I love a good noir tale. From the classic hard-boiled detective novel The Maltese Falcon (1929), to modern spins on the genre: like the jazzy-western anime Cowboy Bebop (1998) and the point-and-click adventure Grim Fandango (1998). A lot of my favorite fiction happens to fall under the umbrella of those grim, femme fatale-laden mysteries. No matter what setting they happen to lay in (Falcon‘s grim San Francisco, Bebop‘s envisioning of intergalactic bounty hunting, or Fandango‘s Día De Los Muertos-based imagining of the underworld).
The New York Times and MILK (vr) have shared a series of dramatic shorts, altogether entitled “L.A. Noir” (not to be confused with the other L.A. Noire). And they all take place within the same quaint, dimly lit bar. Primarily directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (though two are by Ami Canaan Mann), The New York Times has brought together some of the best actors and actresses of the year to perform in the brief minute or so 360-degree clips. Like Kristen Stewart (of 2016’s Certain Women, Cafe Society, Personal Shopper, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), who plays the role of an ill-fated robber. Or Ruth Negga (of Loving), who appears as a spiteful wife, ready to shoot dead her cheating husband. And the three generations of actors from Moonlight, Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhode, as they play a nail-biting, decisive game of pool.
you’re a character yourself
In all the varied scenes, you’re essentially taking on a different role. You’re no casual observer in these clips, you’re a character yourself. Be it a reporter hassling Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) or a lone gunman receiving ire from a young Royalty Hightower (The Fits). “The result [of this VR experience] is strange and thrilling, a new sort of moviegoing experience that puts you right inside the frame,” writes Jake Silverstein in a description about L.A. Noir: Great Performers. “[It’s] just a bar, a few actors and the single camera rig standing in for one last character—which is to say, you.”
You can watch the entire collection of 360-degree shorts below, and read more about L.A. Noir: Great Performers here.