Film Midterm 7
“Serie noire” detective novels
· Film Noir, literally “black film” is the name the French critics called the new films coming out of America after WW2.
· They perceived a new mood of cynicism, darkness and despair in certain crime films and melodramas they had never seen in American films before.
· The term actually came from “serie noire” detective novels which were popular in France at the time, many of them were translations of works by members of the “hard boiled” school of American crime writers; such as Dashiell Hammitt, Raymond Chandler, and James M. Cain.
· Their books were frequently adapted into screenplays, such as ‘The Big Sleep’, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice”, ‘ The Lady in the Lake”, ‘Murder My Sweet’ etc.
· Film Noirs carried out pessimism to the point of nihilism by assuming the absolute and irredeemable corruption of society and everyone in it.
· These films thrived upon the unvarnished depiction of greed, lust and cruelty, because their basic theme was the depth of depravity and the utterly unheroic nature of human beings, lessons that were emphasized by the horrors of WW2.
· Most of the dark films of the late 40’s take the form of crime melodramas because the mechanisms of crime and criminal detection provide a perfect metaphor for corruption that cuts across conventional morals.
· It is precisely this kind of universal corruption which film noir reveals.
Film Noir/Influenced by German Expressionism
· The protagonists of film noir are all unsympathetic anti-heroes who pursue their basic desires or simply drift aimlessly through sinister night worlds of the urban American jungle.
· Moral ambiguity is translated into a visual style, which has been called “anti-traditional cinematography”.
· The pervasive use of wide-angle lenses permits greater depth of field but also causes expressive distortion in close-ups, an influence from the cinematography and lighting on ‘Citizen Kane’.
· Other features of the film noir style include the use of low-key lighting, and night for night shooting, both create harsh contrasts between the light and dark areas of the frame, where the dark predominates, paralleling the moral chaos of the world they represent.
The darkness of Film Noir
· Film Noir describes a period as well as a style or genre, for darkness and cynicism invades all genres in the late 40’s cinema, not simply that of the crime thriller and melodrama.
· Probably the most categorical thing about film noir is that both thematically and stylistically it represents a unique and highly creative counter-tradition in the American cinema which came from eclectic sources and were motivated by the pervasive existential cynicism of the post war era.
Pessimism of film noir
· Post War American Cinema produced the “problem picture,” a semi documentary melodrama of disillusionment and searching which rejected the epic heroics and idealistic values of the WW2 Propaganda and Populist films.
· The theme that all could...