Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Help Rescue Some National Heritage

The Film Noir Foundation is having a blogathon, hosted by Ferdy on Films and The Self-Styled Siren, to try and raise funds to rescue and restore classic noir films.

I've been writing occasional essays and profiles for the FNF for a couple of years now, and I'm a firm believer in their mission. We think of films as timeless cultural artifacts--and they are--but they're also extraordinarily fragile. Film disintegrates. It wastes away if it's not properly cared for. Studios didn't always understand this (many still don't, or don't really care). Movies are business for them.

But movies are more than commercial products. They're art and they are national heritage. They're time capsules. Does it matter that we preserve a forgotten B-film like ROADBLOCK, some bargain basement crime flick like TOO LATE FOR TEARS, some bleak little number like THE SOUND OF FURY?

Damn right, it does. These films aren't just entertaining, they're glimpses of a lost America, an America that was barely acknowledged in the popular culture of the time. The forties and fifties remain obscured by nostalgia, but film noir allows us to see the cracks in that facade.

Noir is important because it was both a classical form of filmmaking and a form of experimentation that embraced and integrated avant-garde effects. It was both a vehicle for enforcing gender roles and a way of questioning them. It straddled political lines, helping to fuel the Red Scare and helping to combat it. It was, finally, a fascinating mix of talents and interests that swirled together at the swampy end of Hollywood's economic spectrum and managed to produce many of the best films the town ever made.

If you want to chip in a couple of bucks to help save some of this indispensable heritage, go here.

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