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Neon Noir Comes To Hollywood
, 18 July 2014
This review is from: The Driver [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Film Noir has gone through many changes since the term was first coined in the 1950s. Ever since Orson Welles' brilliant 1957 film Touch of Evil pulled the curtain on the genre, film noir has undergone more resurgences and changes then some film genres.
Although the genre was dormant in Hollywood, in Europe it was being revitalized, and this was more evident in France with Jean Pierre Melville's classic Le Samourai which heralded the neon noir sub genre.
The Driver is probably Hollywood's first bona fide example of this practice and it is a fantastic film in its own right, so much so that, in my humble opinion, it is the very definition of screen existentialism that Hollywood has portrayed on screen. The main characters in this film are nameless, and also, with the exception of Adjani's The Player, have no back story. These characters are walking representations of their professions and they try to maintain their professionalism, but at the end they succumb to their guilty greed.
The little dialogue that Driver and Player have are almost seen as as antidote to the cynical musings of their antagonist (played sensationally by the ever great Bruce Dern) In fact I would go far as say the absence of dialogue almost plays as rejection of the noirs of yesteryear, with all the wit, charm and sadism being delivered through a glare. Whilst on the subject of genre, another genre that has to be made in connection with The Driver is the western. The Detective always calls his antagonist, desperado; The Driver only has a radio for company and even then he only listens to country and western music.
The other valid point to make is the car chases, and they're phenomenal. In the recent years before The Driver, car chases had become common place, but The Driver very much could be the film that finally made this practice into the art form it truly is. Absolutely sensational work.
Looking back at The Driver now, I can't help but feel a certain sadness. With the exception of 2011's Drive (which I adored and I still consider it the greatest film of 2011) a film which features car chases have been dumbed down (Need For Speed?!) The Driver is a prime example on how a simple story line can create good cinema, and to this day remains Walter Hill's best film. The car chases, the acting, and the brilliant score elevate this genre film into the jewel that it truly is.
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