Film Noir Cheat Sheet

Origins of Film Noir

  • While most associate film noir with American crime movies of the post-World War II era, noir beginnings are rooted in European film, German expressionism, and French poetic realism.
  • In America, film noir was influenced mainly by post-war anxiety and the emergence of psychoanalysis.

Classic Noir Tropes

  • The intricate plot and subversive existentialist philosophy.
  • Alienation in a modern American city manifested through criminality, psychosis, and paranoia.
  • The frailty of the human condition and the exploration of the “darker self.”
  • Exploration of how lust, love, and greed can destroy human lives.
  • Male protagonist falling victim to a manipulative femme-fatale.

Noir Aesthetic and Iconography

  • Deserted, rain-drenched streets of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles
  • Dark tenements
  • Black and white photography
  • Use of flashbacks
  • Mostly night scenes
  • Cigarettes and alcohol
  • Neon signs

Noir Characters

  • Outsiders
  • Flawed heroes
  • Cynical cops
  • Femmes-Fatale
  • Killers
  • Lonely and repressed individuals

Notable Examples

  • The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • The Big Sleep (1945)
  • Out of the Past (1947)

For the full story… What is Film Noir?

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