Jump to content
Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

Muay Noir: Where Muay Thai Photography and Film Noir Meet

Recommended Posts

I'm opening up a thread here to do some note taking and possible discussion on what I've termed Muay Noir, which is the engagement of Muay Thai photography, probably most explicitly Thailand Muay Thai photography (but I'm not sure), with the Film Noir aesthetic. My own photography has been heading in this direction (see some of that here: muaynoir.com), and it feels like the same direction is being taken up successfully by others in the field, enough to think that something very creative and important is going on here. There is an affinity between the Thailand Muay Thai subject matter, and the Film Nor, and neo-Noir aesthetics. This is some of my exploration of that, inviting others to think through this too.

Reading a few essays on Film Noir this boils down some of the core elements of the genre, at least in the classic sense:

Noir Universe
 
existential crisis
 
self-destructive compulsion
 
alienation
 
feminine betrayal 
 
sexual thrills cost
 
fated endings
 
universe of moral ambiguity
 
good intentions produce bad results
 
or, from the famous 1955 essay "Towards a Definition of Film Noir" by French critics Borde and Chaumeton, 5 adjectives:
“oneiric, weird, erotic, ambivalent, and cruel”
 
 
Noir Aesthetics
 
low-key lighting
 
claustrophobic framing
 
shadows and reflections
 
unbalanced composition
 
great depth of field

more on Film Noir aesthetics written on here.

Some of my photos that have me thinking in this direction:

Arjan Not MMA.jpg

 

Sawsing Swagger.jpg

 

up.jpg

 

Sawsing Looking Up at her Husband.jpg

 

Fight 238 tipping point.jpg

 

Bank and Dieselnoi intense-2.jpg

 

Is there a fundamental concepts of alienation, a morally ambiguous universe, the role of the feminine (as betrayal or lure), the isolation of the subject aesthetically (use of lighting, composition), the psychologicalization of the subject (how faces and expressions seem to amplify in these aesthetics (thank you Instagram commenter, I've forgotten your name but not your excellent point!); and also the nostalgia brought on by the form, the old-timey, Old Hollywood theatricality (the throwback Noir film Raging Bull was mentioned by Dana Hoey in the context of this photo of mine), the rich sense of heroic, or articulate protagonist storymaking, how does this all fold together in creating both an artifice and a truth-telling?

What does it mean to photograph the Muay Thai of Thailand as any of these things:

“oneiric, weird, erotic, ambivalent, or cruel”

  • Like 1
  • Heart 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

To any sense of nostalgia - a return to the 1950s, which does have parallels in Thailand in that much or some of the country does feel anchored in a conservative or traditional past - must also be added the influence of what is often called Tech Noir, which could be oversimplified as "everything that flowed from Blade Runner". The unique and beautiful way that cyberpunk, Japanese anime futures and overall alien-ness became grounded in a backwards facing Noir world. Yes, replicants are running about, but a 1950s gumshoe detective is on the case.

Blade Runner noir.jpg

 

IMG_0800-550x227.png

 

t-Blade-Runner-1982.jpg

 

The combination of the future alienation, and throw-back aesthetics has a deep and satisfying history in our culture, and there is a sort of sci-fi, Blade Runner experience to many ex-pat realities in Thailand, though these seem quite far from Muay Thai depictions which already turn back up on the real. The Real. But, there is in that Tech Noir history a powerful sense of figure depiction that could play a role in what we could be looking for in Muay Noir meanings. I recent read through the Japanese manga Battle Angel Alita (1993) and its connective books, and was terribly struck by the force of its action depictions, the cleanliness of the lines (Noir contains excessive contrast, purifying the subject) as well as the emotionality of its characters while in action. It is a Tech Noir work of art.

 

Alita 71.PNG

 

Alita 22.PNG

 

Alita 33.PNG

 

Alita 14.PNG

Alita 1.PNG

btw, you can buy the digital version of the Alita manga here, highly recommended. The Guided View, cell-by-cell presentation is very cinematic

The possibilities of Muay Noir seem to reside in the confluence of these two aesthetic traditions. There is the classic evocation of Film Noir, with it's Raging Bull-like call back to a time of clarity and figure bas-relief, perhaps set against a morally ambiguous Universe, and there is the Tech Noir negotiation with the future itself, and the entire history of action depictions in manga and anime, with explicit action captures through bold lines/outlines, and intensified character states. Between these two shores: the evocation of the very old and classic, and the hypermodernity of the figure alone in space, lies the territory of Muay Noir, perhaps.

 

  • Like 1
  • Respect 1
  • Heart 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe it would be safe to say that what binds Classic Noir and Tech Noir is the morally ambiguous Universe (no clear heading or outcome (criminal underworld or the presence of evil in the former, the uncertain future and impact on technology in the later), AND the aesthetically/spatially isolated hero, or anti-hero, in such a universe, with an amplified focus on that tension. What does it mean for that matrix to be placed upon the Muay Thai of Thailand? The fighter in Thailand is a form of hyper-masculinity (for Thais: read Sylvie's Thai Masculinity: Postioning Nak Muay Between Monkhood and Nak Leng – Peter Vail.The fighter falls between the monk and the gangster. You can see this summation graphic:

The-qualities-of-Monk-and-Nak-Leng-in-Nak-Muay.png

bogart.jpg

 

Bogart-and-Cagney-header.jpg

One can see how this positioning sits well within the Classic Film Noir framework. The ideological worlds overlap in several ways with the protagonists of Noir. The hyper-masculinity fits the Thai concept of the fighter. For westerners, who enjoy a kind of exoticization of Thai culture, or maybe even more importantly, a Blade Runner quality of experience in tourist center cities, one can see where Tech Noir elements comfortably might work to express, or negotiate that truth. We have a hyper-masculinity portrayed in a classic way, along with the accompanying alienation and allure of futuristic possibilities.

bladerunner_1982_471-h_2016.jpg

Blade Runner Noir 2.jpg

At bottom it feels like we have an alienating, or at least delineating, morally ambiguous universe, supporting a hyper-masculinized protagonist narrative...a moral character cut out of space.

 

  • Like 1
  • Super Slick 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Ambiguity of the Female in Noir

There is an obvious connection point between Classic Film Noir and Tech Noir, in the figure of the female or the feminine. Classically, the Noir hero is threatened by the lure of the femme fatale, whose powers of attraction are magical ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic") and deadly. The femme fatale is a figure whose motives cannot be discerned, a character who operates by its own devices. This is modernized, or hyper-modernized in the figure of the fem-bot, an often highly sexualized version of femininity, who has powers that cannot be properly judged or anticipated, who operates with hidden motives and capabilities that cannot be resisted. They are one and the same figure brought forth in the two genres. The woman is "danger".

This Muay Noir photowork by Emma Thomas really strikes me as powerful for any number of reasons, but first and foremost of which is how it captures the classic femme fatale sexuality in the context of training, without displacing it. She's mentioned to me that my own photography probably influenced her edits.

the femme fatal in Muay Noir.jpg

There is a world of moral difficulty whenever inserting female sexuality in the male-coded Thai kaimuay, layers and threads everywhere. The traditional and the modernist projects collide, but this photo (go to the original posting here), for me, opens the door to the feminine figure that is buried in any Muay Noir juxtaposition. As a matter of sketching out the meaningful possibilities, what is the correlate to the female Noir figure in fighting? Who is the unpredictable, alluring, threatening, dangerous, surprisingly powerful, hyper-embodied "Other"? Clearly, the opponent. The feminine Other in fighting is all of the indiscernible, indecipherable qualities of your opponent. The cleanliness of technique, the unexpected powers, or motives, intentions, can rise to the android (mechanism / drives) in any of us. The automaton, is ultimately the thing that operates according it it's own laws [auto (self) nomy (law)]. Fighting, it might be argued, is the art of imposing your own law (rhythm, spacing, tempo), on the other. A completely, hermetically autonomous opponent would be, by logic, undefeatable (one of the fears of AI).

blade runner femme fatale.jpg   

Note: One of the most brilliant and subversive structural changes in the Tech Noir cannon is found in the Alita manga, where the subjective development of personhood unfolds in the figure of the female "bot", the locus of the usual projection of fantasy and fear. She starts out being given the literal body of a sex-worker (being discovered on a scrap heap, bodyless) by transplant, and passes through various bodies as vehicles and incarnations.

This isn't to say that the figure of the female, if any, is found in a possible Muay Noir, necessarily. But it at least opens up that space for possible interpretation or inspiration. With my own subject matter including female Muay Thai, I find that within Muay Noir, and female fighter depictions there does lie the possibilities for syntheses or resolutions. For instance, as Dana Hoey hinted toward, there is something transcendent or transmuting about this photograph of the Thai female yodmuay Sawsing Sor. Sopit, between rounds, when put in the context of the femme or most Noir:

Sawsing Shaking.jpg

It strikes me as a possible amalgam of the classic Noir pairing of the detective (fighter) and the girl (lure), the Brute and the Beauty:

Brute Beauty.PNG

 

 

  • Like 2
  • Heart 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Test Case

Sagat's Fists HD.jpg

This photo is perhaps the most "Noir" photo of all that I've taken, maybe in the sense of just it's purity of elements, its closely hewn simplicity of subject and aesthetic.

Now, as an experiment contemplate these fists in the context of the proposed Noir Universe:

existential crisis
 
self-destructive compulsion
 
alienation
 
feminine betrayal 
 
sexual thrills cost
 
fated endings
 
universe of moral ambiguity
 
good intentions produce bad results
 
Notice how the depiction of the fists fits within a moral/ethical direction. The hero/anti-hero is there, isolated in the moral ambiguity, the hyper-masculinity floating the black, delineated by the light. We can play all sorts of games of projecting values or moral interest onto images, and perhaps at many times they will stick, but the rough conceptual framework of Muay Noir, in terms of Noir Theory, does fit seamlessly with the work.
 

btw, I should note you can purchase prints of this photo here (with 50% of the profit going to Sagat, a legendary Muay Thai fighter of the Golden Age).

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 minutes ago, WaltZinkPhotography said:

 

IMG_9400-2.jpg

Especially that 2nd one, which is one of my favorite photos of yours for me. I've commented before how that metal riveting and the texture of his face create such an amazing rhyme. I also find it interesting that Classic Noir used great depth of field, but neo-Noir uses shallow depth of field (often) to further enhance the separation (alienation?) of the subject. Your is a perfect example of that isolation.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you! It's amongst my favorites, also. I find it important to make sure I have a second camera with a long lens to capture the corner shots. Then there's this one from Pattaya. I genuinely have a sense of dumb luck to get a photo like this. 

Next will be my portrait series in the Everest region in Nepal to highlight the people in that area. That could definitely go into its own noir setting. It'lll be fun to play with.

pattaya.jpg

  • Like 1
  • Gamma 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

14 minutes ago, WaltZinkPhotography said:

Thank you! It's amongst my favorites, also. I find it important to make sure I have a second camera with a long lens to capture the corner shots. Then there's this one from Pattaya. I genuinely have a sense of dumb luck to get a photo like this. 

Next will be my portrait series in the Everest region in Nepal to highlight the people in that area. That could definitely go into its own noir setting. It'lll be fun to play with.

pattaya.jpg

So beautifully Noir. Figure isolated in a morally ambiguous environment, illuminated. Also, so Blade Runneresque. Love.

 

Blade Runner Noir photography.jpg

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dana Hoey, an artist who I've had some preliminary discussion with before posting this, added this great comment on the possibilities of Muay Noir, bringing up Hong Kong Noir which is also a powerful inspiration source.

performativity.PNG

If I'm not mistaken, the glorification of the hitman (maybe apexing with Meville's Le Samouraï) had a significant impact on the cultural figure of the Nakleng (gangster) in Thai culture, as cited in the Peter Vail article above (nakbun). Hong Kong cinema has exactly the quotational aspect of the hyper-cool. That's a super important point in the Muay Thai of Thailand. There is always the sense that masculinity is being performed, and that the qualities are being embodied and acted out. In the history of Noir, from Bogart on, masculinity is stylized. I think that makes another good argument why the stylization of Noir photography fits with Muay Thai portrayals. It encases stylization withing stylization, making it at home. Does Noir complicate, or produce an inordinate layer between the viewer and the Muay Thai subject? Or, does it act as a prism to clarify and focus the eye on those effort at "cool".

I remember listening to Karuhat Sor. Supawan, a legend of the Golden Age, and a fighter who embodied cool, talk with Chatchai Sasakul, a WBC Champion, and also a fighter of the Golden Age. He was complaining that the Thai fighters of today no longer have charisma. Charisma was an essential component of the great fighting portrayals of the 1990s in Thailand. For him, and Chatchai who agreed, it simply was missing from contemporary Thai fighting. So, in some sense, as we add the Noir layer to Muay Thai photography we may be capturing the last bit of starlight, a vital aspect of the art, that already has dimmed in Time.

 

  • Like 1
  • Respect 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is the pragmatic element of shooting fighting at all, which is that its usually low lighting with no flash allowed - that kind of begs for noir!  I am not all that experienced with fight photography and I really enjoy yours, Kevin, and Walt yours too.  The coolness factor is interesting (this is a general remark so pardon me for not quoting); it is interesting how it dovetails with hyper-elegant masculinity.  In Woo films, the love story between Chow Yun Fat and his criminal adversary is this kind of elite level of masculinity, where one is not afraid to be "feminine" (big quotes there), insofar is one has love for another man.  Most fighting exhibits that kind of dark love between opponents that the layperson does not understand, seeing only aggression unless they actually pay attention to the hug afterwards if it occurs.  Sorry if I am going off-piste, but curious to read more about the coolness and charisma factor; is there a way to understand it as partially "female"?  Does pink (e.g. pink shorts) have a feminine association in Thailand so that wearing pink gear exhibits the highest level of masculinity in taking the risk of being feminine?  Love that Karuhat and Chatchai both mention it - both are remarkable stars.  And what is charisma but a sense of one's own iconic nature?  To be photogenic, to be glowing so that you never escape peoples' eyes or memories...  this is quintessentially noir by your definition although there are other sorts of lines of thinking (beauty for one) that threaten to crowd into the discourse.  

  • Like 1
  • Cool 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In a bizarre bit of Noir crossing, before director Martin Scorsese had produced his first hit, he approached Philip K. Dick for the rights to his Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, a year after it was published. Raging Bull would be made in 1980, Blade Runner in 1982. source

a bit of noir.PNG

Was he seeing Dick's work as a Noir film back in 1969? Godard had made the ground breaking Noir sci-fi film Alphaville in 1965. Trailer below:

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, threeoaks said:

Sorry if I am going off-piste, but curious to read more about the coolness and charisma factor; is there a way to understand it as partially "female"? 

Pink is definitely not a female color, at least not traditionally in the sense that we read it, boy/girl, but maybe it has some sense of flair. The Muay Femeu panache of elite starts like Samart, Karuhat and other very artful type fighters does carry with it I think some sense of the feminine, but maybe in the way that the artist, or the aristocrat has feminine overtones. With some elements of hyper-masculinity you can get transgressions into the feminine, for instance Hair Metal rock bands with scarves and mascara. I think the sense is that "I have so much masculinity, I have plenty to spare, and I'm not emasculated by these markers. The great, artful Muay Femeu masters of the age had something of that, like the singer or the movie star (as Samart was all 3). But, I'm not sure how much of that fits into Noir. I mean, Bogart definitely is counter-punctual to femininity in almost every way. Maybe as Noir became quotational we get closer to concepts of "cool" and its enactment, which then brings us more in the real of actress, pushed to the extreme maybe the masculinity of K-Pop boy bands?

John Woo's intimacy between men, maybe there is something subversive to the Classic Noir structure, the way that opponents mirror and complete each other. It maybe partakes in that same sense that I had that the "opponent" holds the role of the femme fatale in the Noir universe. The alluring, and destructive other.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, threeoaks said:

There is the pragmatic element of shooting fighting at all, which is that its usually low lighting with no flash allowed - that kind of begs for noir! 

I agree, the lighting sometimes provides great contrast and figure cut-outs. Plus some of the images we have inherited from boxing's past have that same figure cut-out that feels very Noir.  Again, we have the hero, cut out/off from the world, illuminated by light.

Film Noir Boxing Ali.jpg

 

Cut out Noir.jpg

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rembrandt Light and the Metaphysics of Plotinus

At least for me personally, there is an even historically older influence in the selection of Film Noir aesthetics, and even their root of German Expressionist film, and that is the very light directed painting of the Renaissance, maybe most typified by Rembrandt:

 

Rembradt Noir lighting.jpg

 

And then in one of the most terribly beautiful paintings ever, Velazquez:

velasquez noir.jpg

Juan de Pareja (1606–1670) 1650

 

Fpr me, what is exquisite about these depictions is that the characters themselves do not contain their own light. It is as if, and in many paintings of this style, the light plucks them out from the darkness. The luminosity gives liberty or Being. This parallels the philosophy of the neo-Platonist Plotinus, who influenced the Philosophy of the day. It was Plotinus's argument that a thing only had Being (substance, reality) to the degree that it caught the light. The "light" was the illumination of the One, which shined on all things, and brought all things into Being. Not to get very esoteric, but the notion is that catching more of the light gave you substance. Turning into Being, gave you more reality. This framework is what I see in this form of lighting figures. You find this sort of theory more dynamically expressed in the 17th century philosopher Spinoza. 

This is where it gets more interesting, for me. Homeric descriptions, especially in the Iliad, had a somewhat Noir-ish capacity to cut-out figures of action in the world. The heroes of the epics were often reduced, or captured in the very actionability of their selves. They gained a certain reality through their ability to act. When they acted heroically this sometimes would be reflected in descriptions of their shine, their radiance, which in some sense communicated that they were catching or showing a bit of their divinity. The glinting of their selves. I think in this sense the western heroic epic holds the philosophy of Plotinus's glinting of Being (theorized centuries later). The warrior "catching light", and in that sense rising above the mortal and the mundane. I believe in some way Noir aesthetic captures of fighters, or Muay Thai, even as they partake in the aesthetics that derive from Rembrandt, communicates this transmutation, and Plontinus' argument that the more light you catch, the greater Being you have. In Homer, the hope of heroes was not only to "win", but to be sung by poets (thereby gaining a kind of immortality), catching more light in a sense. There is also the Spinozist expansion of Plotinus which is that the greater your ability to act, to move, dimensionally, the greater Being (or Reality) you had. In some ways the fighter, in the ring, is acting out some of the most primordial and essential metaphysical acts, and you could argue that a light and shadow dominant aesthetic like Noir is ideal for capturing and expressing that.

I'm thinking something of these things for instance, in photos like this, where you can see the coming into Being, catching more "light" becoming extracted from the darkness.

Dieselnoi.jpg

 

  • Heart 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Noir Boxing References

Looking at these early examples reminds us how far the genre has drifted. These are stark, simple depictions, almost atomic, and the cynicism comes through in an almost bold, ontological way. Far from the cult of cool, instead an unnerving, existential situation.

Boxing sequence from Stanley Kubrick's Film Noir Killer's Kiss (1955)

An increasing disorientation of angels and movement.

 

The Set Up (1949)

opening sequence:

pre-fight

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is really beautiful, so many of these frames inspire me. A video essay on French Film Noir, written about here.

Some elements of French noir we recognise retrospectively, looking back (as it were) from vantage point of the later, almost over-adored American version: fatalism, doomed lovers, a melancholic portrait of city life and a visual style that borrows and develops lighting effects and camera angles from German Expressionist cinema.

But other elements strike us as being very different from Noir USA: the emphasis on everyday life and labour; a sharper analysis of fraught racial and cultural relations, even within the most exotic Kasbah; an earthier, sometimes infinitely more perverse sexuality; and a refusal of last-minute, happy-ending resolutions.

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A segment on Plotinus and light, from the philosopher Gilles Deleuze, setting up a possible metaphysics of photography, and perhaps a Noir foundation. Noir as immanence. 

Why does Being complicate all beings? Because each being explicates Being. There will be a linguistic doublet here: complicate, explicate…

…Why? Because this was undoubtedly the most dangerous theme. Treating God as an emanative cause can fit because there is still the distinction between cause and effect. But as immanent cause, such that we no longer know very well how to distinguish cause and effect, that is to say treating God and the creature the same, that becomes much more difficult. Immanence was above all danger. So much so that the idea of an immanent cause appears constantly in the history of philosophy, but as [something] held in check, kept at such-and-such a level of the sequence, not having value, and faced with being corrected by other moments of the sequence and the accusation of immanentism was, for every story of heresies, the fundamental accusation: you confuse God and the creature. That’s the fatal accusation. Therefore the immanent cause was constantly there, but it didn’t manage to gain a status [statut]. It had only a small place in the sequence of concepts.
Spinoza arrives…

…It’s with Plotinus that a pure optical world begins in philosophy. Idealities will no longer be only optical. They will be luminous, without any tactile reference. Henceforth the limit is of a completely different nature. Light scours the shadows. Does shadow form part of light? Yes, it forms a part of light and you will have a light-shadow gradation that will develop space. They are in the process of finding that deeper than space there is spatialization. Plato didn’t know [savait] of that. If you read Plato’s texts on light, like the end of book six of the Republic, and set it next to Plotinus ‘s texts, you see that several centuries had to pass between one text and the other. These nuances are necessary. It’s no longer the same world. You know [savez] it for certain before knowing why, that the manner in which Plotinus extracts the texts from Plato develops for himself a theme of pure light. This could not be so in Plato. Once again, Plato’s world was not an optical world but a tactile-optical world. The discovery of a pure light, of the sufficiency of light to constitute a world implies that, beneath space, one has discovered spatialization. This is not a Platonic idea, not even in the Timeus. - rabbit hole here

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another photo edit by Emma (origin)

Emma Noir.jpg

There is something revolutionized about a woman working on her own image, within the Noir framework which contains a history of the spectral projection of the femme. This edit contains the reversal of the contradiction in gender, autopoetically generated. Does it mean something different for a woman to be working in Noir, in the sense that they are more working IN the constructed Looking Glass to a greater degree, and therefore able to subvert or synthesize it?

 

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sylvie said something interesting the other day, about my Muay Noir photography. Something along the lines of, Muay Thai photography has too long been focused on the action, but you focus on the stillness.

There is maybe something about the use of shadows that produces a pervading sense of stillness, and this use of dark maybe is another thing that make Noir a compelling vehicle for Muay Thai photography. It allows us to open up the moment more, to catch the glimmer of immanence. or the foundation of a quality, or a relation. I think there is something too this. Shadows can slow things down. Non-being creates a bath of calm and rest. Of course shadows can also be used to produce tension and drama, a sense of dread (the father of Film Noir, German Expressionism), but for me they work in the other direction. The provide the conditions for a certain emerging, a revelation. Or perhaps a stage setting.

The Work.jpg

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A personal influence, which for me touches on some of my Muay Noir project are the frames of the filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, who often is Noir-ish, or German Expression-ish. If not familiar, here is a video montage of many of his films. I'm not completely sure what Tarkovsky has to say about Noir, but he does oscillate between the dark and contrasted, and also sci-fi subjects, working around tradition.

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This photo shot by lordk2 I think was a huge inspiration on me, and maybe says a lot about what Muay Noir can be. lordk2 shoots a lot in black and white, but his work really has lost me (our aesthetics diverge maybe). I really adored his much earilier Sumo wrestling series, some of the most beautiful photography of athletes I've seen. This photo is special. It contains I think to very compelling elements of what Noir photography can bring: Psychology and Structure. And I think this photo really propelled me in my own direction. I think it's important to ask what the difference between just turning a photo black and white, and bumping contrast and creating a Noir frame or exploration. I think it has to do with focus, the nature of focus, maybe. In any case this is a seminal photo. It's Sylvie fighting for a WMC world title maybe 3 weight classes up, with two incredible legends in her corner, Dieselnoi and Karuhat.

Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu Lord 2K - Muay Noir.jpg

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think a recurring, and perhaps substantive element of Film Noir is captured in the phrase:

A stranger in a strange land.

(Heinlein's title, but not the book, only the phrase.)

There's often a disjunction in Noir photography (when it's not quotational), like being out of Time, or out of Space. You can't say that definitively that this is a requirement, but is an important thread.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On the history of Noir. In this essay on the Noir found in the 1955 film Night of the Hunter, it is argued that while Americans may have created the classic Film Noir genre (preceded in time by the French), it was the French who created the concept in regard to those American films. Post World War 2 French audiences suddenly were exposed - after a 5 year absence - to triple billed films in theaters, drawing together their similarities. In this way it was from the start a kind of meta-genre. Derived from German Expressionist influences, born of post-war American social critique, and then recognized and theorized by French audiences.

Film Noir critics.PNG

 

on an alternate reading of the same history, "Paint it Black: The Family Tree of Film Noir"

Film Noir as social dark.PNG

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


  • Most Recent Topics

  • Latest Comments

    • I also think that we may run into some problems if we just define Thai hypermasculinity by the appeal to violence. In the West hypermasculinity is often strongly coded by shows of violence. I imagine you've read it but Sylvie's and my article Thai Masculinity: Postioning Nak Muay Between Monkhood and Nak Leng – Peter Vail is really good on this, taking the start from Peter Vail's chapter. We have to say that not only is the "nak leng" (prone to violence gangster tough) Thai hypermasculinity, but also so is the "monk". Both are exaggerated masculine ideals. And that's where the Muay Khao vs Muay Femeu battle plays out. Two models of hypermasculinity. I think the difficulty comes when we try to graft that historical duality onto let's say Greek mythology and Apollo & Dionysus, or even (Western) ideals of male and female.    
    • I think a really interesting place to start, and the metaphysically strongest foothold is your original appeal to Apollo as distinct, and the sense that (his/the) figure involves the movement from the inchoate (which in at least many societies is chthonic with female associations, though not categorically so). In at least the traditional aesthetics of Golden Age Muay Thai there is a powerful emphasis on distinction, readability, visibility, and even in contemporary Muay Thai you find the criticism of a fighter as muaymua which means indistinct, clouded. A very aggressive, flailing or windmilling fighter is fighting in an unreadable way. Muaymua. You find this in the importance of ruup, which you mentioned, which is ultimately taking the body as a sign, displaying posture, physical control, dignity, etc. A fighter who is off-balance, or who is bent over, or generally lacks readability has lost their ruup. This runs parallel to Buddhistic ideals of self-control. A fighter who cannot control their emotions also can't control their body-signification. This plays into your appeals to Heidegger's truth-event, art as visibility - though I personally feel that Heidegger got alethea somewhat wrong - which helps us understand that in a Muay Khao vs Muay Femeu (metaphysical) battle, both fighters are seeking to make themselves visible & readable. Distinct. I do think it is fair to say that Muay Femeu is further along the distinction spectrum, at least it does not risk lack of clarity quite as much in its style, as it often pays more attention to rhythm and timing (musical aspects of distinction and readability). And the burden falls upon the Muay Khao fighter to show distinction in his/her pressure fighting. Muay Khao legends are very insistent on this with Sylvie when they have instructed her. Do not rush. Find the rhythm, the beat. Make your strikes (which often are at close range) readable. Also, in this battle, the warfare that the Muay Khao fighter brings is to break the illusions of the Muay Femeu fighter's clarity and signified composure. You see this, for instance, in the two big fights that Samart lost (Dieselnoi and Wangchannoi). Once the spell is broken there is very little left. The Muay Khao fighter seeks to break ruup. But, I think it's a very complex thing to attempt to graft historical male and female expressions onto the inchoate>distinctness metaphysical spectrum, and arrive some beyond-history place. Yes, males (Patriarchy) have been placed at the top of most symbolic hierarchies, but Thailand itself in the 1920s-1950s adopted Western modes of gender distinction, specifically to appear more civilized, less deserving of colonization, more in step with "modernity". Siam was known to commonly not have strong visual distinctions between the genders. Westerners found this inchoate. You can see how historically contingent the application of distinction and gender may be. Also involved in Thailand is the basic tension between cosmopolitan (royal) distinction along those adopted and developed lines, and rural, provincial distinction which may have run along very different tastes and aesthetics. A male body of Bangkok princely signification may vie semiotically with the male body of Buriram signification. It's no easy thing to try and isolate some historical, yet transcendent "female" in this mixed history. In fact it seems like it is probably wrong to do so, or at least highly projective of one's own cultural history and presumptions.  The "ontology" that you appeal to in traditional Muay Thai, which is to say the ontology of win and loss, itself is conditioned and constructed historically. It relies on culturally developed aesthetics. Even if we grant that these aesthetics developed to reward distinctness over incoherence, the significations of that distinctness, what counts for distinctness, is to a large degree historically contingent. Thais say standing up straight is clear ruup, in Caipoeira it's the crouch. Also complexifying the distinctness measure, even or especially a great Muay Femeu fighter fights with deception and incoherence as a tool. Obscurity isn't only a weakness, it cloaks sudden readability. In some regard both Muay Khao and Muay Femeu are aesthetically mixing incoherence and clarity for effectiveness under that culturally expressive rule set.
    • I guess I may need to put some more thought into how I conceive of muay khao = female, because I'm having a hard time explaining it differently than I am, and it does not seem to be entirely convincing, haha. Yes, it is trying to set up a dichotomy for deconstruction, but it is also trying to conceive of dynamics of gender rather than cultural conceptions of gender. If the format of the presentation were different, I would have liked to establish the dichotomies of Ortner and Nietzsche first. I think that would have made for a more convincing case of muay khao being parallel to female, because it does seem to be more animalistic, and that would be considered closer to ''the female'' in the framework of Nietzsche and Ortner. Mainly it hinges on an understanding of gender as a continuum that constitutes it's pole through the immanent tension itself, rather than through substances at either end. I suppose that the way I see it outside of this attempt at establishing dichotomies for deconstruction is that muay khao and muay femeu both contend for the right to masculine identity, and both are at risk of being condemned as feminine; muay femeu for being too ornate and ''not having guts'', for not being aggressive and for not being strong enough; muay khao for looking like a dumb beast (many patriarchal societies consider and have considered women dumb, unfit for learning, see Aristotle), for not being able to play by the rules of man so to speak, for not being part of the order.   I agree with you that the strongest reading of muay thai is through your span of man-animality, but I wanted to try my hand at doing something similar with gender, because it seems to me (and to you) that there are strong currents of gender identities and dynamics in muay thai. As I mention in the presentation, I don't subscribe to an entirely social constructivist concept of gender, and so it seems to me that muay thai has something to tell us about gender that is more than how it is conceived at x time in y place.
  • The Latest From Open Topics Forum

    • I also think that we may run into some problems if we just define Thai hypermasculinity by the appeal to violence. In the West hypermasculinity is often strongly coded by shows of violence. I imagine you've read it but Sylvie's and my article Thai Masculinity: Postioning Nak Muay Between Monkhood and Nak Leng – Peter Vail is really good on this, taking the start from Peter Vail's chapter. We have to say that not only is the "nak leng" (prone to violence gangster tough) Thai hypermasculinity, but also so is the "monk". Both are exaggerated masculine ideals. And that's where the Muay Khao vs Muay Femeu battle plays out. Two models of hypermasculinity. I think the difficulty comes when we try to graft that historical duality onto let's say Greek mythology and Apollo & Dionysus, or even (Western) ideals of male and female.    
    • I think a really interesting place to start, and the metaphysically strongest foothold is your original appeal to Apollo as distinct, and the sense that (his/the) figure involves the movement from the inchoate (which in at least many societies is chthonic with female associations, though not categorically so). In at least the traditional aesthetics of Golden Age Muay Thai there is a powerful emphasis on distinction, readability, visibility, and even in contemporary Muay Thai you find the criticism of a fighter as muaymua which means indistinct, clouded. A very aggressive, flailing or windmilling fighter is fighting in an unreadable way. Muaymua. You find this in the importance of ruup, which you mentioned, which is ultimately taking the body as a sign, displaying posture, physical control, dignity, etc. A fighter who is off-balance, or who is bent over, or generally lacks readability has lost their ruup. This runs parallel to Buddhistic ideals of self-control. A fighter who cannot control their emotions also can't control their body-signification. This plays into your appeals to Heidegger's truth-event, art as visibility - though I personally feel that Heidegger got alethea somewhat wrong - which helps us understand that in a Muay Khao vs Muay Femeu (metaphysical) battle, both fighters are seeking to make themselves visible & readable. Distinct. I do think it is fair to say that Muay Femeu is further along the distinction spectrum, at least it does not risk lack of clarity quite as much in its style, as it often pays more attention to rhythm and timing (musical aspects of distinction and readability). And the burden falls upon the Muay Khao fighter to show distinction in his/her pressure fighting. Muay Khao legends are very insistent on this with Sylvie when they have instructed her. Do not rush. Find the rhythm, the beat. Make your strikes (which often are at close range) readable. Also, in this battle, the warfare that the Muay Khao fighter brings is to break the illusions of the Muay Femeu fighter's clarity and signified composure. You see this, for instance, in the two big fights that Samart lost (Dieselnoi and Wangchannoi). Once the spell is broken there is very little left. The Muay Khao fighter seeks to break ruup. But, I think it's a very complex thing to attempt to graft historical male and female expressions onto the inchoate>distinctness metaphysical spectrum, and arrive some beyond-history place. Yes, males (Patriarchy) have been placed at the top of most symbolic hierarchies, but Thailand itself in the 1920s-1950s adopted Western modes of gender distinction, specifically to appear more civilized, less deserving of colonization, more in step with "modernity". Siam was known to commonly not have strong visual distinctions between the genders. Westerners found this inchoate. You can see how historically contingent the application of distinction and gender may be. Also involved in Thailand is the basic tension between cosmopolitan (royal) distinction along those adopted and developed lines, and rural, provincial distinction which may have run along very different tastes and aesthetics. A male body of Bangkok princely signification may vie semiotically with the male body of Buriram signification. It's no easy thing to try and isolate some historical, yet transcendent "female" in this mixed history. In fact it seems like it is probably wrong to do so, or at least highly projective of one's own cultural history and presumptions.  The "ontology" that you appeal to in traditional Muay Thai, which is to say the ontology of win and loss, itself is conditioned and constructed historically. It relies on culturally developed aesthetics. Even if we grant that these aesthetics developed to reward distinctness over incoherence, the significations of that distinctness, what counts for distinctness, is to a large degree historically contingent. Thais say standing up straight is clear ruup, in Caipoeira it's the crouch. Also complexifying the distinctness measure, even or especially a great Muay Femeu fighter fights with deception and incoherence as a tool. Obscurity isn't only a weakness, it cloaks sudden readability. In some regard both Muay Khao and Muay Femeu are aesthetically mixing incoherence and clarity for effectiveness under that culturally expressive rule set.
    • I guess I may need to put some more thought into how I conceive of muay khao = female, because I'm having a hard time explaining it differently than I am, and it does not seem to be entirely convincing, haha. Yes, it is trying to set up a dichotomy for deconstruction, but it is also trying to conceive of dynamics of gender rather than cultural conceptions of gender. If the format of the presentation were different, I would have liked to establish the dichotomies of Ortner and Nietzsche first. I think that would have made for a more convincing case of muay khao being parallel to female, because it does seem to be more animalistic, and that would be considered closer to ''the female'' in the framework of Nietzsche and Ortner. Mainly it hinges on an understanding of gender as a continuum that constitutes it's pole through the immanent tension itself, rather than through substances at either end. I suppose that the way I see it outside of this attempt at establishing dichotomies for deconstruction is that muay khao and muay femeu both contend for the right to masculine identity, and both are at risk of being condemned as feminine; muay femeu for being too ornate and ''not having guts'', for not being aggressive and for not being strong enough; muay khao for looking like a dumb beast (many patriarchal societies consider and have considered women dumb, unfit for learning, see Aristotle), for not being able to play by the rules of man so to speak, for not being part of the order.   I agree with you that the strongest reading of muay thai is through your span of man-animality, but I wanted to try my hand at doing something similar with gender, because it seems to me (and to you) that there are strong currents of gender identities and dynamics in muay thai. As I mention in the presentation, I don't subscribe to an entirely social constructivist concept of gender, and so it seems to me that muay thai has something to tell us about gender that is more than how it is conceived at x time in y place.
    • Okay. But you are the one who included "female" on one half of the bracket. It was your schema. You may be saying that this dichotomy cannot hold, but even at the level of description it doesn't seem to describe the cultural facts on the ground, to start with. But maybe I'm not following you. I just don't see why a starting place would be Muay Khao = female, unless one is just trying to set up a dichotomy that will then be deconstructed. Are we starting with something like: Muay Khao is rural, rural is of the land, the land is often seen as female in cultures? Or, why isn't Samart "Dionysian"? He is ornate. He is gender fluid (in some ways), He is theatrical. I guess I'm just having trouble with the starting point, which is a male vs female division. But I will admit I might not be following it clearly. I do really enjoy and even love the broad strokes of your thought. And the presentation with all the performance/example is really beautiful stuff. So good. I do love the way you have brought diverse ideas and theories together. It's very good.
    • [again, I see you have responded to the above while writing, I'll just post this blind.] I should say, I think that these contradictions in representation, the difficulty in just popping most Muay Femeu fighters into a "male" box, and Muay Khao fighters into a "female" box, actually comes from the attempt to move from what maybe we'd call ethnography (?) to metaphysics. The contradictions actually, don't mean that it's wrong to attempt the theorizing, but rather than that politics and ideology complexify the entire problem. You touch on this in your presentation when you suggest that provincial males might see the aristocratic boys as sissies (ie, unmanly). That entire inversion of what is manly is at tension here. But, being very broad about it...the "critique" of urban sophistication is that it is "feminine" and the critique of rural strength is that it is "animalistic" or "stupid" (not that it is feminine). Any approach would have to incorporate these poles I think.  
  • Forum Statistics

    • Total Topics
      1.1k
    • Total Posts
      10.2k
×
×
  • Create New...