For US$9.99 you can download the 2nd edition the Film Noir eBook by Paul Duncan from eBooks.com. An excerpt:
The usual relationship in a Film Noir is that the male character (private eye, cop, journalist, government agent, war veteran, criminal, lowlife) has a choice between two women: the beautiful and the dutiful.The dutiful woman is pretty, reliable, always there for him, in love with him, responsible “all the things any real man would dream about. The beautiful woman is the femme fatale, who is gorgeous, unreliable, never there for him, not in love with him, irresponsible “all the things a man needs to get him excited about a woman. The Film Noir follows our hero as he makes his choice, or his choice is made for him. The reason the femme fatale meets the male character is because she has already made her choice. She is usually involved with an older, very powerful man (gangster, politician, millionaire), and she is looking to make some money from the relationship. She needs a smart man (who is also dumber than her) to go get that money, and take the fall if things go wrong. Enter the male character. The story follows the romantic/erotic foreplay of their relationship. The male character is often physically and mentally abused in this meeting and separating of bodies. Sometimes, he ends up doing very bad things. What is most surprising about Film Noir, and the reason I suspect it has become so difficult to categorise and pigeonhole, is that the focus of the films can be from the point of view of any of the characters caught in this relationship. For example, we can follow the femme fatal’s story or, as is more often the case, the dutiful woman’s. (The timid, unknowing woman who learns about the dark side of life harks back to the Gothic novel of the nineteenth century, which is where Noir Fiction came from.) This is because all the characters are equally interesting “they are all either obsessed with something they desire (money, power, sex), or compelled to do what they do because of their nature, or the physical or social environment they live in. The Film Noir follows a number of discernible frameworks within which the characters clash and collide. To show the workings of the police and government agencies, we had the Documentary Noir. Many filmmakers worked with army documentary units during World War Two, and discovered the freedom of movement the new, lightweight cameras afforded them. Audiences back home also got used to seeing them, so they found it easier to accept the rough style when it was presented to them as a feature film.The Docu Noir invariably had an authoritative voice telling us the facts (time, place, purpose) of the case, and we followed the investigation through to the end.The first one was The House on 92nd Street (1945) directed by Henry Hathaway, who did several in this style. Others of note include Call Northside 777 (1948), The Naked City (1948) (which spawned a TV series), Joseph H Lewis’ The Undercover Man (1949) and The Enforcer (1951). In the 50s, this style was subverted and reinvented by Alfred Hitchcock in his magnificent The Wrong Man (1956). In this film, instead of glorifying the law, we see a man and his family becoming victims of the police procedure â€“ in the end his wife has a mental breakdown.