Joel and Ethan Coen might be the two finest filmmakers working in America today. There are few directors who have captured more entertaining, accurate, or varied instances of the American experience.
Nearly all of their films center around some sort of crime or illicit behavior. Sometimes the protagonist is the perpetrator. Other times he is a victim or an unwitting bystander sucked into the chaos. Almost always though, the protagonist is a fool.
"What is your greatest ambition in life?"
"To become immortal... and then die."
Film noir is not easily defined. The actual words come from French and mean "black cinema." It was in France during the post-war years that the term was used to describe a certain set of Hollywood films that were saturated with a darkness and cynicism that was not seen before. These movies included The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), Laura (1944), and Murder, My Sweet (1944).
One of the sub-genres that defined classic American crime and detective movies was film noir, a style that was pervasive in detective films of the 1940s and 1950s. Film noir arose during the post-World War II period in the United States as a generation that fought in one of the most brutal conflicts the world had ever seen returned home to a changed America where jobs were scarce and the national mood seemed darker and more cynical than during the war itself.
"Would it help if I got out and pushed?"
—Princess Leia to Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back
"She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up."
—Private detective Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep
From sharp-tongued space princesses to Bogey's grim gumshoe, some of Leigh Brackett's most enduring legacies are the scripts she wrote for movies that are considered among the 20th century's very best.