Featuring rumpled PIs, shyster lawyers, corrupt politicians, doublecrossers, femmes fatales, and of course losers who find themselves down on their luck yet again, film noir is a perennially popular cinematic genre. It is also an international one. A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir contains the most extensive coverage yet of the US output of film noir, with entries on well over 2,000 US noirs and neonoirs. But the book goes far further than this, including entries on over a thousand films noirs from elsewhere around the world; in all, nearly sixty countries are represented—from every continent except Antarctica.
The scope is broad not just in geographical terms but also chronologically. Entries cover some of noir’s ancestors (protonoirs, in this book’s terminology), from both Hollywood and European cinema, and make the case by example that film noir, as we can recognize it, began not in 1941 with The Maltese Falcon, as many claim, but years before. Likewise, the encyclopedia’s coverage of the neonoirs of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries is unusually exhaustive, including movies from all over the world and from such offshoot genres as the erotic thriller, animated noir (e.g., Sin City ), and sciencefictional noir (e.g., Blade Runner ).
In addition to over 3,250 alphabetically arranged main movie entries, the encyclopedia is supported by about 1,500 cross-references. These guide readers through the maze of alternative titles and also lead to briefer discussions of several hundred additional movies within the main entries. In a copious appendix, there are filmographies of prominent directors, actors, and writers.
With coverage of blockbusters and program fillers from 1916’s Going Straight to 2013’s Broken City, via Nora Inu (Japan 1949), O Anthropos tou Trainou (Greece 1958), El Less Wal Kilab (Egypt 1962), Reportaje a la Muerte (Peru 1993), Zift (Bulgaria 2008), and thousands more – not to forget innumerable Hollywood classics like Citizen Kane (1941), Casablanca (1942), Double Indemnity (1944), Laura (1944), Gilda (1946) and Out of the Past (1947) – this is an engrossing and essential reference work that should be on the shelves of every cinephile.
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