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TCM Presents Into Darkness: Investigating Film Noir

June 5, 2015 3:40 a.m.

Today kicks off "Summer of Darkness" on Turner Classic Movies. The cable network will air an unprecedented 24 hours of films noir every Friday in June and July. At the same time, TCM is offering a free online noir history class. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando is taking the class and says TCM is expanding the notion of what the film community is through social media and the Internet.

Related Story: TCM Offers Free Online Film Noir Class

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

HOST INTRO: Today kicks off "Summer of Darkness" on Turner Classic Movies. The cable network will air an unprecedented 24 hours of films noir every Friday in June and July. At the same time, TCM is offering a free online noir history class. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando is taking the class and says TCM is expanding the notion of what the film community is through social media and the Internet.

Noir always involves a dame…

TOO LATE FOR TEARS: What do I call you besides stupid?

A tough dame, and one that makes you want to sleep with one eye open…

OUT OF THE PAST: Oh Jeff, you ought to have killed me for what I did a moment ago… there’s still time.

Yeah, plenty of time for things to go bad. Professor Richard Edwards says noir defines a particular kind of humanity that never seems dated.

RICHARD EDWARDS: There is grim reality, there is a kind of dread in these films, these are not films that have a particularly happy endings and yet they are compulsively easy to watch because these films are made with such a fierce imagination that they experiment with the full register of what it means to make a film.

Edwards is a researcher into educational innovation at Ball State University and he’s teaching a free online course as part of Turner Classic Movies Presents Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir.

RICHARD EDWARDS: This course really came out of the desire to really share a love of movies to a broad audience.

That dovetails perfectly off of the popular cable network’s mission statement to share and celebrate the entire spectrum of film history with an engaged and growing community of movie lovers says its general manager Jennifer Dourian.

JENNIFER DOURIAN: We’re always curating the movies, providing context around why they matter and why you might enjoy them and how they relate to each other.

That’s where the self-styled “Czar of noir” Eddie Muller comes in. He’ll be introducing many of the films noir on TCM.

EDDIE MULLER: I don’t tell people what to think about a movie, I don’t tell people you have to like this movie but I do provide them with a context for this is what was going on when this movie was made and why it was significant at the time… I think it’s very helpful and useful for people to understand all that because it will affect their appreciation for the film.

That’s precisely what blogger Angela Englert wants.

ANGELA ENGLERT: I want to see some movies with some guidance that will give me a better appreciation of them than going into them utterly cold… and I’m sure that they have an active and abiding interest in curating material like this so that someone who is a neophyte or who just has a pretty superficial understanding of noir can be introduced to it without being intimidated.

They can also find support from a community of film lovers well versed in the shadowy world of noir. Professor Edwards says it’s all about introducing noir to a new and younger audience, and providing them with that curated experience.

RICHARD EDWARDS: If people are fans of films, there is so much more you can get out of watching a film with just a little bit of background knowledge of how these films work, how these films were made… and if I can help contribute to that conversation I think it starts to increase the ability to have more and more cultural conversations about the importance and the power of film.

To help achieve this, Edwards has come up with what he has called A Daily Does of Darkness.

RICHARD EDWARDS: We send out a five minute learning module by email every morning that involves a film clip from one of the films that will be playing on TCM Festival and that just gives people a moment to engage with the films for a brief moment maybe just over their morning coffee.

CLIP gunshots

Like this shocker opening from The Letter where Bette Davis shoots a man to death.

RICHARD EDWARDS: It’s really spurred on conversations on Twitter and at the TCM message boards as we create learning materials for this course we’re activating this incredible community of film noir fandom.

Miguel Rodriguez is an educator as well as a lover of classic films. He says he’s not a fan of online education but is excited about how TCM and Edwards are testing new waters. Plus with 11,000 currently enrolled, a virtual classroom is the only one large enough. Rodriguez is already an active participant in TCM’s virtual film community.

MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ: The TCMParty is on Twitter where a community of classic film fans watch TCM movies and tweet about the films in a sort of conversation… it’s almost like you are watching films in a living room with friends except the living room is the earth.

Blogger and journalist Will McKinley signed up for the class. He says there’s clearly a business angle to all of this with increased social media engagement creating potential new consumers of the TCM brand. But he doesn’t think that’s the bottom line for TCM.

WILL McKINLEY: TCM exists because people love film and the people that work there feel the same way so I think fundamentally at the basis of this is a love that transcends a profit sensibility.

And he loves that TCM is creating a community that he wants to be a part of.

WILL McKINLEY: Years ago if you liked something that was unique it could be a lonely experience, nowadays thanks to platforms like Twitter and Facebook, blogging, etc, lots of people who like the same weird things that you like are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it fundamentally makes the experience of liking unusual things less lonely and more fun.

BLUE DAHLIA: “It’s funny, but practically all the people I know were strangers when I met them.”

Edwards says noir is fun to investigate because you can never solve its mystery.

RICHARD EDWARDS: it will lead you down so many fascinating and interesting roads and make you feel like the journey is worth the bother.

Now there are 11,000 online travelers traversing those shadowy noir streets, and you can join their ranks up until July 19.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.