Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Noir, Times Two
And all I had to do was get married, go to Canada, and finally find a copy.
I’ll backtrack a little. About two years ago, I heard of this graphic novel from France, Le Treu (I believe is the French title), or, The Killer. I tried to track it down—diligently, spending nights searching the internet, visiting comic shops, and speaking to local comic owners. See, French New Wave noir is one of my favorite—if not my very favorite—genres of film. I’ve found more pleasure from these movies—and inspiration—than I can possibly describe. It get knocked flat by the films of Melville (Le Samourai, Les Doulos), especially.
So, The Killer. The French version was released more as a complete graphic novel, which is in line with the way comics are published in Europe (the demarcations between graphic novels and prose novels aren’t as strict as they are here). In the US, the book was broken down into 10 issues, and released by Archaia press, who are known to lose all their money every so often, and halt all publications. Therefore, The Killer was out of print—there was a trade collecting the first four American issues, but I couldn’t find a copy for less than $100.
As weird, unexpected luck/fate would have it, while on our Honeymoon in Montreal, my wife and I came across a comic shop. I figured I’d take a look, just in case. Montreal is kinda French, after all. And there, I could hardly believe, were issues 5-8.
Since then, the trade has been re-released, and Archaia unceremoniously released the final two issues within weeks of each other (after a year + gap). I’m currently re-reading the whole thing from the start, and am enthralled. If you’re into slick, spare, existential noir—The Killer should be at the top of your list. I can’t recommend it higher.
Around this same time, connecting tonally and thematically, I came across a hidden gem of a film: Allen Baron’s 1961 Blast of Silence. It’s an American noir film, though in the vein of French noir—long takes, spare dialogue…it could’ve been made by Melville himself. The film is available, thanks to Criterion, on DVD; for decades its only appearances was at film festivals, where it was regularly met with praise. In the spirit of film fests, I’m considering including it in my own, a French Noir fest I’m planning for the fall.