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Essay on Film Noir: A Style Spanning Genres

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The classification and cataloging of items seem to fulfill a basic need in human beings, whether it is vegetable, mineral or animal. It seems that this basic need to analyze and categorize items applies also to objets d’art, including film – and the recognition or dismissal of film noir as a genre has been argued since the term was coined. While the term itself is valid, film noir as a genre is a misnomer. More properly, film noir should be considered a style unto itself, but definitively not genre, defined by the very definitions of the words “style” and “genre”. We will limit our subject matter here to the classic film noir period of 1941-1958, recognizing that all modern noir variants seek to emulate this period. These modern films do not lack merit; however for purposes of defining and labeling noir the original defining elements are what matter. If classical film noir is a stylistic movement, then those films following that movement are, by definition, also a stylistic movement and likewise not genre.
The primary elements we need to examine when categorizing the phenomenon of film noir are the definitions of genre and style. The term “genre”, when applied to film, implies setting, narrative structure, and story development. Style, on the other hand, encompasses stylistic elements, cinematographic techniques, and tone over subject matter. Thus, films of the same or similar genre can be directed in a different style, and appear completely different. For example, both Blade Runner and Star Wars obviously belong to the sci-fi genre; Blade Runner alone is regularly regarded as neo-noir. Examination of the commonalities of those films regarded as films noir will reveal that genre elements vary widely, while stylistic elem...


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... films that are universally regarded as noir. By applying these elements across multiple genres of film, directors have demonstrated the truth of noir as a true style, and not a genre unto itself. This in no way diminishes the importance or appeal of the phenomenon, only illustrates the method of categorization by the strictest technical definitions.



Works Cited

Conard, Mark T. The Philosophy of Film Noir. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2006.

Rich, Nathaniel. Conversations with History. Interview. UC Berkeley, 3 Jun 2005. 3. Web.
.

Schrader, Paul. Notes on Film Noir. Filmex, 1971 The Film Noir, at the First Los Angeles
International Film Exposition (Reprinted in Film Comment, Spring 1972).Web. 22 Feb.
2012 .


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