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Film Noir, as a dominant and influential cinematic style, first exploded across American movie screens sometime in 1940. And almost immediately, Hollywood studios seized upon this exciting new direction for crime films -- a dramatically startling combination of German Expressionist cinema of the 1920s and French poetic realism films of the 30s, blended into a harshly modern cocktail of chiaroscuro lighting, psychologically aberrant behavior, and the unmistakable feeling that Fate (or some other mysterious force) would inevitably play a role in the final outcome. Bathed in luxurious shadows and menacing nuances, these visually stimulating and sometimes disreputable excursions to the lower depths, have now become essential to any discussion of film in the 20th century.

Film Series Overview

From the musty shadow factories of Poverty Row to the opulent excesses of big-budget Hollywood studios, film noir in the 1940s captured the fatalistic mood of mid-century America better than anything else being released into movie theaters at that time. Gritty, honest portrayals of men and women at their worst, doing their best to cope with what a world of shadows has given them.

French writers and critics were the first to actually point out the visual splendor of these new American crime films and were the ones to coin the very term film noir -- literally, black film. Ultimately their enthusiasm would spawn a library's worth of literature and the momentum to eventually create an entire cinematic movement, still vibrant and universally appreciated today. The films selected for this ten-week course represent the cream of the 1940s crop of noir films.

Directors like Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak, Anthony Mann, Jacques Tourneur, Orson Welles, and Edgar G. Ulmer unveil sights and ideas once considered unwholesome and unwelcome in the American cinema. This highly intensive experience is designed to be a total immersion into the darkest corners of the imagination: a treasure trove of stylistically dazzling films, seen in their entirety on the BIG SCREEN at Portland's Cinema 21, and discussed with respect to their overall place in the film noir universe.

Films in this Course

These are the TEN films we'll be watching in luxurious comfort at Cinema 21 in Portland each Tuesday morning at 11:00 am beginning April 7, 2020.

  • April 7: I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941)
  • April 14: BLUES IN THE NIGHT (1941)
  • April 21: PHANTOM LADY (1944)
  • April 28: MURDER MY SWEET (1944)
  • May 5: DETOUR (1945)
  • May 12: SCARLET STREET (1945)
  • NO CLASS May 19
  • May 26: BLACK ANGEL (1946)
  • June 2: OUT OF THE PAST (1947)
  • June 9: NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947)
  • June 16: THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1948)

PLEASE NOTE: This is a complete program and no individual tickets/days will be sold.

Films in this Course

Tuesdays at 11:00 am beginning April 7, 2020.

Cinema 21 616 NW 21st Ave., Portland, OR 97209

Curriculum under redevelopment.
10 weeks
Portland, Oregon
price (2)

Other Film Courses

NICK AT NIGHT: The Nocturnal Cinema of NICHOLAS RAY

Curriculum under redevelopment.


Elliot Lavine

Elliot Lavine has been a film programmer of national repute since 1990, both in the San Francisco Bay Area and now here in Portland. In 2010, he received the Marlon Riggs Award from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle for his revival of rare archival titles and his role in the renewed popularity of film noir. He has taught film studies courses for Stanford's Continuing Studies Program since 2006.

Past Students' Work

Take a look at some recent projects our students have created.