Hippie Noir: A transtional subgenre


Reading AJ's list made me finally write down a continually evolving idea I've been formulating. AJ mentions that he watched Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973). I had recently seen it and decided that The Long Goodbye is ‘hippie-noir’, a marriage of the film noir genre with the counter culture of the 1960's. Hippie noir includes a small subgenre of films, including Harper (1966) with Paul Newman and Marlowe (1969) starring James Garner. The common thread is the introduction of the identification of the protagonist PI with the 60’s counterculture as outsiders to the normative authority figures. In the classic B&W film noirs of the 40's, the PI’s or other protagonists generally dislike- and are disliked in return- the standard authority: mostly cops, but anyone with real power and authority (look at how Humphrey Bogart talks to the cops in The Maltese Falcon (1941)). The hippie noir films’ linking of that condescending attitude with the counterculture is the perfect result. I think it also modernized the film noir genre: updated humor and clothing, as well as transforming the stories to more ‘current’ themes helping to make the genre more elastic.
The idea plays out well on-screen, and even though none of the films above are unbelievably good, they’re all solid. It also helped transform the genre to where it has gone today. D.K. Holm at moviepoopshoot.com (start just after the second picture in his review of Confidence) refers to it as film soleil or the transport of the genre to light and sunny West Coast climes (L.A. or the southwest) which further contrasts the dark material with the surroundings (Holm’s examples include Kill Me Again (1989) and Blood Simple (1984) among others). Anyway, I'm convinced that the transformation from the classic film noir to the modern film soleil wouldn't be possible without this transition in the late 60's and early 70's which add humor and the weird hippie culture to the mix. It’s a small piece, but vitally important in retaining the genre’s evolution.

Very interesting topic. Long ago when I wrote my pitifully small movie review list, I included comments about "Red Rock West" and "Bad Day at Black Rock" as having a "film noir" feel. Mr. Holm includes both in his article.

Your inclusion of the word "hippie" sort of threw me off for a moment thinking of how a movie like "2 Days in the Valley" might fit in to your definition. Not being any kind of qualitative film critic myself, I'm not sure what does, but it sure as hell is an interesting subject to think about. Thanks for the exercise!

PS - Would a period piece such as "L.A. Confidential" fit under this new sub-genre? No hippies (yet ;^) but plenty of California sunshine.

L.A. Confidential might very well be a part of film soleil (but not hippie noir). I think Holm's idea is that the traditional film noir genre has mutated into two overlapping subgenres: the dark shadowy film noir and the sun-soaked film soleil.
As for hippie noir, it's just a handful of films that helped to make that change possible.

Interesting theory. I never thought of "film soleil" as the new version of film-noir before. I still miss traditional, shadowy detective stories though.