I fell in love with film noir as soon as I saw The Big Sleep. And its been a wild ride ever since, watching classic noir like Double Indemnity and neo-noir like Brick. I’ve certainly mentioned it enough times recently on this blog to make any reader not already familiar with the film style/genre wonder what the heck I’m going on about.
Conveniently, Drew Morton, Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at Texas A&M University-Texarkana, has decided to start a video essay series laying out the basics of film noir, a term coined by French film critics in response to a set of post-war thriller films out of Hollywood in the mid- and late forties. Morton begins with the basic conventions of film noir–the detective, the high-contrast lighting, the femme fatale, voice-over narration–showing examples of how these “semantics” create one way of recognizing a genre. He pulls examples from classic to contemporary noir, established touchstones of the definition and outliers that are more creative in their use.
He’s going out a limb by deeming film noir a film genre–many critics will disagree and state it is more of a movement or even simply a style of film-making. But I’m with Morton. Film noir is a genre, and I’m excited to see the rest of his exploration of how this genre is built.
If you’re interested in what the basic building blocks of film noir are, follow the link. It’s absolutely worth it. Morton intends to do five parts in this series, releasing each a month apart. I can’t wait to have the full set to throw in front of my film students.