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The Maltese Touch of Evil: Film Noir and Potential Criticism (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture) Paperback – December 13, 2011
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“A lucky combination of academic rigor and verbal playfulness, The Maltese Touch of Evil is provocatively open-ended. The authors, smooth writers both, are perceptive close readers, and their high-spirited commitment to unpacking selected noire moments is contagious: they make you want to join their conversation, whether in agreement or correction, defense or denial. Their intensive work reminds us yet again of the peculiar richness of the noir canon.” (Foster Hirsch, author of The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir and Detours and Lost Highways: A Map of Neo-Noir)
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Top Customer Reviews
In the last half of the book they pair a "noireme" (which is just a film still, fellas....Jeez......) with a paragraph or two taken, it looks like, right from the "Out of the Past" podcasts. The text comments on some aspect of the FILM STILL and how it relates to the iconography and/or thematic substance of the overall noir trope. So, it's a cut-and-paste job, just little tidbits of noir-speak, with nothing to pull them together, and I admit I got kinda bored after about a dozen or so of these tableaux noir. I just wasn't learning anything...But, I will give this section another try, as I think they are working on something as far as weaving the elements of noir together. Clearly, I am struggling with this book.....
If they weren't going to do something really new and original, I would rather they would have just transcribed some of the podcasts and put in some nice FILM STILLS. It would have been more unified and substantial. These guys are really smart and really perceptive about film noir, and I enthusiastically recommend the podcasts to you as evidence of that statement. I am giving them three stars out of respect for that great body of work, but the book itself I would give one or two stars. I was really disappointed, fellas, but there is always the chance that it was just over my head. For example, I could read and totally enjoy Ulysses, but I hit the wall with Finnegan's Wake, know what I mean??? So I will gladly write it off to my lack of intellectual oats. But my instincts tell me that this oulipian thing is for the birdshmathians......
it totally deserves for its creation of the "oulipan" and "noireme" concepts of "potential criticism" and "film stills." Although I have listened to a few of the "podcasts," I cannot agree to using the playful terms extracted from the original French language, sometimes mis-translated. Even Borde & Chaumenton did not resort to make up in French terms (as do Clute & Edwards) in their historic critical work "Panorama du Film Noir Americain,." a
seminal work of film noir criticism.
First of all, the title is misleading. After reading 5 chapters of theory (and I do have the intellectual oats to take it all seriously) I was glad to come upon the large section of film stills, but some of their explanations of their content was incorrect and misleading. By the way, I do not agree that TOUCH OF EVIL spelled the "death knell" for noir, rather it was Robert Wise's film ODDS AGAINS TOMORROW (1959), a truly gripping "bank- heist noir" which really ended the style of noir.
Secondly, the publisher or authors did not provide very clear stills. They should have gone to Photofest in Manhattan to secure sharper, better defined stills for their "style" explanations, And finally, I am the author of 3 books on the subject of film noir--NOIR, NOW & THEN, NEO-NOIR and
HOUSES OF NOIR (2014)---check them out on www. amazon com. I wrote analyses of film noir styles for 36+ stills, but clear, sharp stills that advance the plot of each film examined. Yes, I too have spoken with Richard Edwards at Ball State University and loved his TMC TV series of SUMMER OF DARKNESS and have a Certificate of Completion for the course. But I could never use his book as a main text for any noir courses I will ever teach. It belongs in the "Further Readings" section and in the very "optional" list.
Dr. Ronald Schwartz, Prof. Emeritus. 9/10/15, Manhattan.