Film noir is not just a black and white movie. It is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly such that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations.
- Urban environment
- Rain-soaked streets
- Seedy taverns, diners and rundown buildings
- Male detectives
- Dark alleys
- Dark lighting and intense shadows
- Graphic scenes
- Smoking cigarettes
Film noir was coined by French film critics, first by Nino Frank in 1946,who noticed the trend of how ‘dark’, downbeat and black the looks and themes were of many American crime and detective films released in France.
Is Film Noir a genre?
It can be argued whether Film Noir is a genre as some people believe that it is the mood/tone of a film. People believe that it is a genre as it has some particular characteristics which aren’t in another genre and sets it apart from the other genres as it is distinctly different. However, I’m on the fence as I believe that it isn’t a genre as most of the characteristics are seen in other genres, such as the use of shadows which are popular in thrillers and low-key lighting but, on the other hand, it does have unique characteristics which aren’t used in other genres and can be clearly identified as a Film Noir just like other genres can be identified.
Top 10 Film Noir Examples:
- The Big Sleep (1946)
- Chinatown (1947)
- Touch of Evil (1958)
- Double Indemnity (1944)
- Out of the Past (1947)
- The Third Man (1949)
- Lift to the Scaffold (1958)
- Blood Simple (1984)
- Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
- They Live by Night (1948)
Top 5 Directors of Film Noir:
1. Robert Siodmak (1900-1973) is best remembered as a thriller specialist and fora series of stylish, unpretentious Hollywood films noir’s he made in the 1940s.
2. Fritz Lang (1890-1976) studied at the College of Technical Sciences of Vienna’s Academy of Graphic Arts but unhappy with the career path chosen for him by his parents, he ran away to study art in Munich and Paris. After WW1, he became a story editor, then screenwriter and actor.
3. Otto Preminger (1905-1986) directed his first film in 1931, and came to the US in 1936 to direct on the Broadway stage. He alternated between stage and film until the great success of ‘Laura’ in 1944 made him an A-list director in Hollywood.
4. Orson Welles (1915-1985) was an American actor, director, writer and producer who worked in theatre, radio and film and therefore had a wide range of knowledge of the entire media industry as well as film.
5. Billy Wilder (1906-2002) was a filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist for more than five decades and directed 5 film noirs.
What Do I Think About Film Noir?
I have been inspired by film noir, mainly due to every shot being so aesthetically pleasing as when you pause it, that shot will be ‘picture-perfect’. I love the use of mise-en-scene and how it impacts the audience, especially lighting, costumes, make up and the overall atmosphere. I also love the storylines in film noir as they are all dramatic and include crime and drama.
MODERN DAY FILM NOIR
Pretty Little Liars is an extremely popular American TV show which is aimed at female teenagers and their directors were influenced by film noir and decided to make an episode based on it (Season 4 Episode 9) which was a very popular episode. They followed traditional characteristics such as lighting and costume as female characters are wearing dresses and make up from that time which is very seductive (femme-fatale).
This episode brought film noir back to life and made many more people aware of it, including me. It also inspired my idea for my film noir. Here is the behind the scenes of the episode which includes the actors talking about film noir and their opinions of film noir.