Indiana University Bloomington



This project is based on the Post-liminary #2 from The Maltese Touch of Evil: Film Noir and Potential Criticism by Shannon Scott Clute and Richard L. Edwards discussing the creation of a database of clips from public domain films noir that could be organized to allows the recombinatorial rediscovery / recreation of films noir. Over the next year or so we hope to be adding to this database both in terms of content and the ability to create new criticism as well as new films noir.

Shannon Scott Clute and Richard L. Edwards discussion of this database from the Post-liminary #2 in The Maltese Touch of Evil: Film Noir and Potential Criticism follows:

We have suggested throughout this book that our recombinatorial experiment might attempt to find (or rediscover, in the anoulipistic sense of y rechercher) its fullest expression in a computer-based format. It is not hard to imagine, for example, how much easier it would be to re-order the noiremes if they were in a digital database. But we would also maintain that, in many ways, this book is part of a digital logics progression that blurs previous distinctions between forms of scholarship (the podcast as a serialized audiobook, this book as recombinatorial text, the potential database as serialized recombinatorics, etc.). It engages in a digital poetics that privileges converging and transmedia-inspired content, even while various scholarly forms will likely retain their specialized and distinct qualities for some time to come (the paper-based book as distinct from the digital podcast, or the computer database).

Of course, these digital humanities logics have already been plagiarized by anticipation by many members of the Oulipo. Italo Calvino's famous lecture on the role of cybernetics in the study of literature, “Cybernetics and Ghosts,” dates back to 1968, and the A.R.T.A. Project (which stands for "Atelier de Recherches et Techniques Avancées," or "Workshop of Advanced Studies and Techniques") has been exploring computer-based analyses of literature for over three decades.

In the twenty-first century, more and more scholars will be turning towards the digital humanities as part of their writing and research (including utilizing digital tools and digital publishing), and Oulipian-inspired works, whatever forms they may take, are likely to play a leading role in such developments.

In this spirit, we wish to propose one potential version of future remediation of our study—the M.T.O.E. Project (an acronym for "Maltese Touch of Evil" Project). The M.T.O.E. Project would be a participatory, procedural (and ultimately, perhaps, encyclopedic) database dedicated to film noir. One goal of the project would be to build a database of noiremes to support the activities of online film noir communities. Given that the database would be in a digital format, the potential exists to add more than still images, and a robust version of this idea would seek to allow sound and video clips. The M.T.O.E. project would allow for the continuation of the experiment begun in Chapter Five of this book.

If properly conceived, such a database should also allow the user not only to recombine existing noiremes, but to define and invent their own noiremes and constraints to aid further synoulipistic and anoulipistic investigations into film noir. As is the case with the A.R.T.A. Project, the greatest benefits are born of computers aiding the reader to engage in multiple and unanticipated ways with the texts. The M.T.O.E. Project would be fully oulipian in that it would be designed to be a "creation that creates" (création crééante) new analyses of existing films noir and new noir narratives (or even noir films).

The role of the reader would be decisive in such a database. In fact, the reader would always be, in some sense, an author in the M.T.O.E. Project. This is in keeping with the procedural and participatory logics of digital networks and oulipian sewing circles (and our own studies of film noir). The M.T.O.E. Project would need to be an "open text" to allow users and readers to add their own investigative notes, to tag or annotate the filmic material with further information and metadata, author new noiremes, and create constraints for resequencing existing noiremes or stimulating the production of new ones (percent of a frame in shadow, number of times "Baby" is uttered in one scene of a screenplay, etc.) Such a project would become a dynamic scaffolding in the Oulipian sense, and would therefore serve the study of noir with great éclat.

The idea is to expand the sewing circle in order to embroider a larger tapestry of noir. The potential of such a digitally-accessible ouvroir is immense, and could prove immensely satisfying—with fans, scholars and filmmakers coming together to share their love and knowledge of film noir.

The database has taken 20 public domain films noir and divided each movie into 100 segments. The length of the segment is based on the length of the movie. If the movie is, say, 100 minutes, then each segment would be 60 seconds; if the movie is 110 minutes, then each segment is 66 seconds and so on through all the movies. Each segment is assigned a tag for the segment sequence. Tag 10 is the tenth segment, tag 50 is the middle and so on. When browsing by tag you can then click on tag 40 and be shown the 40th segment from all twenty movies.