It’s unlikely that you want another person who’ll describe the virtues of Out of the Past, Double Indemnity, Touch of Evil, The Maltese Falcon, Laura, The Third Man, The Naked City — which, while great, are the film noir to which we’re most accustomed. And the most rudimentary French-language knowledge will key us in to the fact that those wholly American (or wholly America-seeming) pictures find root in a cinematic tradition we don’t often turn to for dark, twisty stories of intrigue and deceit.
Let’s expand our noir knowledge, then, with a new video essay by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin that, until the end, elides direct name-checking and instead favors palettes that don’t feel so foreign after all. In an article written for BFI, who are hosting a French noir festival this month, the team explain that these works nevertheless stand apart from their American counterparts with “the emphasis on everyday life and labour; a sharper analysis of fraught racial and cultural relations, even within the most exotic Kasbah; an earthier, sometimes infinitely more perverse sexuality; and a refusal of last-minute, happy-ending resolutions.” Want to know more? You’ve now got a handy list of titles to discover.