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Genre Theory of Noir

What is genre theory?

Genre Theory is a collective term used to describe theoretical approaches that are concerned with how similar situations generate typified responses called genres, which serve as a platform for both creating an understanding based on shared expectations and also shaping the social context.

Steve Neale (creator of the genre theory)

History of film noir

Unlike other stylistic categories, film noir was not created by directors of the theatrical era. In truth, movies in the so-called film noir genre had been prominent for six years before the word was created by French film critic Nino Frank in 1946. Frank used the phrase to refer to low-budget “dark picture” crime thrillers produced by Hollywood studios. While the “gangster picture” had been around since D.W. Griffith’s 1912 short The Musketeers of Pig Alley, cinema noir’s exact style and presentation were novels. Film noir arose from the success of American hard-boiled crime fiction novels, which were popular in the 1930s as low-cost, amusing paperbacks. The prominence of these books, published by authors such as Raymond Chandler, piqued Hollywood’s interest. Chandler and other crime novels did find work producing cinema screenplays in the 1940s.


Le Cercle Rouge 1970

Elements of film noir

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  • cynical heroes
  • stark lighting effects
  • frequent use of flashbacks
  • intricate plots
  • an underlying existentialist philosophy
  • Bleakness
  • Guilt
  • Misery
  • Cynical
  • Calumniated
  • Paranoia
  • Sexuality
  • Ominous
  • Insecure
  • Sense of loss
  • Disillusionment

Famous noir movies

A style or genre of cinematographic film marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism, and menace. The term was originally applied (by a group of French critics) to American thriller or detective films made in the period 1944–54 and to the work of directors such as Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, and Billy Wilder.