Neo-noir & Tech-noir films to add to your watch list

As mentioned a few times, I love films. I’ve spent a majority of my short life watching films and studying them – even majoring in a foreign language in college specifically because I loved French films so much. What I’ve recently realized is that I’m drawn to a very localized type of film: neo- or tech-noir. Neo-noir and tech-noir are a subculture of film noir which lasted from the 1940s-1950s. Film noir was popularized thanks to crime dramas featuring hardcracking detectives and police characters, not to mention the femme fatales. 

So what is Neo-noir & Tech-noir? 

Neo-noir is to film noir, what grunge is to rock. It’s a modernized version of film noir that includes similar themes. Neo-noir and Tech-noir films often feature a post-apocalyptic urban landscape set in the vague future with a flawed anti-hero traversing the story. Other telltale signs can include oversaturation/coloration of the scenes, stark lighting in close up shots (see chiaroscuro lighting) and plenty of violence or tension. In general both genres share a lot of characteristics with French New Wave films, neo-noir is set in the current time/recent past with heavy tones of realism while tech-noir is set in the future and often includes more science fiction tones (robots, etc). 

****TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, graphic violence, gore, abuse, drugs, alcohol, sexual assault, animal abuse

Here’s a list of some of my favorite neo-noir and tech-noir films.


Guns Akimbo (2019) [Tech-noir]

This film was a wild ride from start to finish. Not only was I thrilled that Daniel Radcliffe was in another movie but Samara Weaving really stole the show with her batshit crazy character. Set in a futuristic world where a villanous group streams real life murder as a game online, Radcliffe finds himself thrust into the middle of a seriously fucked up group of people. This film is dark, gory, raw and yet imbued with a strange amount of comedy and growth. 


**Delicatessen (1991) [Neo-noir]

A boarding house sits atop a butcher shop in post-apocalyptic France where fresh meat is hard to come by. The main characters spend their time trying to survive the chaotic building as well as the butcher as people continue to disappear. Creators Jeunet and Caro create a timeless world through their storytelling – a world that is dark, dirty, flawed and intensely saturated.


**La Cité des Enfants Perdus (1995) [Tech-noir]

(From the same creators of Delicatessen) In a topsy-turvy world where adults act like children and children are forced to provide and care for adults, our heros are Un (played by Ron Pearlman), a circus strong man and Miette, a young leader of the orphan children. Un is searching for his lost little brother Denree who was kidnapped by the mad scientist running the city. 


**Ex Machina (2015) [Tech-noir]

Words cannot describe how much I love this film. Aside from fanboying over the all star, kick-ass casting of this film (cough* Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac* cough), everything about this was a masterpiece. Introducing a remote mansion, a beautifully crafted AI system and a helpless low level employee who won a free vacation – what could go wrong? This film will leave you with chills for days if not weeks.


Gattaca (1997) [Tech-noir]

While my mother was a biology teacher briefly, this was her go to film in class to explain genes and DNA. A fascinating science-led dystopia asks many large and uncomfortable questions: what is right? What is moral? How far can science go and still be deemed good? Plus who wasn’t obsessed with Jude Law, Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke in the 90’s? While the gore in this film is minimal and personally afflicted, the cinematography is peak neo-noir. 


Nightcrawler (2014) [Neo-noir]

At times, this film was extremely uncomfortable to watch. A ruthless journalist chases violent acts across the city to be able to be the first to ‘break’ the news on air. With Jake Gyllenhal as the lead, this film encapsulates so much of what’s wrong with humanity: our obsession with gore and depravity in the media. Similar to Guns Akimbo, people tune in to watch the slaughter. 

****TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic violence, abuse, drugs, alcohol


Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)  [Neo-noir]

This is one of my absolute favorite films – not necessarily for the gory storyline, but the acting, cinematography and soundtrack are divine. A nearly neutral, bordering on cool color palette sets the stage for this frozen thriller. There are higher levels of gore in this film than others and harsh juxtapositions between the present and past as journalist Mikael tries to solve a decades old cold-case. Also, Rooney Mara is absolutely iconic in this film. (But I’ll be that person – you should definitely read the books, they’re just as amazing).

****TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, violence, abuse, drugs, alcohol, sexual assault, animal abuse


I’m Your Woman (2020) [Neo-noir]

This film hit me like a train – I love Rachel Brosnahan from her stellar performance in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but I wanted to see how she’d be in a gritty, crime drama – and boy, was it a good film. I had no clue what the premise was prior to watching it and it lived up to every expectation I had. Meet Jean, a new mother married to a con-man, who is thrust into a dangerous journey to self discovery as her husband disappears after betraying his partners. 


Other Popular Neo-Noir / Tech-Noir Films

What’s your favorite genre of film?

. . .

Movies with Kick Ass Soundtracks

And I’m not talking musicals. Soundtracks are a crucial backbone to films, a way to engage the audience and let them relate on a subconscious level. Throughout high school and college, I worked at the local movie theater in town. One shift, called ‘Door’ or ‘Doorman’, was responsible for cleaning theaters after each showing was complete (among other things). This ultimately meant a front row seat to the credit soundtracks on every movie as well as the ability to pop into every theater during the film to catch bits and pieces.

Here are some of my favorite films/soundtracks.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)spooky, dramatic, ethereal and full of longing.

Not only was the film a masterpiece in many ways, the soundtrack really brought it to the next level. The closing credit number was ‘Breath of Life’ by Florence and the Machine and boy – was that a banger. Besides some amazing graphics, the pairing of Florence with this moody, fast tempo bop was pure genius.

Anna Karenina (2012)timeless, playful, enticing and full of passion.

This is one of my favorite films of all time but the soundtrack is what truly makes you fall in love. The storyline, adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s 1878  novel of the same name, is an explanation of the common themes in life: hypocrisy, jealousy, faith, fidelity, society and progress to name a few. If you’re a fan of Kiera Knightley or period pieces, you’ll probably notice a familiar filming pattern and character groups in Anna Karenina – it was directed by the same director of Pride & Prejudice, Joe Wright.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)dark, moody, intense and melodramatic.

This film is not for the faint of heart – nor is the soundtrack. This soundtrack is dark, bleak and moody just like the film, starting out with a killer intro introducing an alt version of the Immigrant Song. (Trigger warning – the intro is intense, graphic and has strobe effects). I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent just thinking about this intro and score. 

The Hunger Games (2012)realistic, foreboding, rustic and folky.

While I am not a fan of the Hunger Games series, I can’t deny that this soundtrack is great. Specifically, one song: Safe & Sound by Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars. I mean, it’s just jaw dropping. This was the first song to play during the credits and let me tell you – I scream-sang this song every single time. It’s a song that just gets under your skin.

Honorable Mentions

Atomic Blonde (2017) / Suckerpunch (2011) – These two films have a few overlapping songs on their film scores, which is why I wanted to give them an honorable mention. I’ll be honest, I was not a fan of Atomic Blonde – the score in the trailer made me think it was going to be much better of a film than it actually was. Suckerpunch on the other hand is one of the most jarring and ‘mind-fuckable’ films I’ve seen and I truly did enjoy watching it. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – Really anything directed by Wes Anderson is going to have an eclectic and unique score. This is not a score I’d listen to all the time, but it’s still a fun one to turn on in the background. Alexandre Desplat is the man responsible for crafting each unique, timeless score for Anderson’s films. While similar in theme or type, the scores are presently true to each individual story.


Game of Thrones (2011-2019) – Composer Ramin Djawadi is a genius, without argument. Scoring a show is difficult no doubt, but scoring a show that runs for nearly a decade? Unthinkable. His scores are unique, effervescent and transcending. As soon as you hear one of his scores, you’re immediately transported into that moment in the show. Plus, he cleverly reused the intro theme multiple times in different ways.

Remember the Fifth of November

I have a list of films that I always recommend to people and V for Vendetta has been at the top of that list for over a decade. I watched this film for the first time in junior high, just a few years after its cinematic release and was immediately moved by how timelessly poignant this film is. Released in 2005, this dystopian film takes place in 2028 – 14 years after a horrific virus outbreak ravaged London. Following the story of protagonists Evey and vigilante ‘V’, the audience watches as a tyrannical government is overthrown. Every year on the fifth of November, I watch this film. But during a recent viewing with a friend, I was startled to see the unfortunate and uncomfortable similarities between this film and the hellscape of 2020.

How could a film from 2005, based on a 1980s graphic novel, so accurately depict our current misery? Let’s break that down.

**DISCLAIMER: This film is controversial, graphic and deals with a multitude of sensitive subjects including pandemics, LGBTQ+ issues, homophobia, medical torture, kidnapping, etc. Please watch at your own discretion. SOME SPOILERS BELOW – BE AWARE.


The Setting

Set in modern day London, the country is run by a hyper-conservative, tyrannical government that took control following the explosive ‘St. Mary’s virus’ that consumed the lives of at least 100,000 citizens. Freedom of speech is nearly non-existent, nightly curfews are in place, roving ‘finger men’ police the residents with complete ruthlessness and surveillance vans roam the streets listening in on citizens.


The Villain

The first and most obvious villain is dubbed as ‘V’, the vigilante who demands justice from those who wronged him. V is modeled after Guy Fawkes, a failed rebel from the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 who was immortalized by the British tradition of Bonfire Night. However, the true villain is the government, and more specifically, High Chancellor Adam Sutler, the reigning fascist power in the country.


The St. Mary’s Virus (SPOILER)

The St. Mary’s virus is credited for what brought the tyrannical government – Norsefire – to the ruling party. Showcased publicly as a horrific, random virus, St. Mary’s was later revealed to be a biowarfare created by the very government supposedly protecting citizens. Released in three separate locations – a water treatment plant, a primary school and a hospital – the majority of virus victims were those that the government deemed ‘undesirable’.


So why is this film so impactful?

Once, dystopian landscapes were a far fetched idea used as propaganda or science fiction to entertain the masses, but now it’s different. For me, it feels like we are teetering on the precipice of something major in the United States. Never before, at least in my lifetime, have we been more divided as a nation, although I understand that the generations before us have watched as tyranny ruled countries and have witnessed first-hand the wrath of wars, totalitarianism and fascism. As a pre-teen watching V for Vendetta for the first time, I was astonished to see how a country could change overnight after one incident – one virus – and that so many innocent lives could be lost.

But now, in 2020, I can fully see how that can happen. I hope that there will never be an end of V’s or Evey Hammond’s or Inspector Finch’s, those who strive to find the truth and fight for a better world for us all.

“He was Edmond Dantés… and he was my father. And my mother… my brother… my friend. He was you… and me. He was all of us.” – Evey Hammond, V for Vendetta.

Let’s Get Spoopy.

Let’s be honest, I wait all year for fall and Halloween. Ask anyone that knows me and they’ll say that this is my favorite time of year. I spent most of my teenage years working at various haunted houses, doing special effects makeup, scaring, scene placement and overall, relishing in all things spoopy. This year, I wanted to create my very own creepy movie and tv show calendars – chop full of streaming gems, throwbacks and hopefully a few films you’ve never heard of. Nearly all of the films and shows can be found on Netflix or Hulu, but some may need to be rented or sourced due to availability and age.

What are your favorite Halloween/scary films?

*Disclaimer: Everyone has their own taste in shows and films, so some of these may not be your cup of tea and that’s okay. Feel free to read a synopsis of the films on IMDB or watch a trailer prior to watching. Genres range from gore to supernatural to dark comedy. Also, there are four days missing from the TV Show List due to the fact that there are not any short limited horror series that I’m aware of and I didn’t want to half-show something. Feel free to use those four days however you see fit!

Hiroshima mon amour – A Film Review

Between TikToks and cooking videos on social media, you may have noticed something else last week. On August 6th, the world remembered the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. In the United States and other allied countries, this was the way to end a horrific war, a means to an end. To others however, this was just the beginning of their true suffering. A poignant French New Wave film brings all of this and more into question: Hiroshima mon amour (1959)

This was a film that I studied in college as an introduction to the french language and it will go down as one of my favorite movies for the rest of my life. (Sidenote: My french professor from college still reaches out when selecting her films each year because of how much I loved this film and I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing). This film is full of subtle cinematography, heavy juxtapositions and an effortless timelessness. On the surface, the film can seem almost dull – there is no heavy action sequence, there are only two characters and the timeline covers about 48 hours of their story. 

Here’s a little background 

Hiroshima mon amour is considered to be one of the most influential works in the history of cinema; the brainchild of author Marguerite Duras (Moderato Cantabile 1958) and New Wave director Alain Resnais. Resnais was known for his documentary work on Night and Fog (1956) and his contributions to Cahier du Cinéma and the Left Bank, a faction of the French New Wave. Originally starting as a documentary, it was filmed in France and Japan in 1959. The story traces the devastation of the bombing of Hiroshima from two viewpoints: a French actress and a Japanese architect who serendipitously meet for a weekend tryst in 1957. Not to mention that actor Eiji Okada did not speak a lick of French and had to learn it phonetically for the film; kudos to that. 

Why everyone should watch it

The Intro

The intro is hands down a work of art – an absolute masterpiece that sets the tone for the entire film. A compilation of two bodies stuck in an embrace which at first appears normal, then the bodies are covered in ash, glitter and sweat. Paired with an almost bouncy soundtrack, a voice over repeats for a few minutes – switching between Him and Her: “You saw nothing in Hiroshima. Nothing” “I saw everything. Everything”. This subtle yet daring intro is designed to pique the viewer’s interest for the rest of the film. How can one see a place that was once suffering the impossible? How can one truly know a place like that? Duras in her screenplay synopsis explains: “Every gesture, every word, takes on an aura of meaning that transcends its literal meaning.”

Anonymity 

The main characters throughout the film are never named. Referred to in the script as simply ‘the French woman’ and ‘the Japanese man’ or the third, most prevalent character ‘the German’, this creates a unique atmosphere for the story. This could have happened between anyone. There is one story, but many applicable characters throughout the world. Even when you are fully entrenched in their affair, they are still compartmentalizing in a way. They have one shared trauma but the reactions are so incredibly different between the two. 

Cinematography

French New Wave was all about breaking the boundaries of ‘Cinéma du papa’, the traditional predecessor. However, Hiroshima mon amour was relatively tame when it came to cinematography compared to À bout de Souffle (1960) or Jules et Jim (1962). Due to Resnais experience working as a documentarian, there are elements of this in the film like showing news clips of the injured, deformities of the children born in the wake of the bomb. In some moments the film feels almost like a propaganda piece rather than a love story. The film was actually financed by Japan which came with a list of requirements: to be partially shot in France and Japan, include a star from both countries and use local technical crews when shooting. While both film crews were somewhat kept in the dark, this created a unique film – shot from two different cameras on two different types of film, allowing the viewer to easily identify what is the present and what is a flashback.

Juxtaposition

The themes of Hiroshima mon amour are almost always in contrast: life and death, love and loss, he and she, remembering and forgetting, the German and the Japanese, present and past and future. There is a portion of the screenplay that always sticks out in my mind. Visually, a first person point of view wanders down the rebuilt streets of Hiroshima. A voice-over of the french woman hauntingly tells you, “I meet you. I remember you. Who are you? You destroy me. You’re so good for me… Plenty of time. Please. Take me. Deform me, make me ugly. Why not you?”. Each of these comments is destined for a different person. She meets the Japanese man, but remembers the German man. The German man destroys her, but the Japanese man is so good to her. She is continuously conflicted with the juxtapositions. 

Mental Illness

A very subtle note in the film is that the French woman is constantly dissociating. In 1959, the understanding of mental illness wasn’t as advanced as today, but the film is refreshingly modern in some ways. Referring to her time in Nevers (past), she says, “Madness is like intelligence, you know. You can’t explain it. Just like intelligence. It comes on you, it fills you and then you understand it. But when it goes away you can’t understand it at all any longer.” In my interpretation, the madness she’s referring to is depression as a direct result of losing her first love. Later she explains, “That was what my madness was. I was mad with hate. I had the impression it would be possible to make a real career of hate. All I cared about was hate.” She experienced a horrific trauma at a young age and was ostracized by her society – thanks to a little thing called les tondues. Les tondues or Femmes tondues was a public humiliation for ‘collaboration with the occupier’ which resulted in the shearing of one’s head. Towards the end of the film, she dissociates while discussing her past with the Japanese man. She begins speaking to him as if he was the German who died – in part, because they are the same person to her: the ‘enemy’, the forbidden love.     

Reception

Filmmaker Eric Rohmer said it best when discussing Hiroshima mon amour, “I think that in a few years, in ten, twenty, or thirty years, we will know whether Hiroshima mon amour was the most important film since the war, the first modern film of sound cinema”. The film received critical acclaim internationally. At the time, the sensitive subject matter did receive some scorn from certain countries (the United States), however the timelessness of the tale has allowed this film to go down as one of the must see classics.

The Final Girls: Who Are They?

Since cinema began in the early 1900’s, there has been the creation of tropes. Tropes are characters or storylines that are universally understood, oftentimes as a metaphor, and are completely overused. Sometimes tropes can be obvious, clever or even downright annoying. In horror and slasher films specifically, there is the trope of ‘the final girl’. The final girl is just what you think it is: the final surviving girl of the film. The final girl was made popular with films like Halloween (1978) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). But what makes a final girl? While there is no clear list of attributes for a final girl, the idea is pretty much unanimous: a girl who makes it through the hellish road of her story to meet with the antagonist in a head-on battle to the end. Are all final girls created equal? Not at all. Let’s take a look into some of the more recent final girl films. 

Housebound (2014)

TW: Gore, violence, mental health
This film is not your normal ‘final girl’ slasher. This dark comedy/thriller out of New Zealand is one of the most underrated films I’ve seen in a long time. Full of twists and turns, this will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. While the main character, Kylie, does indeed make it to the end, it’s not exactly in the most traditional way. Kylie, a reforming shitshow, lands under house arrest at her mother’s house, complete with a creepy murderous neighbor, ghosts in the house and supposed hysteria which all create a perfect thriller.
Final Girl Rating: 7/10

The Rezort (2015)

TW: Gore, zombies, violence
A surprisingly new take on zombie films, The Rezort’s storyline is set after a zombie virus outbreak. All zombies have been quarantined to an island that healthy-wealthies can visit freely to hunt them like a safari. Not a big surprise to any; things do not go well for our protagonist group. Final Girl Melanie does not shy away from the violence and helps her team try to survive, while maintaining her humanity throughout. This B-rated British film also takes an interesting look into the dark side of humanitarian crises amongst outbreaks.
Final Girl Rating: 7/10

Revenge (2017)

TW: Rape, violence, domestic violence, graphic injuries, gore, drug usage, abuse
First and foremost, this film is full of realism, graphic injuries and gallons of fake blood – gotta love the french for that! On a tranquil vacation gone wrong, Jen accompanies her married boyfriend on a boys hunting trip to a remote island. Fairly quickly, things start to go downhill. Jen transforms from a naive mistress to scrambling prey to bloodthirsty badass in under two hours. This is truly a revenge plot like the title suggests and it is so satisfying at the end.
Final Girl Rating: 15/10

Ready or Not (2019)

TW: Violence, gore
This dark comedy may not technically fall under the ‘horror’ bucket, but Grace deserves to be a final girl. On her wedding day, Grace is surprised to learn that she must play a game to be initiated into her husband’s family. A simple game of hide and seek turns into a bloodbath for the ages. Overcoming the shock of what is actually taking place, Grace fights back and becomes an unstoppable force, laughing in the face of Satan (no, really).
Final Girl Rating: 8/10

Honorable Mentions:

Darkness Rising (2017)

TW: Cults, possession, violence, gore, supernatural, curse
Teenager Madison and her friends break into her childhood home, which has been condemned and in disrepair since her mother went crazy. This thriller starts out in a normal cadence, but things go off the rails quickly. Little ghosts in the background of shots, a supernatural house, some serious demon energy – what more could you want? While the story is interesting in a ‘what the f**k just happened’ way, Madison’s character is a little two-dimensional. She gets pulled through the story rather than taking an active role in it.
Final Girl Rating: 5/10

Midsommar (2019)

TW: Gore, violence, cults, graphic injuries, sexual acts, drug usage
A fan favorite from director Ari Aster, Midsommar is a fringe mention for final girls. I wanted to include this film mostly because Dani has to overcome a mountain of trauma to become the final girl. This is a poignant, beautifully directed film that leaves the viewer uneasy and disturbed. Dani may not be an overly violent character, but the ending of the film proves that she’s just as cunning and dark as the rest of them.
Final Girl Rating: 7/10

As a viewer, what can we learn from the final girls? Each final girl is able to find the strength to push through any situation – even if they didn’t think they had it in them. Final girls teach us to adapt and survive, to overcome and conquer any obstacle. While they suffer throughout their stories, final girls always make it to the other side stronger, often with new skills or traits. In our day to day lives, we may not find ourselves in a life-or-death situation like a final girl, but we can carry that resolve with us to the end.