Monday, December 29, 2008

What is Film Noir?

A question whose answer is more complicated and subjective than would appear at first glance. Film Noir, like pornography, is difficult to define, but I know it when I see it. :)

While sparing the gentle reader and my typing fingers a lengthy discourse on the subject, for which, for those interested, I recommend the excellent wikipedia article on the subject, I think the genre can be characterized, if not defined by the following criteria, not all of which are necessarily present in a given film. You can't call these rules, since the exceptions outnumber the examples. They must be considered typical characteristics.

  • A dark, gloomy world view tinged with mistrust, cynicism, and a sense of the absurd.
  • Deliberate dramatic use of light and shadow.
  • Moral ambivalence of the major characters, who tend to come to a bad end.
  • Low or modestly budgeted - B movies either literally or in spirit.

An excellent example of mid-40s noir is Detour (1945), which cost $117,000 to make when the
average budget for a Hollywood feature was around $600,000. Even at that modest cost, it came in 30% over budget.


  1. very interesting to read, said very well.
    Learned alittle more about it than I even knew.
    Thanks for sharing !
    Happy New Year Mr. Clark

  2. “When you smiled you had my undivided attention. When you laughed you had my urge to laugh with you. When you cried you had my urge to hold you. When you said you loved me, you had my heart forever.”