Neo-noir (from the Greek neo, new; and the French noir, black) is a style often seen in modern motion pictures and other forms that prominently utilize elements of film noir, but with updated themes, content, style, visual elements or media that were absent in films noir of the 1940s and 1950s.



The term Film Noir (French for "black film") was coined by critic Nino Frank in 1946, but was rarely used by film makers, critics or fans until several decades later. The classic era of film noir is usually dated to a period between the early 1940s and the late 1950s. Typically American crime dramas or psychological thrillers, films noir had a number of common themes and plot devices, and many distinctive visual elements. Characters were often conflicted antiheroes, trapped in a difficult situation and making choices out of desperation or nihilistic moral systems. Visual elements included low-key lighting, striking use of light and shadow, and unusual camera placement.

Although there have been few new major films in the classic film noir genre since the early 1960s, it has nonetheless had significant impact on other genres. These films usually incorporate both thematic and visual elements reminiscent of film noir. Both classic and neo-noir films are often independent features.

It was not until after 1970 that film critics began to consider "neo-noir" as a separate genre by its own definition. However, noir and post-noir terminology (such as "neo-classic", "hard-boiled”, etc.) in modern application are often disclaimed by both critics and practitioners alike due to the obscurity of such an unrefined genre. For example, James M. Cain, author of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, is considered to be one of the defining authors of hard-boiled fiction. Yet, Cain is quoted as saying, "I belong to no school, hard-boiled or otherwise, and I believe these so-called schools exist mainly in the imagination of critics, and have little correspondence in reality anywhere else."[1]

Unlike classic noirs, neo-noir films are aware of modern circumstances and technology—details that were typically absent or unimportant to the plot of classic film noir. In the films of the early 1940s and '50s, audiences are led to understand and build a relationship with the protagonist or anti-hero. Neo-noir films of post-1970 often reverse this role. Unconventional camera movements and plot progression remind them that they are merely watching the film and not partaking in the story.

Modern themes employed in neo-noir films include identity crises, memory issues and subjectivity, and—most importantly—technological problems and their social ramifications. Because these fundamental elements are as ambiguous in practice as their definitions, film theorists argue that the term "neo-noir" can be applied to other works of fiction that similarly incorporate such motifs. Robert Arnett states that "Neo-noir has become so amorphous as a genre/movement, any film featuring a detective or crime qualifies."[2] It is because of this genre's ambivalence that neo-noir is still shaped and interpreted so malleably today.

Others have noted that films like After Dark, My Sweet and Hard Eight are neo-noirs that seamlessly combine the noir genre with elements of the Western genre in terms of setting and themes.

See also

  • List of film noir titles




  1. ^ O’Brien, Geoffrey (1981). Hardboiled America – The Lurid Years of Paperbacks. New York; Cincinnati: Van Nostrand Reinhold. pp. 71–72. ISBN 0442231407. 
  2. ^ Arnett, Robert (Fall 2006). "Eighties Noir: The Dissenting Voice in Reagan's America". Journal of Popular Film and Television 34 (3): 123–129. 

External links

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