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Film Noir Essay

1057 words - 5 pages

Intro to Film
10/25/11

Film Noir


Film Noir is a term first used by some French critics to describe a group of American films made during and after World War II. The term Film Noir means black or dark cinema. Film noir is the classic period saying to have occurred between 1941 and 1958, beginning with John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon and ending with Orson Welle’s Touch of Evil. Film Noir is identified by its constant opposition of light and shadow, oblique camera angles, and the ways characters are placed in unconventional or awkward positions with particular shots. (Conrad, 2006, pp1-8)
Themes that characterize Film Noir include inversions of traditional values, the feeling of ...view middle of the document...

Its stories and narrative patterns come from American hard-boiled fiction. Many noirs are crime films like the conventional thriller or gangster films with the exception of the characters of noir films having a lack of morals and are often unquestionably evil. An example of this is in the film, Touch of Evil (1958), by Orson Welles where a Mexican lawman names Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston) is honeymooning in a border town where he discovers a corrupt American lawman, Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) is collaborating with the very narcotics operation he is investigating. The film has elements of good and evil where there are good characters like Vargas and bad ones like Quinlan along with the elements of morals and ethics where some of the bad guys are actually police officers.
Film noir also has a consistent element of Realism. There is a sense of realism throughout the whole production of film noir such as with the location, the scenes, the action, the depiction of violent crimes, and the realistic characters involved. The tone and mood of film noir is not distorted but instead has a sense of reality and captures a dark and crime-ridden sense of the world as it may be or often is. (Conrad, 2006, pp24,25)
Often film noirs feature a femme fatale. This young, attractive female is a worldly woman who thinks and acts dangerously. She is often manipulative, evasive, sexy, and even lethal; especially to the men who dare to try and swoon her. One example is the film, Gun Crazy (1950) by Joseph H. Lewis. In the film, Bart Tare (John Dall) is an ex-Army man who has a lifelong fixation with guns. After breaking and entering and stealing a gun when he was 14, Tare was sent to reform school. After he's grown up, he comes back to town and decides to go to a carnival where he meets an attractive sharpshooter named Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins) and goes to work at the carnival. They are attracted to one another and after both getting fired, they embark on a crime spree for cash. (Phillips, 2005, pp. 304)
Well known film noir directors include Jules Dassin, John Huston, Orson Welles,...

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