Some key characteristics of Film Noir include:-A specific visual style characterized by low-key lighting, deep shadows, and obscuring camera angles.
-Disorientation through plot devices such as a non-linear plot line, an unreliable narrator, or flashbacks.
-A sense of impending doom or hopelessness.
-Stories about crime, either from the perspective of the criminal or the investigator. These crimes often include robberies, heists, or crimes of passion such as murder or suicide.
-Morally questionable protagonists that are not portrayed in a sympathetic light. They may be mentally unstable, corrupt, have a criminal background, or be involved with criminals.
-The “femme fatale” – a mysterious and seductive love interest who often leads the hero into compromising positions. She is not necessarily a bad person, although she is most often portrayed in an unflattering light.
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Directors Jacques Tourneur, Robert Aldrich, Orson Welles, Nicholas Ray, Billy Wilder, John Huston, Otto Preminger etc. all put their spin on the genre and continually redefined what Noir meant. DP’s like John Alton , James Wong Howe, John F Seitz, Burnett Guffey & Nicholas Musuraca were the true artists, “painted with light” to bring life to these amazing Noir beauties to life. These are the films I enjoy the most from that era because they use light as metaphor, taking the time to sculpt and inform. These DP’s lived in the shadows, pushing the artform and photography as far as they could go.
Here’s a great write up
A celebration of my favorite movie genre, film noir. These words by a prominent film critic are worth repeating: “A black and white movie isn’t lacking something, it’s adding something: The world is in color, so we get that for free, but black & white is a stylistic alternative, more dreamlike, more timeless. Moviegoers, of course, have the right to dislike black and white, but it is not something they should be proud of. It reveals them, frankly, as cinematically illiterate. I have been described as a snob on this issue. But snobs exclude; they do not include. To exclude black and white from your choices is an admission that you have a closed mind, a limited imagination, or are lacking in taste.” – Roger Ebert