Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classical film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. 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 last depression.
The term film noir, French for "black film," first applied to Hollywood films by French critic Nino Frank in 1946, was unrecognized by most American film industry professionals of that era. Cinema historians and critics defined the category retrospectively. Before the notion was widely adopted in the 1970s, many of the classic films noirs were referred to as melodramas. Whether film noir qualifies as a distinct genre is a matter of ongoing debate among scholars.
Film noir encompasses a range of plots: the central figure may be a private eye (The Big Sleep), a plainclothes policeman (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, films now so described have been made around the world. Many pictures released from the 1960s onward share attributes with film 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.
Famous quotes containing the words film noir, noir and/or film:
“[Film noir] experiences periodic rebirth and rediscovery. Whenever we have any moment of deep societal rift or disruption in America, one of the ways we can express it is through the ideas and behavior in film noir.”
—John Briley (b. 1925)
“Cest à Paris que je me coiffe
Casque noir de jemenfoutiste.”
—T.S. (Thomas Stearns)
“The average Hollywood film stars ambition is to be admired by an American, courted by an Italian, married to an Englishman and have a French boyfriend.”
—Katharine Hepburn (b. 1909)