The History of Film Noir

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The History of Film Noir Film Noir literally means ‘Black Film’. This term was first coined by French film critic Nino Frank, who noticed a trend in the darkness of themes in many American films that constituted wartime cinema. Classic film noir developed during the 1940’s during and after World War two, taking advantage of the post war zeitgeist of anxiety, pessimism and suspicion. Mistrust, fear, paranoia, and bleakness is obvious in noir, it reflects the cold war period when the threat of nuclear annihilation was ever present. The categorisation of noir is very difficult to propose, The term ‘Film Noir’ was not recognised in the industry or by the audiences in the 1940’s, for example it was much easier to recognise a Western or Gangster movie as a genre. There have been many crucial disagreements about which category if any, film noir comes under, for example: *Higham, Greenberg and *Paul Kerr refer to film noir as a genre; *Raymond Durgnat sees it as defined more by ‘mood’ and ‘tone’; Janey Place describes it as a movement; *Jon Tuska says that ‘noir is both a screen style and a perspective on human existence and society’ A film noir will always be very dark and shot in cold rainy cities with very limited palette other than greys, blacks and whites. They are usually shot in city underside locations at night. The narratives are frequently complex, there will be voice overs and flash backs often adding to the maze like and confusing. You rarely know where the story is going or ’who dun it’ until very near the end. There will be expressionistic lighting, shadows cast on faces eg: through venetian blinds, and they wil... ... middle of paper ... ...vering boy, as a result of lust and romance. The classic ‘Femme Fatal’ had him exactly where she wanted him. Kathie is controlling the meeting, and the audience can see this through Bailey’s eyes. The atmosphere is tense and very uncomfortable. Notes * Charles Higham and Joel Greenberg: ‘Hollywood In The Forties’ Tanivy Press, London (1986) pg 75. * Paul Kerr: ’ Out Of What Past?’ The ’B’ Film Noir, Screen Education Nos 32-3 (Autumn-Winter 1979-80) pg 45. * Raymond Durgnat: ’Paint It Black’ Cinema (UK), Nos 6-7 (1970) pgs 10-11. * Janey Place: ‘Women in Film Noir’ E. Ann Kaplan, BFI, London (1970) pg 37. * Jon Tuska: ‘Dark Cinema’ Greenwood Press, Westport (1984) pg xv. * Laura Mulvey’s Article: ‘Visual Pleasure And Narrative Cinema’ (Autumn 1975) vol.16 no.3. Film Studies
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