FILM NOIR Pink Panthers
Transcript FILM NOIR Pink Panthers
Film noir is a cycle of mainly American film in the 1940s to 50s,
which explores the darker sides of modernity, and is usually set within
a criminal themed film, or exploring the consequences of a criminal
Originates from FRENCH lexis, meaning ‘black film’ /
monochrome film. Inspired by the ‘Series Noir’ (paperbacks) which
had a narrative of harsh American Crime but inspired and proved
popular with the French.
“Film noir is a historical, stylistic and thematic trend that took
place primarily, but not exclusively, within the generic complex of the
American crime film of the forties and fifties.” Selby, S (1984), Dark
City The Film Noir. United States of America. McFarland and
Company, Inc. 1.
Film Noir can be identified through a number of elements; not only themable (for
example character roles and their fates decided in the narrative,) but through the
1. The typical use of ‘flashbacks’ – included in the narrative and through the use of
2. The frequent undermining or shuffling of the characters’ point of view –
technically done via the camera angles in the shot.
3. the Investigative Narrative Structure – for example a protagonist in Film Noir
would stereotypically be a detective/ Sargent / war veteran; who tend to be obsessive
males, sinister and struggling to survive.
4. Low key lighting – to gain the thick contrasting shadows to costume design
(usually a femme fetal would be in pure white to contrast her menacing
5. The use of chiaroscuro effects – monochrome effect with thick shading,
similar to a strongly marked charcoal sketch but through the use of cinematography
6. The use of camera jarring and off balance shot composition (to give the
sense of deterioration)
7. Tight framing and close ups that create a claustrophobic sense of
containment within the scene
The typical characters in noir films are the hard-boiled detective,
the dangerously attractive femme fatale, and the well-dressed villain
surrounded by gun-toting thugs.
Typical costume design for women include, a low neckline,
the contrast of white garments symbolising an angelic figure on the
outside but evil on inside. Red lipstick, gloves and high heels are
donned to symbolise danger.
Women during the war period had a new found independence and
‘Job Earning Power’ in their homeland; They would tend to suffer on
screen at the cost of the Protagonist’ life (1940).
Typically stay in shabby accommodations
Costume design: Fedoras, (similar bowlers hat); suit and tie; polished
Damaged, vulnerable imperfect and not the stereotypical hero.
Manipulated by women’s sexuality. Any trouble her receives is due to
involvement with the ‘femme fatale’.
With the war over, men’s social status decreased so this was reflected
in film noir.
Crime as social criticism
There are many considered cycles, such as;
- Pre depression – the spontaneous witnesses
- The sombre cross-section
(which are stated in pg 85-86, Perspectives on FILM NOIR)
The pre-depression cycle is the introduction to the ‘gangsta cycle’
and the introduction to financial and industrial labour battles of the
1930s that were poorly represented in Hollywood. The main theme of
the ‘depression’ was because of the war which opened this new dark
tone to society, being all gloomy and dull. This caused a major
depression over the country, especially as the labour was badly
represented in Hollywood and this didn’t help.
The sombre cross-section represents the societies anguish as a whole,
which introduced middle class murder, sexual pathology and
psychopaths. This introduced conventions to the film noir genre and
new expectations to the type of audiences with influences from society.
The sombre cross-section is also an introduction to characteristic tones of
claustrophobic, deadpan and paranoid sombre, with the idea of good vs
evil using murder, this idea of games between people leading to murder
and psychopaths in the genre.
War and post war disillusionment
Due to the war, ‘the need to produce Allied propaganda abroad and promote patriotism
at home blunted the fledgling moves toward a dark cinema.’ Barton Palmer, R (1996).
Perspectives on Film Noir. New York: G.K. Hall and Co. 100. Dark crime films were far from
being popular as America focused on creating films based on propaganda to influence the
minds of the American population.
As the war ended films became more cynical and crime films boomed. Fifteen years of
pressure from American propaganda films, when given the freedom, audiences and film
makers took every opportunity they had to take a pessimistic view on things.
Not long after the war film producers used realistic exteriors to film
each scene to add authenticity. The public felt that using studios they
had previously used would not create an honest view of America,
therefore using real locations would make the film more genuine. The
realistic appreciation succeeded in creating a divide with high-class
melodrama and sat amongst people of the streets where it belonged.
The German Expatriates
During the 1920s and 30s, Hollywood was home to a large number of Germans,
therefore film companies had to cater for those too. Natives who cared about the
current community feared that the German influence in Hollywood could become
dangerous by being over exaggerated. However, in the later forties when Hollywood
decided to be dark, there were no better people mastering the techniques of using
light and shade than the Germans. Unnatural lighting didn’t fit in with the postwar
realism theme but as film noir is unique the two elements were compatible with
The hard-boiled tradition
In the 1930s authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Raymond
Chandler created ‘tough’ a pessimistic way of thinking that
disconnected one person from the world. In the 40s, film makers
adopted the hard boiled tradition which gave them the opportunity to
create the dark, crime theme by including plots and characters who
had that negative way of thinking.
STYLISTIC AND NARRATIVE
Film noir is often distorted, skewed and uncomfortable to watch,
to put the viewer at unease.
It used a dark atmosphere, hard shadows and peculiar camera
Reflections, views and faces are often obscured through objects.
Gives the audience the sense of uncertainty and unease
Film noir are known for its use of jumbled time sequences, it’s
sometimes delirious flashbacks within flashbacks, as used in Sorry Wrong
Number and The Killers.
In Paul Schrader’s 1972 “Notes on Film Noir”, he states that the main
components of noir style, are things like visual chiaroscuro, where the
effect of contrasting light and shadow are created by light falling unevenly,
voice-over narrative and frequent flashback structures.
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
Features that make the film within the genre of film noir:
- lighting: dullness, black and white
- camera angles: different camera angles to reflect different characteristics and bring
dramatic effect to certain situations, for e.g. the death of the Aunt
- music: different music to set different moods, for e.g. Miklos Rozsa music 'suite' is
tones differently, it starts off quite dramatically and then goes very romantic and toned
down which then seems to go very up lifting and dramatic again. Also music to fit the
characters moods and the situation that's happening in the film, like with realisation at the
end of the film and with the Aunts death