Noir, Now and Then: Film Noir Originals and Remakes, (1944-1999)

Noir, Now and Then: Film Noir Originals and Remakes, (1944-1999)

Noir, Now and Then: Film Noir Originals and Remakes, (1944-1999)

Noir, Now and Then: Film Noir Originals and Remakes, (1944-1999)

Synopsis

This examination of the cinematic style of film noir originals and their neo-noir remakes compares thirty-five films, beginning with Billy Wilder's classic Double Indemnity and concluding with Jim McBrides's Breathless. In-depth analyses of the films explain the qualities and characteristics of film noir, while providing critical readings of both the originals and the remakes. As this study reveals, the noir style significantly impacted American film and neo-noir remakes attest to its continued popularity in cinematic art.

Excerpt

Film noir and neo-noir are cinema styles that date as early as the 1940s and continue into the twenty-first century. Noir is a French word meaning “black,” and although “film noir” literally means “black film,” it refers to the mood of the films made between 1940 and 1959 on black-and-white film stock, in which a male protagonist is usually led to his destruction by a femme fatale and winds up getting neither the money nor the dame.

The French critic Nino Frank coined the term “film noir” in 1946, and the French authors Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumenton, in their seminal critical work Panorama du film noir américain, used “noir” to describe the films in a particular sort of American cinema produced in the United States from just before and after World War II until the late 1950s.

Some American critics cite The Maltese Falcon (1941) as the first real “film noir,” but I prefer to think of Citizen Kane and Stranger on the Third Floor (both 1940 productions) as the real start of American noir (with many pre-noir antecedents dating back to the early 1930s, such as Scarface, and/or either Odds Against Tomorrow or Touch of Evil (both 1958 productions) as noir’s terminal signpost. It must be said that no American director during that period ever used the word “noir,” nor did he or she set out to create a style or genre. It was the French critics who applied the term “noir” to this group of films that shared a similar photographic, artistic, and thematic style. Therefore, noir is not a genre, but an unconscious stylistic movement shared by many directors in 1940s and 1950s Hollywood.

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