Neo-noir

Last updated on 16 July 2017

Neo-noir is a modern or contemporary motion picture rendition of film noir. The term film noir (a term popularised by two French critics, namely, Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton in 1955),[1] when translated from French to English, reads dark movie, indicating a sense of something sinister and shadowy. As a cinematic term film-noir is used to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, neo-noir being the same, but with updated themes, content, style, visual elements or media that were absent in the films of the film noir period from the 1940s and 1950s.

Neo-noir, as the term suggests, is contemporary noir. These films are quite aware of the fact that they are harking back to 'classic noir', as can be seen from the tilted camera angles, interplay of light and shadows, unbalanced framing; blurring of the lines between good and bad and right and wrong, and a motif of revenge, paranoia, and alienation, among other borrowed 'sensibilities'.

Definition

The term "neo-noir" is a contraction of the phrase "new film noir", using the Greek prefix for the word "new" rendered as "neo" (from the Greek neo). "Noir" when used as an isolated term in film theory and critique is used as a short form reference to "film noir". As a neologism, neo-noir is defined by Mark Conard as "defining any film coming after the classic noir period that contains noir themes and noir sensibility".[2]

History

The term film noir (French for "black film" or "dark film") was coined by critic Nino Frank in 1946, but was rarely used by filmmakers, critics or fans until several decades later. The classic era of film noir is usually dated to a period between the early 1940s and the late 1950s. Typically American crime dramas or psychological thrillers, films noir[a] had a number of common themes and plot devices, and many distinctive visual elements. Characters were often conflicted antiheroes, trapped in a difficult situation and making choices out of desperation or nihilistic moral systems. Visual elements included low-key lighting, striking use of light and shadow, and unusual camera placement.

Although there have been few new major films in the classic film noir genre since the early 1960s, it has nonetheless had significant impact on other genres. These films usually incorporate both thematic and visual elements reminiscent of film noir. Both classic and neo-noir films are often independent features.

It was not until after 1970 that film critics began to consider "neo-noir" as a separate genre by its own definition. However, noir and post-noir terminology (such as "neo-classic", "hard-boiled", etc) in modern application are often disclaimed by both critics and practitioners alike due to the obscurity of such an unrefined genre. For example, James M. Cain, author of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, is considered to be one of the defining authors of hard-boiled fiction. Yet, Cain is quoted as saying, "I belong to no school, hard-boiled or otherwise, and I believe these so-called schools exist mainly in the imagination of critics, and have little correspondence in reality anywhere else."[3]

Robert Arnett states that "Neo-noir has become so amorphous as a genre/movement, any film featuring a detective or crime qualifies."[4]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ In the French from which the term derives, the plural is films noirs. Standard English usage is films noir, as in "courts martial", "attorneys general", etc. but film noirs is listed in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary in first order of preference.[5]

References

Bibliography

Notes

  1. ^ Borde, Raymond; Chaumeton, Etienne (2002). A panorama of American film noir (1941-1953). San Francisco: City Lights Books. ISBN 978-0872864122.
  2. ^ Mark Conard. The Philosophy of Neo-noir. The Univ of Kentucky Press, p2, 2007.
  3. ^ O'Brien, Geoffrey (1981). Hardboiled America – The Lurid Years of Paperbacks. New York; Cincinnati: Van Nostrand Reinhold. pp. 71–72. ISBN 0-442-23140-7.
  4. ^ Arnett, Robert (Fall 2006). "Eighties Noir: The Dissenting Voice in Reagan's America". Journal of Popular Film and Television. 34 (3): 123–129.
  5. ^ "film noir". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved 2009-02-10. Inflected Form(s): plural film noirs \-'nwär(z)\ or films noir or films noirs \-'nwär\

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