Film Noir- Past & Present

11 Dec

1st article in our series on Film Noir

Unless you are a Cinematographer, Director, Editor or Screenwriter etc… the term Film Noir is often misunderstood by many (me included) as a genre. It was not until watching Christopher Nolan’s (non-linear storytelling film) Memento that I learned how influenced he was by Noir’s style.  In this article we will explore the origins and style of Film Noir plus, look into how it’s evolved today.

The Origin of Film Noir Style:  By Open Book

Many say Film Noir began after World War II and ended in 1958  in America.  James Ellroy (Author of LA Confidential) gives a great description of Film Noir  from the documentary Film Noir: Brining Darkness to Light. He states;

“Here’s what film noir is to me. It’s a righteous, generically American film movement that went from 1945 to 1958 and exposited one great theme. And that theme is: You’re fucked.” (Watch video below)

The video clip above is only a small part of the documentary Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light and highly suggest watching it in its entirety.

However, let’s revisit what exactly Film Noir style is?

  • Primary Characters: Both women and men are portrayed equally good and equally bad. There’s no favoritism.
  • Existentialist and Freudian themes
  • A lot of sexual innuendo’s (without the act)
  • Non-Linear Storytelling
  • The Story often begins with a narration.
  • The camera angles are often abstract to create the feeling of uncertainty.
  • Lighting is dark with a lot of emphasis on negative space rather than positive.
  • The most authentic Film Noir is Black & White film although there are colored Film Noir.
  • The movie Maltese Falcon is considered the best representation of Film Noir style. The story is set in San Francisco.

Film Noir Present Day Style: By Parisienne

Film Noir is still going strong with contemporary film consumers.  The Noir City Film Festival takes place in San Francisco at the Castro Theater.

Click here to go to Noir City

Out of the film recommendations listed which one is your favorite and why?

4 Responses to “Film Noir- Past & Present”

  1. comicrelief2 December 11, 2013 at 1:45 PM #

    OB and Paris,

    Thanks; great start for the series!

  2. littlebells December 12, 2013 at 12:00 AM #

    Thank you for the great explanation! I have always been confused as to what film noir meant and this was a great, concise definition. Now I just need to watch the examples to set it in stone.

  3. comicrelief2 December 12, 2013 at 4:05 PM #


    As far as recent movies go; all of these films could quality.

    • Chinatown (1974)
    • L.A. Confidential (1997)
    • Memento (2000)

  4. comicrelief2 December 12, 2013 at 4:28 PM #

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: