If I'd had more of a surplus of time and money, I could have spent the whole weekend in the theater! I was happy with my limited choices of films though. One of the films, Phantom Lady, really stuck with me. The story was engaging and the cinematography of this 1944 film was stunning. The use of lighting and camera angles complemented the scenes perfectly, fueling the mystery and tension of this thrilling noir film.
A few days later, I was browsing my favorite used book store and stumbled across this book, "Film Noir", by Alain Silver and James Ursini. I noticed that it was published by Taschen, known for beautifully produced photo books, so I eagerly grabbed if off the shelves. While this book is primarily a discussion of the history and characteristics of the genre, it is filled with wonderfully reproduced film stills from throughout the noir era. The images are nice and contrasty with deep blacks. There is amazing depth and tonal range. I couldn't stop flipping through the pages and pages of great photos. There are even a few behind the scenes shots. There is a lot of imagery here that I find inspiring and I'd love to model some shoots in the lighting styles of some of these photos. As if I needed more convincing to bring this book home, there was a fantastic spread of one of my favorite scenes from Phantom Lady. Gorgeous back lit scene!
I've been reading the book and while there is some great information, I'm not enjoying the text near as much as the photos. The writers tend to ramble and jump kind of haphazardly from film to film. It's really difficult to follow at times. The photos don't necessarily correspond to the films discussed in the immediate text. The text will sometimes be interrupted by pages of images and resume later. The white text on start black paper doesn't make for easy reading either. However, the quality and quantity of images more than makes up for the shortcomings of the text. If you like hard light, low key images, and film noir as much as I do, this book is candy for the eyes.