Dark movie

Film noir ( / f ɪ l m n w ɑːr / ; French pronunciation: [nwaʁ movie] ) is a cinematic term used to describe Primarily stylish Hollywood crime dramas , PARTICULARLY That EMPHASIZE Such cynical attitudes and sexual motivations . Hollywood’s classical black film period is considered as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Black film 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 black attitude derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression .

The term black film , French for “black film” (literal) or “dark film”, [2] first applied to Hollywood films by French critic Nino Frank in 1946, was unrecognized by most American film industry professionals era. [3] Cinema historians and critics defined the category retrospectively. Before the notion was widely adopted in the 1970s, many of the classic black films [a]were referred to as ” melodramas “. Film noir qualifies as a distinct genre is a matter of ongoing debate among scholars.

Black film covers a range of plots: the central figure may be a private investigator ( The Big Sleep ), a plainclothes policeman ( The Big Heat ), an aging boxer ( The Set-Up ), hapless grifter ( Night and the City ) , a law-abiding citizen lured into a life of crime ( Gun Crazy ), or simply a victim of circumstance ( DOA ). Although black film was originally associated with American productions, movies now have been made around the world. Many pictures released from the 1960s onward share attributes with black filmof the classical period, and often treat their conventions self-referentially . Some references to such later-day works as neo-black . The clichés of black film have inspired parody since the mid-1940s.

Problems of definition

The questions of what defines black film, and what is out of category, provoke continuing debate. [4] “We’d be oversimplifying things in calling black film oneiric , strange , erotic , ambivalent , and cruel […]” – this set of attributes is the first of many attempts to define black film made by French critics Raymond Borde and Étienne Chaumeton in their 1955 book Panorama of the American black film 1941-1953 ( A Panorama of American Black Film ), the original and seminal extended treatment of the subject. [5]They emphasize that not every black film embodies all five attributes in equal measure-one might be more dreamlike; another, particularly brutal. [6] The authors’ caveats and repeated efforts at alternative definition have been echoed in other scholarship: in the past, at the time of writing, in the words of cinema historian Mark Bould, film noir remains an “elusive phenomenon […] always just out of reach”. [7]

Film analyst Eddie Muller writes, “If a private eye is hired by an old geezer to prove his wife’s cheating on him and the shams discovers long-buried family secrets and solves a couple of murders before returning to his lonely office – that’s detective fiction. If the same private eye gets seduced by the geezer’s wife, the old coot gets fucked by the police force – I can say with complete assurance: you are wallowing in BLACK. ” [8]

Though film noir is often identified with a visual style, unconventional within a Hollywood context, that emphasizes low-key lighting and unbalanced compositions , [9] films commonly identified as black evidence a variety of visual approaches, which ones fit comfortably within the Hollywood mainstream. [10] Black film similarly embraced to a variety of genres , from the gangster to the police procedural to the gothic romance to the social problem picture -any example from which of the 1940s and 1950s, now seen as black be described as a ” melodrama”at the time. [11]

While many critics refer to black film as a genre itself, others argue that it can be no such thing. [12] While black is often associated with an urban setting, many classic blacks take place in small towns, suburbia, rural areas, or on the open road; setting, therefore, can not be determined, with the Western . Similarly, while the private eye and the femme fatale are character types conventionally identified with black, the majority of black film feature neither; so there is no character basis for genre designation with the gangster movie. Nor does film noir rely on anything but the monstrous or supernatural elements of the horror film , the speculative leaps of thescience fiction movie , or the song-and-dance routines of the musical . [13]

An analogous case is that of the screwball comedy , widely accepted by film historians as constituting a “genre”: the screwball is defined by a fundamental attribute, but by a general disposition and a group of elements, some-but rarely and perhaps never all-of which are found in each of the genre’s films. [14] Because of the diversity of black, much like that of the screwball comedy, some scholars in the field, such as film historian Thomas Schatz, treat it as not a goal genre has “style”. [15] Alain Silver , the most widely published American critic specializing in black film studies, refers to black film as a “cycle” [16] and a “phenomenon”, [17]even as he argues that it has-like certain kinds-a consistent set of visual and thematic codes. [18] Other critics treat black film as a “mood”, [19] characterize it as a “series”, [20] or simply address a chosen set of movies they look as belonging to the black “canon”. [21] There is no consensus on the matter. [22]


Cinematic sources

Marlene Dietrich , an actress frequently called upon to play a femme fatale , in a publicity shot for Josef von Sternberg’s melodrama Morocco (1930)

The aesthetics of black film are influenced by German Expressionism , an artistic movement of the 1910s and 1920s that involved theater, photography, painting, sculpture and architecture, as well as cinema. The opportunities offered by the booming film industry and then the threat of Nazism , led to the emigration of many movie artists working in Germany who had been involved in the Expressionist movement or studied with its practitioners. [23] M ( Fritz Lang 1931), shot only a few years before his departure from Germany, is among the first crime films of the sound era to join a characteristically blackish visual style with a black-type plot, in which the protagonistis a criminal (as are his most successful pursuers). [24] Directors such as Lang, Robert Siodmak and Michael Curtizbrought a dramatically shadowed lighting style and a psychologically expressive approach to visual composition ( mise-en-scene ), with them to Hollywood, where they made some of the most famous black classic .

By 1931, Curtiz had already been in Hollywood for a decade, making as many as six movies a year. Movies of his such as 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932) and Private Detective 62 (1933) are among the early Hollywood sound films arguably classifiable as black-scholar Marc Vernet offers the latter as evidence that the initiation of film noir to 1940 gold any other year is “arbitrary”. [25]Expressionism-orientated filmmakers had free stylistic kidney in Universal horror pictures such as Dracula (1931), The Mummy (1932) -the trained photographer and the latter directed by the Berlin-trained Karl Freund -and The Black Cat(1934), directed by Austrian emigrant Edgar G. Ulmer . [26] The Universal horror film that comes closest to black, in story and sensibility is The Invisible Man(1933), directed by Englishman James Whale and photographed by American Arthur Edeson . Edeson later photographed The Maltese Falcon (1941), widely regarded as the first major black film of the classic era. [27]

Josef von Sternberg was directing in Hollywood at the same time. Films de son Such As Shanghai Express (1932) and The Devil Is a Woman (1935), With Their hothouse eroticism and baroque visual style, central Anticipated Elements of classic black. The commercial and critical success of Sternberg’s Silent Underworld (1927) was largely responsible for spurring the trend of Hollywood gangster movies. [28] Successful films in such genre as Little Caesar (1931), The Public Enemy (1931) and Scarface (1932) demonstrated that there was an audience for crime protagonists. [29]An important, possibly influential, cinematic antecedent to black classic was 1930s French poetic realism , with its romantic, fatalistic attitude and celebration of doomed heroes. [30] The movement’s sensibility is mirrored in the Warner Bros. drama I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), a forerunner of black. [31] Among films not considered black films, perhaps none had a greater effect on the development of the genre than Citizen Kane (1941), directed by Orson Welles . Its visual intricacy and complex, voiceover narrative structure are echoed in dozens of classic black films. [32]

Italian neorealism of the 1940s, with its emphasis on quasi-documentary authenticity, was an influential influence on trends that emerged in American black. The Lost Weekend (1945), directed by Billy Wilder , another Vienna-born, Berlin-trained American author , tells the story of an alcoholic in a manner evocative of neorealism. [33] It also exemplifies the problem of classification: one of the first American films to be described as a film noir, it has grown out of considerations of the field. [34] Director Jules Dassin of The Naked City(1948) pointed to the neorealists as inspiring his use of photography with non-professional extras. This semidocumentary approach is a substantial number of blacks in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Along with neorealism, the Review: had an American style Previous Cited By Dassin, in director Henry Hathaway ‘s The House on 92nd Street (1945), qui Demonstrated the parallel influences of the cinematic newsreel. [35]

Literary sources

The October 1934 issue of Black Mask featured the first appearance of the detective character Whom Raymond Chandler Developed into the famous Philip Marlowe . [36]

The primary literary influences were film noir Was the hardboiled school of American detective and crime fiction , led in early years by ict Such writers as Dashiell Hammett (Whose first novel, Red Harvest , Was published in 1929) and James M. Cain (Whose The Postman Always Rings Twice appeared five years later), and popularized in pulp magazines such as Black Mask . The classic black film The Maltese Falcon (1941) and The Glass Key (1942) were based on novels by Hammett; Cain’s novels provided the basis for Double Indemnity (1944),Mildred Pierce(1945), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), and Slightly Scarlet (1956), adapted from Love’s Lovely Counterfeit . A decade before the classic era, a story by Hammett was the source for the gangster melodrama City Streets (1931), directed by Rouben Mamoulian and photographed by Lee Garmes , who worked regularly with Sternberg. Black and white, Langs M , City Streetshas a claim to be the first major black film. [37]

Raymond Chandler , who debuted as a novelist with The Big Sleep in 1939, soon became the most famous author of the hardboiled school. Not only Were Chandler’s novels turned into major noirs- Murder, My Sweet (1944; adapted from Farewell, My Lovely ), The Big Sleep (1946) and Lady in the Lake (1947) -he Was an significant screenwriter in the genre as well, producing the scripts for Double Indemnity , The Blue Dahlia (1946), and Strangers on a Train(1951). Where Chandler, like Hammett, focuses on the character of the private eye, Cain featured less heroic protagonists and focused more on psychological exposure than on crime solving; [38] The Cain approach has come to be identified with a subset of the hardboiled dubbed genre ” black fiction”.

For much of the 1940s, one of the most prolific and successful authors of this genre was Cornell Woolrich (sometimes under the pseudonym George Hopley or William Irish). No Woolrich’s: 13th in all, including Black Angel (1946), Deadline at Dawn (1946), and Fear in the Night (1947). [39]

Another crucial literary source for black film was WR Burnett , whose first novel was published in Little Caesar , in 1929. It was turned into a hit for Warner Bros. in 1931; the following year, Burnett was hired to write dialogue for Scarface , while The Beast of the City (1932) was adapted from one of his stories. At least one important reference work identifies the latter as a film noir despite its early date. [40]Burnett’s characteristic narrative approach fell somewhere between the quintessential hardboiled writers and their black fiction compatriots-his protagonists were often heroic in their own way, which happened to be that of the gangster. During the classic era, his work, or as author or screenwriter, was the basis for seven films now widely regarded as black films, including three of the most famous: High Sierra (1941), This Gun for Hire (1942), and The Asphalt Jungle (1950). [41]

Classic period


The 1940s and 1950s are widely regarded as the “classic period” of American film noir. While City Streets and other pre-WWII crime melodramas such as Fury (1936) and You Only Live Once (1937), both directed by Fritz Lang, are categorized as full-fledged black in Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward’s black film encyclopedia, other critics tend to describe them as “proto-black” or in similar terms. [42] The film now most commonly cited as “true” black film is Stranger on the Third Floor (1940), directed by Latvian-born, Soviet-trained Boris Ingster. [43] Hungarian emigrated Peter Lorre -who had starred in Lang’s M-was top-billed, though he did not play the lead. He later played secondary roles in formative Several other black American. RKO , $ 56,000, is a modestly budgeted, high-end movie still in the world . Stranger on the Third Floor still lost its studio , $ 56,000, almost a third of its total cost. [44] Variety magazine found Ingster’s work “Too Much Wanted, Too Much”, “It’s a movie too arty for average audiences, and too humdrum for others.” [45] Stranger on the Third Floor was not recognized as the beginning of a trend, let alone a new genre, for many decades. [43]

Whoever went to the movies with any regularity during 1946 was caught in the midst of Hollywood’s profound postwar affection for morbid drama. From January through December, deep shadows, clutching hands, exploding revolvers, sadistic villains and heroines, tormented with deeply rooted diseases of the mind, in a panting display of psychoneurosis, unsublimated sex and murder most foul.

Donald Marshman, Life (August 25, 1947) [46]

Most of the movies are similarly low-and -removed with major stars-B movies or literally or in spirit. In this production context, writers, directors, cinematographers, and other craftsmen have been relatively free from typical big-picture constraints. There was more visual experimentation than in Hollywood filmmaking as a whole: the Expressionism now closely associated with black and the semi-documentary style. Narrative structures sometimes involved convoluted uncommon flashbacks in non-black commercial productions. In terms of content, enforcement of the Production Codeensured that no movie character with a spouse within these bounds, however, many features have been very risky for the time. [47]

Out of the Past (1947), a femme fatale , multiple flashbacks with voiceover narration,dramatically shadowed photography, and afatalistic mood leavened with provocative banter. The movie stars black icons Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer .

Thematically, black films were most exceptional for the subject of questionable virtue-a focus that had become rare in Hollywood films after the mid-1930s and the end of the pre- era era. The signal film in this vein was Double Indemnity , directed by Billy Wilder; Was setting the mold Barbara Stanwyck ‘s unforgettable fatale wife , Phyllis Dietrichson-an apparent nod to Marlene Dietrich , Who HAD built her extraordinary career playing Such characters for Sternberg. An A-level feature all the way, the movie’s commercial success and seven Oscar nominations made it probably the most influential of the early blacks. [48]A slew of now-renowned black ” bad girls ” followed, such as those played by Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946), Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), Ava Gardner in The Killers (1946), and Jane Greerin Out of the Past (1947). The iconic black counterpart to the femme fatale, the private eye, cam to the fore in Movies Such As The Maltese Falcon (1941), with Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade , and Murder, My Sweet (1944) with Dick Powell as Philip Marlowe. Other seminal black sleuths served larger institutions, such as Dana Andrews ‘ Detective Police in Laura(1944), Edmond O’Brien’s Insurance Investigator in The Killers , and Edward G. Robinson’s Government Agent in The Stranger (1946).

The prevalence of the private eye as a leading character in the dark film of the 1950s, a period during which several critics describe the form of becoming more focused on extreme psychologies and more exaggerated in general. [49] A prime example is Kiss Me Deadly (1955); Based on Mickey Spillane , the best-selling of all the hardboiled authors, here is the protagonist is a private eye, Mike Hammer . As described by Paul Schrader , ” Robert Aldrich’s teasing direction carries blackto its sleaziest and most perverse erotic. Hammer overturns the underworld in search of the ‘great whatsit’ [which] turns out to be – joke of jokes – an exploding atomic bomb. ” [50] Orson Welles’s baroquely styled Touch of Evil (1958) is frequently cited as the last black of the classic period. [51] Some scholars believe film noir never really ended, but continued to transform even as the characteristic black visual style began to appear and changed production conditions in Hollywood in different directions-in this view, post-1950s movies in the black tradition are seen as part of a continuity with black classic. [52]A majority of critics, however, look comparable films made outside the black film classic. They look at true film noir as part of a temporally and geographically limited cycle or period, later treating films that evoke the classics as fundamentally different to general shifts in filmmaking style and latter-day awareness of black as a historical source for allusion . [53]

Directors and the business of black

A scene from In a Lonely Place (1950), directed by Nicholas Ray and based on a novel by black fiction writer Dorothy B. Hughes . Two of black’s defining actors, Gloria Grahame and Bogart Humphrey , portray star-crossed lovers in the film.

While the black inceptive, Stranger on the Third Floor , was a B picture directed by a virtual unknown, many of the black films still remembered were A-list productions by well-known film makers. Debuting as a director with The Maltese Falcon (1941), John Huston followed with Key Largo (1948) and The Asphalt Jungle (1950). Opinion is divided on the black of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers from the era; at least four qualify by consensus: Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Notorious (1946), Strangers on a Train (1951) and The Wrong Man (1956). [54] Otto Preminger ‘s success with Laura (1944) made his name and helped demonstrating black’s adaptability to a high-gloss 20th Century-Fox presentation. [55] Among Hollywood’s most popular directors, arguably one of the most fashionable men in fashion; his other black includes Fallen Angel (1945), Whirlpool (1949), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) (all for Fox) and Angel Face (1952). A half-decade after Double Indemnity and The Lost Weekend , Billy Wilder made Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Ace in the Hole(1951), blacks were not so much crime dramas as satires on Hollywood and the news media. In a Lonely Place (1950) was Nicholas Ray ‘s breakthrough; his other blacks include his debut, They Live by Night (1948) and On Dangerous Ground (1952), noted for their unusually sympathetic treatment of characters alienated from the social mainstream. [56]

Orson Welles had notorious problems with financing but his three film noir were well budgeted: The Lady from Shanghai (1947) received top-level, “prestige” backing, while The Stranger , his most classic film and Touch of Evil , an unmistakably personal work , have been funded at levels lower but still commensurate with headlining releases. [57] Like The Stranger , Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window (1945) was a production of the Independent International Pictures. Lang’s follow-up, Scarlet Street (1945), was one of the few blacks to be officially censored: filled with erotic innuendo, it was banned in Milwaukee, Atlanta and New York State.[58] Scarlet Street was a semi-independent, cosponsored byUniversal and Lang’s Diana Productions, of which the film’s co-star, Joan Bennett , was the second biggest shareholder. Lang, Bennett and her husband, the Universal veteran and Diana production head Walter Wanger , made in Beyond the Door (1948) in similar fashion. [59]

Before he was forced abroad by political persecution, Jules Dassin made two classic blacks that also straddled the major-independent line: Brute Force (1947) and the influential documentary-style The Naked City were developed by producer Mark Hellinger , who had an inside / outside “contract with Universal similar to Wanger’s. [61] Years earlier, working at Warner Bros., Hellinger had produced three films for Raoul Walsh , the proto-blacks They Drive by Night (1940), Manpower (1941) and High Sierra (1941), now considered as a seminal work in black’s development. [62]Black Heat White (1949) and The Enforcer (1951) had a list of stars and were seen as important examples of the cycle. [63] Other directors associated with Hollywood’s top-of-the-bill black film include Edward Dmytryk ( Murder, My Sweet [1944], Crossfire [1947]) – the first important black director to fall prey to the blacklist -as well as Henry Hathaway ( The Dark Corner [1946], Kiss of Death [1947]) and John Farrow ( The Big Clock [1948],Night Has a Thousand Eyes [1948]).

Most of the Hollywood movies considered to be black classic, fall into the category of the ” B movie “. [64] Some Were Bs in The Most precise sense, produced to run on the bottom of duplicate bills by low-budget unit of one of the major studios or by one of the smaller Poverty Row outfits, from the Relatively well-off Monogram to the Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) . Jacques Tourneur HAD made over thirty Hollywood Bs (A Few highly Regarded now, MOST forgotten) before directing the A-level Out of the Past , Described by scholar Robert Ottoson as “the ne plus ultraof forties film noir “. [65] Movies with Budgets step up the ladder, Known as” intermediates “by the industry, might be Treated as A or B pictures DEPENDING on the Circumstances. Monogram created Allied Artists in the late 1940s to focus on this sort of production. Such movies along-have-been colloquially Known as B movies. Robert Wise ( Born to Kill [1947], The Set-Up [1949]) and Anthony Mann ( T-Men [1947] and Raw Deal [1948 ]) made of a series of impressive intermediates, many of them blacks, before graduating to steady work on big-budget productions.John Alton , a specialist in what James Naremore called “hypnotic moments of light-in-darkness”. [66] He Walked by Night (1948), shot by Alton and though credited solely to Alfred Werker, directed in large part by Mann, demonstrates their technical mastery and exemplifies the late 1940s trend of ” police procedural ” crime dramas. It was released, like other Mann-Alton blacks, by the small Eagle-Lion company, it was the inspiration for the Dragnet series, which debuted on radio in 1949 and television in 1951. [67]

Several directors associated with black built well-respected works at the B-movie / intermediate level. Samuel Fuller’s brutal, visually energetic films such as Pickup on South Street(1953) and Underworld USA (1961) earned him a unique reputation; his advocates praise him as “primitive” and “barbarous”. [69] [70] Joseph H. Lewis directed black as diverse as Crazy Gun (1950) and The Big Combo (1955). The Dalton Trumbo , a front-features of a bankruptcy, was written by a black-and-white banker, and was shown in an unbroken takeover. [71]The Big Combo was shot by John Alton and took the shadowy black style to its outer limits. [72] The most distinctive films of Phil Karlson ( The Phenix City Story [1955] and The Brothers Rico [1957]) tell stories of vice organized on a monstrous scale. [73] The work of other directors, such as Felix E. Feist ( The Devil Thumbs Ride, 1947), Tomorrow Is Another Day(1951), has become obscure. Edgar G. Ulmermost of his career at B studios and ounce For the most part, we unmistakable Bs. In 1945, while at PRC, he was directed to black cult classic, Detour . [74] Ulmer’s other blacks include Strange Illusion (1945), also for PRC; Ruthless (1948), for Eagle-Lion, who had acquired PRC the previous year and Murder Is My Beat (1955), for Allied Artists.

A number of low- and modestly-budgeted blacks were made by independent, often-owned, larger companies for distribution. Serving as producer, writer, director and top-billed performer, Hugo Haas made films like Pickup (1951) and The Other Woman (1954). It was in this way that accomplished black actress Ida Lupino established herself as the female director in Hollywood during the late 1940s and much of the 1950s. She did not appear in the best-known film she directed, The Hitch-Hiker (1953), developed by her company, The Filmakers, with support and distribution by RKO. [75]It is one of the seven classic black films produced largely outside the major studios that have been chosen for the United States National Film Registry . Of the others, one was a small-studio release: Detour . Four were independent productions distributed by United Artists , the “studio without a studio”: Gun Crazy ; Kiss Me Deadly ; DOA (1950), directed by Rudolph Mate and Sweet Smell of Success (1957), directed by Alexander Mackendrick . One was an independent distributed by MGM, the industry leader: Force of Evil (1948), directed byAbraham Polonsky and starring John Garfield , both of whom were blacklisted in the 1950s. [76] The Independent Production ofSmoke of Success , despite the fact that the production of blacksmiths is a black and white, soul movie. [77]

Perhaps no director better than the German-born Robert Siodmak , who had already made a score of movies before his arrival in Hollywood. Working mostly on black and white film features (a figure matched only by Lang and Mann). [78] In addition to The Killers , Burt Lancaster’s debut and a Hellinger / Universal co-production, Siodmak’s other important contributions to the genre include 1944’s Phantom Lady (a top-of-the-line B and Woolrich adaptation), the ironically titled Christmas Holiday (1944), and Cry of the City (1948). Criss Cross(1949), with Lancaster again the lead, exemplified how Siodmak brought the virtues of the B-movie to the black A. In addition to the looser constraints on the nature and the nature of the production of energy, the nature of the production of energy is also reduced to a certain amount of energy. night shooting was often compiled by hurried production schedules; Plots with obscure motivations and intriguingly elliptical transitions were sometimes the result of hastily written scripts. In Criss Cross , Siodmak achieved these effects with purpose, wrapping them around Yvonne De Carlo, playing the most understandable of femme fatales; Dan Duryea , in one of his many charismatic villain roles; and Lancaster as an ordinary laborer turned robber, doomed by a romantic obsession. [79]

Outside the United States

Although the term “black film” was originally coined to describe Hollywood movies, black film was an international phenomenon. [81] Even before the beginning of the classic film period, there were films made of black film, for example, the French productions Pépé le Moko (1937), directed by Julien Duvivier , and The Day Rises (1939), directed by Marcel Carné . [82] In addition, Mexico experienced a vibrant film noir period from roughly 1946 to 1952, which was around the same time black film was blossoming in the US [83]

During the period, there were many films produced in Europe, particularly in France, that share elements of style, theme, and sensibility with American film noir and may be included in the genre’s canon. In certain cases, the interrelationship with Hollywood black is obvious: American-born director Jules Dassin moved to France in the early 1950s as a result of the Hollywood blacklist , and made one of the most famous French black film, Rififi (1955). Other well-known French films often classified as black include Quai des Orfèvres (1947) and Les Diaboliques (1955), both directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot . Gold Helmet (1952),Do not touch Grisbi (1954), and Le Trou (1960) directed by Jacques Becker ; and Elevator for the Scaffold (1958), directed by Louis Malle . French director Jean-Pierre Melville is widely recognized for his tragic, minimalist film noir- Bob le flambeur(1955), from the classic period, was followed by Le Doulos (1962), The second breath (1966), The Samurai (1967) , and The Red Circle (1970). [84]

Scholar Andrew Spicer argues that British black film evidences a greater debt than French poetic realism than the expressionistic American fashion of black. [85] Examples of British black from the classic period include Brighton Rock (1947), directed by John Boulting ; They Made Me a Fugitive (1947), directed by Alberto Cavalcanti ; The Small Back Room (1948), directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger ; The October Man (1950), directed by Roy Ward Baker ; and Cast a Dark Shadow (1955), directed by Lewis Gilbert .Terence Fisher directed several low-budget thrillers in a black fashion for Hammer Film Productions , including The Last Page (aka Man Bait , 1952), Stolen Face (1952), and Murder by Proxy(aka Blackout , 1954). Before leaving for France, Jules Dassin had been forced to shoot his last English-language film of the classic black period in Great Britain: Night and the City(1950). Though it was conceived in the United States and was not only directed by the American actors Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney-it is technically a UK production, financed by 20th Century-Fox’s British subsidiary. Reviews The most famous of British classic black is director Carol Reed ‘s The Third Man (1949), from a screenplay by Graham Greene . Set in Vienna immediately after World War II, two American actors, Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles , who had appeared together in Citizen Kane . [86]

Elsewhere, Italian director Luchino Visconti adapted Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice as Ossessione (1943), as well as one of the great blacks and a seminal film in the development of neorealism. [87] (This was not even the first screen version of Cain’s novel, having been preceded by the French The Last Turning in 1939.) [88] In Japan, the celebrated Akira Kurosawa directed several black film recognizable films, including Drunken Angel (1948), Stray Dog (1949), The Bad Sleep Well (1960), and High and Low (1963). [89]

Among the first major neo-noir films-the term often applied to films that consciously refer back to the black classic tradition-was the French Shoot the pianist (1960), directed by François Truffaut from a novel by the American gloomiest black fiction writers, David Goodis . [90] Black crime films and melodramas have been produced in many countries in the post-classic area. Some of these are quintessentially self-aware neo-black-for-example, Il Conformista (1969, Italy), Der Amerikanische Freund (1977, Germany), The Element of Crime (1984, Denmark), As Tears Go By (1988; Kong), andEl Aura (2005, Argentina). Others are a part of the hardboiled sensibility associated with black classic, such as The Castle of Sand (1974; Japan), Insomnia (1997; Norway), Croupier (1998; UK), Blind Shaft (2003; China) , and The Square (2008; Australia). [91]

Neo-black and echoes of the classic fashion

See also: Neo-black

The neo-black movie genre developed mid-way into the Cold War. This cinematological trend is much better than the cynicism and the possibility of nuclear annihilation of the era. This new genre introduced innovations that were not available with the earlier black films. The violence was more potent than in earlier black movies. [92]

1960s and 1970s

While it is hard to draw a line between some of the black films of the early 1960s such as Blast of Silence (1961) and Cape Fear (1962) and the black of the late 1950s, new trends emerged in the post-classic era. The Manchurian Candidate (1962), directed by John Frankenheimer , Shock Corridor (1962), directed by Samuel Fuller , and Brainstorm (1965), directed by experienced black character actor William Conrad , all treat the theme of mental dispossession within stylistic and tonal frameworks derived from classic black film. The Manchurian Candidate reviewed the situation ofAmerican prisoners of war (POWs) during the Korean War . These incidents occur after the war that ensued, functioned as an inspiration for a different “subgenre of Cold War Black”. [93] [94] The television series The Fugitive (1963-67) brought classic black themes and mood to the small screen for an extended run. [95]

In a different vein, movies began to appear that self-consciously acknowledged the conventions of classic black film as historical archetypes to be revived, rejected, or reimagined. These efforts typify what is known as neo-black. [97] Though several late black classic, Kiss Me Deadly in particular, were deeply self-knowing and post-traditional in design, all of which were noticeable to American criticism at the time. [98] The first major movie to work overtly Was this angle French director Jean-Luc Godard ‘s Breathless ( Breathless; 1960), which country its literal respects to Bogart and his crime while brandishing a new day. [99] In the United States, Arthur Penn ( Mickey One [1964], drawing inspiration from Truffaut’s Shoot the Pianist and other French New Wave films), John Boorman ( Blank Point [1967], similarly caught up, though in the New wave ‘ s deeper waters), and Alan J. Pakula ( Klute [1971]) directed films that knowingly related themselves to the original black film, inviting audiences in the game. [100]

A manifest affiliation with black traditions-which, by its nature, allows different spells of commentary on them to be inferred-can also provide the basis for explicit criticisms of those traditions. In 1973, director Robert Altman flipped off black piety with The Long Goodbye . Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler, it is one of the most famous characters, but in iconoclastic fashion: Philip Marlowe, the prototypical hardboiled detective, is a hapless misfit, almost laughably out of touch with contemporary mores and morality. [101] Where Altman’s subversion of the black film mythos was so irreverent as to outrage some contemporary critics, [102]Sami around the time Woody Allen Was paying affectionate, at point idolatrous homage to the classic fashion with Play It Again, Sam (1972). The ” blaxploitation ” movie Shaft (1971), Richard Roundtree plays the titular African-American private eye, John Shaft , takes conventions from classic black.

The most acclaimed of the neo-blacks of the era was director Roman Polanski’s 1974 Chinatown . [103] Written by Robert Towne , it is set in 1930s Los Angeles, an Accustomed local black nudged back Some FEW years in a way That Makes the pivotal loss of innocence in the story Even crueler. Where Polanski and Towne Raised Black to a black apogee by turning backward director, Martin Scorsese director and screenwriter Paul Schrader brought the black attitude crashing into the present day with Taxi Driver (1976), a crackling, bloody-minded gloss on bicentennial America. [104] In 1978, Walter Hill wrote and directedThe Driver , a film as might have been imagined by Jean-Pierre Melville in a particularly abstract mood. [105]

Hill Was already a Central Figure in 1970s black of a more straightforward Manner, Having written the script for director Sam Peckinpah ‘s The Getaway (1972) Adapting a novel by pulp master Jim Thompson , as well as for two tough private eye movies: original screenplay for Hickey & Boggs (1972) and an adaptation of a novel by Ross Macdonald , the leading literary descendant of Hammett and Chandler, for The Drowning Pool (1975). Some of the strongest 1970s blacks, in fact, were unwitting remakes of the classics, “neo” mostly by default: the heartbreaking Thieves Like Us (1973), directed by Altman from the same source as Ray’s They Live by Night, and Farewell, My Lovely (1975), the Chandler tale made classically as Murder, My Sweet , remade here with Robert Mitchum in his last notable black role. [106] Detective series, prevalent on American television During the period, updated the hardboiled tradition in different ways, aim the show conjuring the black MOST Tone Was a horror crossover touched with shaggy, long goodbye -style humor: Kolchak: The Night Stalker ( 1974-75), featuring the Chicago newspaper reporter investigating strange, usually supernatural occurrences. [107]

1980s and 1990s

The turn of the decade brought Scorsese’s black-and-white Raging Bull (cowritten by Schrader); The American Film Institute is one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of filmmaking. The American film of the 1980s and the fourth greatest of all time-it is also a retreat, telling a story of a boxer’s moral self-destruction that recalls in both theme and visual ambience black dramas such as Body and Soul (1947) and Champion (1949). [109] From 1981, the popular Body Heat , written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan, invokes a different set of classic black elements, this time in a humid, erotically charged Florida setting; its success confirmed the commercial viability of neo-black, at a time when the major Hollywood studios were becoming risky. The mainstreaming of neo-black is obvious in such films as Black Widow (1987), Shattered (1991), and Final Analysis (1992). [110] Few neo-blacks have more money or more wittily updated the tradition of the black double-hear than Basic Instinct (1992), directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Joe Eszterhas . [111]The film also demonstrates how neo-black’s polychrome palette can reproduce many of the expressionistic effects of classic black-and-white black. [108] Poison Ivy (1992) makes use of similar devices executed in Basic Instinct , including a shady, seductive femme-fatal with ulterior motives.

Among the big-budget writers, Michael Mann has worked frequently in a neo-black fashion, with such films as Thief (1981) and Heat (1995) and the TV series Miami Vice (1984-89) and Crime Story (1986-88) . Mann’s output exemplifies a primary strain of neo-black, in which classic themes and tropes are revisited in a contemporary setting with an up-to-date visual style and rock -or- hip hop- based musical soundtrack . [112] Like Chinatown , its more complex predecessor, Curtis Hanson’s Oscar-winning LA Confidential (1997), based on theJames Ellroy novel, demonstrates a contrast tendency-the deliberately retro black film; its tale of corrupt cops and femme fatales is seemingly lifted straight from a film of 1953, the year in which it is set. [113] Director David Fincher followed by the immensely successful neo-black Seven (1995) with a film that was a favorite of the fans after its original, disappointing release: Fight Club (1999) is a sui generis mix of black aesthetic, perverse comedy, speculative content, and satiric intent. [114]

Together with much smaller budgets, Joel and Ethan Coen have created one of the most extensive films influenced by Black, with movies such as Blood Simple (1984) and Fargo(1996), considered by some a supreme work in the neo -Black fashion. [116] The Coens Cross with Miller’s Crossing (1990) -loosely based on the Dashiell Hammett novels Red Harvest and The Glass Key -and the comedy The Big Lebowski (1998), tribute to Chandler and an homage to Altman’s version of The Long Goodbye . [117]The characteristic work of David Lynch combines film noir tropes with scenarios driven by disturbed characters such as the sociopathic criminal played by Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet (1986) and the delusionary protagonist of Lost Highway (1997). The Twin Peaks cycle, both TV series (1990-91) and film, Fire Walk with Me (1992), puts a detective plot through a succession of bizarre spasms. David Cronenberg also mixes surrealism and black in Naked Lunch (1991), inspired by the William S. Burroughs novel .

Perhaps no American neo-blacks better reflect the black classic A-movie-with-aB-movie-soul than those of director-writer Quentin Tarantino ; [118] neo-blacks of his such as Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994) display a relentlessly self-reflexive, sometimes tongue-in-cheek sensibility, similar to the work of the New Wave directors and the Coens. Other movies from the era Readily identifiable as neo-noir (some retro, some more familiar) include director John Dahl ‘s Kill Me Again (1989), Red Rock West (1992), The Last Seduction (1993), as well as Gus van Sant’s To Die For(1995), and Andrew Davis ‘s A Perfect Murder (1998); Four adaptations of novels by Jim Thompson – The Kill-Off (1989), After Dark, My Sweet (1990), The Grifters (1990), and The Remake of The Getaway (1994); and many more, including adaptations of the work of other major black fiction writers: The Hot Spot (1990), from Hell Hath No Fury , by Charles Williams ; Miami Blues (1990), from the novel by Charles Willeford ; and Out of Sight(1998), from the novel by Elmore Leonard . Several films by director-writerDavid Mamet involve black elements: House of Games (1987), Homicide (1991), The Spanish Prisoner (1997), and Heist (2001). [119] On television, Remington Steele (1982-87) [120] and Moonlighting (1985-89) paid homage to classic black while demonstrating an unusual appreciation of the sense of humor often found in the original cycle. [121] Between 1983 and 1989, Mickey Spillane’s hard-shelled private eye Mike Hammer was played with wry gusto by Stacy Keach in a seriesand several stand-alone television films (an unsuccessful revival followed in 1997-98). The British Miniseries The Singing Detective (1986), written by Dennis Potter , tells the story of a mystery writer named Philip Marlow; in the midst of the greatest television productions of all time. [122]

2000s and 2010s

The Coens referenced the black tradition again with The Man Who Was Not There (2001); a black-and-white crime melodrama set in 1949, it features a scene apparently staged to mirror one of the past pictured above. Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001) continued in his characteristic vein, making the classic black setting of Los Angeles the coming for a black-inflected psychological jigsaw puzzle. British-born director Christopher Nolan’s black-and-white debut, Following (1998), was an overt homage to classic black. During the new century’s first decade, he was one of the leading Hollywood directors of neo-black with the acclaimed Memento (2000) and the remake of Insomnia(2002). [123]

Director Sean Penn ‘s The Pledge (2001), though adapted from a very self-reflexive novel by Friedrich Dürrenmatt , plays straight black Comparatively, to Devastating effect. [124] Screenwriter David Ayer updated the classic black bad-cop tale, typified by Shield for Murder (1954) and Rogue Cop (1954), with his scripts for Training Day (2001) and, adapting a story by James Ellroy, Dark Blue (2002); he later wrote and directed the even darker Harsh Times(2006). Michael Mann’s Collateral (2004) Tom Cruiseas an assassin in the lineage of The Samurai . The Torments of The Machinist (2004), directed by Brad Anderson , evokes both Fight Club and Memento . [125] In 2005, Shane Black directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang , basing His screenplay in hand was a crime novel by Brett Halliday , Who His First published stories back in the 1920s. The film plays with an awareness not only of classic black but also of neo-black reflexivity itself. [126]

With ultra-violent films such as Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and Thirst (2009), Park Chan-wook of South Korea has been the most prominent director of the United States to work regularly in a fashion in the new millennium . [128] The most commercially successful neo-black of this period has been Sin City (2005), directed by Robert Rodriguez in extravagantly stylized black and white with the odd bit of color. [129] The film is based on a series of comic books created by Frank Miller(credited as the film’s codirector), which are in turn openly indebted to the works of Spillane and other pulp mystery authors. [130] Another comic book adaptation with similar style and elements is The Spirit (2008). This film is adapted from the comic book of the same name by Will Eisner . Similarly, graphic novels provide the basis for Road to Perdition (2002), directed by Sam Mendes , and A History of Violence (2005), directed by David Cronenberg ; the latest voted annual best village of the year Village Voice poll. [131] Writer-directorRian Johnson ‘s Brick (2005), featuring a high schooler ‘ s presentation of high schoolers’ version of 1930s hardboiled slang, won the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at the Sundance Film Festival . The television series Veronica Mars (2004-07) also brought a youth-oriented twist to black film. Examples of this generic crossover have been dubbed black teen . [132]

Neo-noir movies released in the 2010s include Kim Jee-woon ‘s I Saw the Devil (2010), Fred Cavayé’s Point Blank (2010), Na Hong-jin ‘s The Yellow Sea (2010), Nicolas Winding Refn ‘s Drive (2011), [133] and Claire Denis ‘ Bastards (2013). [134] [135]

Black science fiction

Harrison Ford detective Rick Deckard in Blade Runner (1982). Like many classic blacks, the movie is set in a Los Angeles version where it constantly rains. [136] The steam in the foreground is a familiar black trope, while the “bluish-smoky exterior” updates the black-and-white mode. [137]

In the post-classic era, a significant trend in black crossovers has involved science fiction . In Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville (1965), Lemmy Caution is the name of the old-school private eye in the city of tomorrow. The Groundstar Conspiracy (1972) centers on another implacable investigator and an amnesiac named Welles. Soylent Green (1973), the first major American example, portrays a dystopian, near-future world via a self-evidently black detection plot; Charlton Heston starring (the lead in Touch of Evil ), Joseph Cotten, Edward G. Robinson, and Whit Bissell . The film was directed by Richard Fleischer, who had two black B, including Armored Car Robbery (1950) and The Narrow Margin (1952). [138]

The cynical and stylish perspective of classic black film had a formative effect on the cyberpunk genre of science fiction that emerged in the early 1980s; The most directly influential film on cyberpunk was Blade Runner (1982), directed by Ridley Scott , which evocated country to black fashion [139] (Scott’s later directed the poignant black crime melodrama Someone to Watch Over Me [1987]). Scholar Jamaluddin Bin Aziz has observed how “the shadow of Philip Marlowe lingers on” in such other “future black” films as 12 Monkeys (1995), Dark City(1998) and Minority Report (2002).[140] Fincher’s feature debut was Alien 3 (1992), which evoked the classic black jail film Brute Force .

David Cronenberg’s Crash (1996), an adaptation of the speculative novel by JG Ballard , has been described as “noir noir in bruise tones”. [141] The hero is the target of investigation in Gattaca (1997), which fuses black film motifs with a script indebted to Brave New World . The Thirteenth Floor (1999), like Blade Runner , is an explicit homage to black classic, in this case involving speculations about virtual reality . The Animatrix (2003), based on The Matrixtrilogy, contains anime short movie in classic black style titled “A Detective Story” which takes place within the story of the trilogy. [142] Anime television series with black science fiction themes include Ghost in the Shell , Cowboy Bebop (1998), The Big O (1999), and Black(2001). [143]

The 2015 movie Ex Machina puts a black film spin on the Frankenstein mythos, with the femme fatale sensing android Ava manipulating outsider Caleb to perform a crime against her creator Nathan. [144]


Black film has been parodied many times, in many manners. In 1945, Deanna Durbin was the leader in the black comedy Lady on a Train , which makes fun of Woolrich-brand wistful miserablism. Bob Hope inaugurated the private-eye black parody with My Favorite Brunette (1947), playing a baby-photographer who is mistaken for an ironfisted detective. [145] In 1947, The Bowery Boys appeared in Hard Boiled Mahoney , which had a similar mistaken-identity plot; they spoofed the genre once more in Private Eyes (1953). Two RKO productions starring Robert Mitchum take black film over the border into self-parody:The Big Steal (1949), directed by Don Siegel , andHis Kind of Woman (1951). [b] The “Girl Hunt” ballet in Vincente Minnelli ‘s The Band Wagon (1953) is a ten-minute distillation of-black-and play it in dance. [146] Alphaville , mentioned earlier, is a deadpan parody of black, inserting ridiculous names, situations and pseudo-femme fatales who identify themselves as “Seductress, Third Class”. The Cheap Detective (1978), starring Peter Falk , is a broad spoof of several films, including the Bogart classics The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca . Carl Reiner’s black-and-white Dead Men Do not Wear Plaid (1982) appropriates clips of classic black for a farcical pastiche , while his Fatal Instinct (1993) sends up black both classic ( Double Indemnity ) and neo ( Basic Instinct ). Robert Zemeckis ‘ Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) develops a black plot set in 1940s.

Black parodies come in darker tones as well. Murder by Contract (1958), directed by Irving Lerner , is a deadpan joke on black, with all the movies and kids. An ultra-low-budget Columbia Pictures production, it may qualify as the first intentional example of what is now called a neo-black film; Melville’s The Samurai and Scorsese’s Taxi Driver . [147] Belying icts parodic strain, The Long Goodbye ‘ s final act is serious gravement. Taxi Driver caustically deconstructsthe “dark” crime movie, taking an absurd ending and ending up with a triumphant, tragic, artfully ambivalent-while being each, all at once. [148] Flirting with splatter statuses even more brazenly, the Coens’ Blood is both an exacting pastiche and a gross exaggeration of classic black. [149] Adapted by director Robinson Devor from a novel by Charles Willeford , The Woman Chaser (1999) sends not just the black fashion but the entire Hollywood filmmaking process, with seemingly each shot staged as the visual equivalent of an acerbic Marlowe wisecrack. [150]

In other media, television series Sledge Hammer! (1986-88) black lampoons, along with such topics as capital punishment , gun fetishism , and Dirty Harry . Sesame Street (1969-curr.) Occasionally casts Kermit the Frog as a private eye; the sketches refer to some of the typical motifs of black films, in particular the voiceover. Garrison Keillor’s program A Prairie Home Companion features the recurring character Black Guy , a hardboiled detective whose adventures always wander into farce (Guy also appears in the Altman-directed film based on Keillor’s show).Firesign Theater’s Nick Danger has the same not-so-mean streets, both on radio and in comedy albums. Cartoons such as Garfield’s Babes and Bullets (1989) and comic stripcharacters such as Trace Bullet of Calvin and Hobbes have parodied both noir film and the kindred hardboiled tradition-one of the sources of which film noir sprang and which it now overshadows. [151]

Identifying characteristics

Some consider Vertigo (1958) has a black and white design, but Vertigodoes not have an Art Deco set, has a modernist The design is typical of the 1950s, the Vertigo poster has been made by Saul Bass [152] , something that would remove it from the category of Black Film. Others say the combination of color and the specificity of director Alfred Hitchcock’s vision excludes it from the category. [153]

In their original 1955 canon of black film, Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton identified twenty-two Hollywood films released between 1941 and 1952 as core examples; they listed another fifty-nine American films from the period of the black field. [154] A half-century later, film historians and critics had come to agree on a canon of approximately three hundred films from 1940-58. [155] There remain, however, many differences of opinion over the other films of the era, among them a number of well-known ones, qualify as film noir or not. For instance, The Night of the Hunter (1955), starring Robert Mitchum in an acclaimed performance, is treated as a black film by some critics, but not by others.[156] Some critics include Suspicion (1941), directed by Alfred Hitchcock, in their catalogs of black; others ignore it. [157] Concerning films made before or after the classic period, or outside of the United States at any time, consensus is even rarer.

To support their categorization of certain black films and their rejection of others, many criticisms refer to a set of elements. The question of what constitutes the set of black’s identifying characteristics is a fundamental source of controversy. For instance, criticism tends to define the film noir model as having a tragic or bleak conclusion, [158] but many acknowledged classics of the genre have clearly happy endings (eg, Stranger on the Third Floor, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and The Dark Corner ), while the tone of many other black denouements is ambivalent. [159]Some critics perceive classic black’s hallmark as a distinctive visual style. Others, where there is actually a large number of black stylists, instead of a plot type. Still others focus on mood and attitude. No survey of classic black can be considered definitive. In the 1990s and 2000s, they focused their attention to that diverse field of films called neo-black; Once again, there is no consensus about the defining attributes of such films made outside the classic period. [160]

Visual style

The low-key lighting schemes of many classic black films are associated with stark light / dark contrasts and dramatic shadow patterning-a style known as chiaroscuro (a term adopted from Renaissance painting). [c] The shadows of venetian blinds or banister rods, cast upon an actor, a wall, or an entire set, are an iconic visual in black and had already become a cliché well before the neo-black era. Characters’ faces may be partially obscured by darkness-a relative rarity in Hollywood filmmaking. While black-and-white cinematography is considered by many of the essential attributes of black classic, the color films Leave Her to Heaven (1945) andNiagara (1953) are routinely included in black filmographies, while Slightly Scarlet (1956), Party Girl (1958), andVertigo (1958) are classified as black by varying numbers of critics. [161]

Black film is also known for its use of low-angle , wide-angle , and skewed, or Dutch angle shots. Other devices of disorientation relatively common in black film include shots of people reflected in one or more mirrors, shots through curved or frosted glass or other distorting objects (such as during the strangulation scene in Strangers on a Train ), and special effects sequences of a sometimes weird nature. Night-for-night shooting, as opposed to the norm-of- day-for-night Hollywood , was often employed. [162] From the mid-1940s forward, the location has changed in many places. [163]

In an analysis of the visual approach of Kiss Me Deadly , a late and self-consciously stylized example of black classic, critic Alain Silver describes how cinematographic choices emphasize the story’s themes and mood. In one scene, the characters, seen through a “confusion of angular shapes”, thus appear “caught in a tangible vortex or enclosed in a trap.” Silver makes a case for how to be “side light is used … to reflect character ambivalence”, while shots of characters in which they are read from “to conform to a convention of visual expression which associates shadows cast upward of the face with the unnatural and ominous “. [164]

Structure and narrational devices

Black films tend to have unusually convoluted story lines, frequently involving flashbacks and other editing techniques that disrupt and sometimes obscure the narrative sequence. Framing the primary primary narrative as a flashback is also a standard device. Voiceover narration, sometimes used as a structuring device, to be seen as a black hallmark; While Neal is a classic black-and-white story (ie, by the protagonist), Stephen Neale notes that third-person narrative is common among blacks of the semidocumentary style. [166] Neo-blacks as varied as The Element of Crime (Surrealist), After Dark, My Sweet (retro), and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (meta) have used the flashback / voiceover combination.

Bold experiments in cinematic storytelling were made during this period: Lady in the Lake , for example, is shot from the point of view of protagonist Philip Marlowe; the face of star Robert Montgomery is seen only in mirrors. [167] The Chase (1946) takes over the notion of horror stories, but with little precedent in the context of a putatively realistic genre. In their different ways, both Sunset Boulevard and DOAare tales told by dead men. Latter-day black has been in the forefront of structural experimentation in popular cinema, as exemplified by such films as Pulp Fiction , Fight Club , and Memento . [168]

Plots, characters, and settings

Crime, usually murder, is an element of almost all black films; in addition to standard-issue greed, jealousy is frequently the criminal motivation. A crime investigation-by a private eye, a police detective (sometimes acting alone), or a concerned amateur-is the most prevalent, but far from dominant, basic plot. In other common plots the protagonists are implicated in heists or con games , or in murderous conspiracies often involving adulterous affairs. False suspicions and accusations of crime are frequent plot elements, as are betrayals and double-sticks. According to J. David Slocum, “protagonists assume the literal identities of dead men in overly fifteen percent of all blacks.” [169] Amnesiais fairly epidemic- “black’s version of the common cold”, in the words of movie historian Lee Server. [170]

Films noir tend to revolve around heroes who are more flawed and morally questionable than the norm, often fall guys of one sort or another. The characteristic protagonists of noir are described by many critics as “alienated”;[172] in the words of Silver and Ward, “filled with existential bitterness”.[173] Certain archetypal characters appear in many films noir—hardboiled detectives, femme fatales, corrupt policemen, jealous husbands, intrepid claims adjusters, and down-and-out writers. Among characters of every stripe, cigarette smoking is rampant.[174]From historical commentators to neo-black pictures to pop culture, the private eye and the femme fatale have been adopted as the quintessential black film figures, though they do not appear in most movies now. Of the twenty-six National Film Registry black, furnace only in the star does play a private eye: The Maltese Falcon , The Big Sleep , Out of the Past , and Kiss Me Deadly . Just Laura , The Killers , The Naked City , and Touch of Evil .

Film noir is often associated with an urban setting, and a few cities—Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago, in particular—are the location of many of the classic films. In the eyes of many critics, the city is presented in noir as a “labyrinth” or “maze”.[175] Bars, lounges, nightclubs, and gambling dens are frequently the scene of action. The climaxes of a substantial number of films noir take place in visually complex, often industrial settings, such as refineries, factories, trainyards, power plants—most famously the explosive conclusion of White Heat, set at a chemical plant.[176] In the popular (and, frequently enough, critical) imagination, in noir it is always night and it always rains.[177]

A substantial trend within latter-day noir—dubbed “film soleil” by critic D. K. Holm—heads in precisely the opposite direction, with tales of deception, seduction, and corruption exploiting bright, sun-baked settings, stereotypically the desert or open water, to searing effect. Significant predecessors from the classic and early post-classic eras include The Lady from Shanghai; the Robert Ryan vehicle Inferno (1953); the French adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. RipleyPlein soleil (Purple Noon in the U.S., more accurately rendered elsewhere as Blazing Sun or Full Sun; 1960); and director Don Siegel’s version of The Killers (1964). Late Calm (1989), After Dark, My Sweet (1990), The Hot Spot (1990), Delusion (1991), Red Rock West (1993) and the Miami Vice television series . [178]

Worldview, morality, and tone

Black film is often described as essentially pessimistic. [179] The black stories that are considered to be most prevalent in the subject of unwanted situations (which in general, they do not cause but are responsible for exacerbating), striving against random, uncaring fate, and frequently doomed. The films are seen as depicting a world that is inherently corrupt. [180] Classic noir noir has been associated with the American social landscape of the era-in particular, with a sense of heightened anxiety and alienation that is said to have followed World War II. In author Nicholas Christopher’s opinion, “it is as if the war, and the social eruptions in its aftermath, unleashed demons that had been bottled up in the national psyche.”[181] Black films, especially those of the 1950s and the height of the Red Scare , are often said to reflect cultural paranoia; Kiss Me Deadly is the black most frequently marshaled as evidence for this claim. [182]

Film noir is often said to be defined by “moral ambiguity”,[183] yet the Production Code obliged almost all classic noirs to see that steadfast virtue was ultimately rewarded and vice, in the absence of shame and redemption, severely punished (however dramatically incredible the final rendering of mandatory justice might be). A substantial number of latter-day noirs flout such conventions: vice emerges triumphant in films as varied as the grim Chinatown and the ribald Hot Spot.[184]

The tone of black film is generally considered to be downbeat; some critics experience it as darker still- “overwhelmingly black”, according to Robert Ottoson. [185] Influential critic (and filmmaker) Paul Schrader wrote in a seminal 1972 essay That ” film noir is defined by tone”, a tone he Seems To Perceive as “hopeless”. [186] In describing the adaptation of Double Indemnity, black analyst Foster Hirsch describes the “hopelessness requirement” achieved by the filmmakers, which appears to characterize its view of black as a whole. [187] On the other hand, definitive black films such as The Big Sleep , The Lady from Shanghai ,Double Indemnity itself are famed for their hardboiled repartee, often imbued with sexual innuendo and self-reflexive humor.[188]