Film noir is a term used by the French film critics to describe American Thriller films in 1946 derived from the word Roman Noir (A Black novel) what the French use to describe hardboiled Detective novels. It arrived through political circumstance’s such as world war 2, cold war and a time of insecurity for America and Britain with the sexual identity reversed with woman being in the factories and doing manual labour while the men were left unemployed coming home from the war. Film noir was predominantly a ‘B’ movie (As in B side record).
Film noir has a style of cinematography that emphasises night time photography with high contrast lighting, occasional low – key lighting, deep often exaggerated shadows and oblique abstract angels that create a feeling of dread and anxiety.
The characteristics of the film noir:
High contrastive lighting: chiaroscuro (light/dark) this stylised visual style that reflects the moral ambiguity of our hero matches the stylised narrative and stereotypes within film noir especially in women. A particular kind of psychology or idealism is attached to our protagonist a pessimistic or malice outlook to the world and his surroundings and the setting what is normally city- bound the cityscape is reminiscent of German expressionism the setting normally composite of washed out streets and interiors the ill-lit streets what are seen as fraught with danger and corruption what reflect the moral an intellectual values being portrayed by noir plot components.
Another key aspect through noir is the feminine portrayal often our protagonist will have two key woman in his life either being the wife/moll with the golden heart who sees the good side only to our protagonist and the femme fatal the femme fatal is often the reason to our protagonists unresolved problems or past and with this comes a strange attraction the femme fatal normally exerts sexuality the ambiguity of our protagonist is parallel yet she has the dominance over our hero she will be in charge of her own sexuality at least until the end when she will pay for it either through death or through submission to the patriarchal system.
Film noir often categorised as a sub – genre to thriller or gangster movies however the style is used in other genres such as westerns or often melodramas this is why some see film noir not as a genre but more as a visual movement and in my opinion I agree the ‘genre’ arrived with great political unbalance and through cinematography represented the instability of 1941 -58 Noir is a powerful representation of cinema and with current affairs I would not be surprised if modern noir will arise and create a new movement.