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Noir


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Film noir (/nwɑːr/; French: [film nwaʁ]) is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and motivations. The 1940s and 1950s are generally regarded as the "classic period" of American film noir. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key, black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression.[1]


The term film noir, French for 'black film' (literal) or 'dark film' (closer meaning),[2] was first applied to Hollywood films by French critic Nino Frank in 1946, but was unrecognized by most American film industry professionals of that era.[3] Frank is believed to have been inspired by the French literary publishing imprint Série noire, founded in 1945.


Cinema historians and critics defined the category retrospectively. Before the notion was widely adopted in the 1970s, many of the classic films noir[a] were referred to as "melodramas". Whether film noir qualifies as a distinct genre or whether it is more of a filmmaking style is a matter of ongoing and heavy debate among scholars.


Film noir encompasses a range of plots: the central figure may be a private investigator (The Big Sleep), a plainclothes police officer (The Big Heat), an aging boxer (The Set-Up), a hapless grifter (Night and the City), a law-abiding citizen lured into a life of crime (Gun Crazy), or simply a victim of circumstance (D.O.A.). Although film noir was originally associated with American productions, the term has been used to describe films from around the world. Many films released from the 1960s onward share attributes with films noir of the classical period, and often treat its conventions self-referentially. Some refer to such latter-day works as neo-noir. The clichés of film noir have inspired parody since the mid-1940s.[4]


While many critics refer to film noir as a genre itself, others argue that it can be no such thing.[13] Foster Hirsch defines a genre as determined by "conventions of narrative structure, characterization, theme, and visual design". Hirsch, as one who has taken the position that film noir is a genre, argues that these elements are present "in abundance". Hirsch notes that there are unifying features of tone, visual style and narrative sufficient to classify noir as a distinct genre.[14]


Others argue that film noir is not a genre. Film noir is often associated with an urban setting, but many classic noirs take place in small towns, suburbia, rural areas, or on the open road; setting, therefore, cannot be its genre determinant, as with the Western. Similarly, while the private eye and the femme fatale are stock character types conventionally identified with noir, the majority of films noir feature neither; so there is no character basis for genre designation as with the gangster film. Nor does film noir rely on anything as evident as the monstrous or supernatural elements of the horror film, the speculative leaps of the science fiction film, or the song-and-dance routines of the musical.[15]


The aesthetics of film noir were influenced by German Expressionism, an artistic movement of the 1910s and 1920s that involved theater, music, photography, painting, sculpture and architecture, as well as cinema. The opportunities offered by the booming Hollywood film industry and then the threat of Nazism led to the emigration of many film artists working in Germany who had been involved in the Expressionist movement or studied with its practitioners.[26] M (1931), shot only a few years before director Fritz Lang's departure from Germany, is among the first crime films of the sound era to join a characteristically noirish visual style with a noir-type plot, in which the protagonist is a criminal (as are his most successful pursuers). Directo




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