Essays On Film Noir

Essays on Film Noir


Film Noir Studios features some great reading by essayist John Blaser. This site offers numerous, insightful pieces and is a great resource for noir students and fans alike.


Berkeley’s Noir Essays are a great collection of noir articles. This site features in-depth articles on women in film noir as well an excellent piece on the film noir scores of Miklos Rozsa.


Ten Shades of Noir features a look at the underbelly of 10 classic noir films. This site also features Alain Silver’s superb essay on the ending of Kiss Me Deadly.


Dark City: Film Noir and Fiction offers dozens of straight-shooting film noir reviews. This site also includes tons of links for noir directors and writers.


High Heels on Wet Pavement Film noir and the femme fatale as illustrated in the films “The Postman Always Rings Twice”, “Scarlet Street”, “Detour”, “Out of the Past” and “The Killers.”

Ten Shades of Noir The essentials of film noir from the classic era. Includes ten films spanning from 1943’s “Shadow of a Doubt” to 1957’s “The Sweet Smell of Success.”

Blacklist: A Different Look at the 1947 HUAC Hearings Film noir notables and their involvement in the HUAC hearings. Includes specific references to noir greats Abraham Polonsky and Edward Dmytryk.

Two from Siodmak A review of two quintessential film noirs from director Robert Siodmak: 1949’s “Criss Cross” and Burt Lancaster’s noir debut – “The Killers.”

Humphrey Bogart: The Peak Years An overview of Bogies most important work including noir films like “The Big Sleep”, “The Maltese Falcon”, and “The Harder They Fall.”

Barbara Stanwyck and Double Indemnity Noir critic Micahel Mills decosntructs the finer points of Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity.” Includes an interesting perspective on the career of leading lady Barbara Stanwyck.

Narrative Innovations in Film Noir A look at the language of film noir through the films “Double Indemnity”, “Scarlet Street”, “Detour” and others.

Out of the Past A review of Jacques Tourneur’s downbeat noir “Out of the Past”. A critical explanation of why this film is a key work of film noir.

Detour The Bright Light’s Film Journal reviews Edgar Ulmer’s film that surpassed it’s categorization as a b-movie: “Detour.”

Ann Savage: A conversation with Roy Frumkes A conversation with Noir diva, Ann Savage. Discusses her role in “Detour” and working with legendary director, Edgar Ulmer.

Percolating Paranoia: The Big Heat Jans Wager reviews the Fritz Lang film noir that brings the terrors of noir into the bright kitchens of America.

The German-Hollywood Connection An essay detailing film noir and the influence of German expressionism. Describes the influences of German expressionism on directors such as Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, Edgar Ulmer and more.

Film Noir and Contemporary America An academic essay illustrating how film noir shows a transitional stage in American ideology, when the American identity changes from being pre-industrial to a mass consumer society.

The Origins of Film Noir A look at the genesis of film noir and how they were inspired both by literature and previous film history.

Does Film Noir mirror the culture of contemporary America? A series of 8 individual essays that cover topics such as film noir’s origins, women in film noir, film censorship and other topics.

The Shadows of Film Noir Brian Fairbank’s feature detailing the primary elements of film noir in the classic period.

Night of the Soul: American Film Noir A seminal work from “Studies in Popular Culture” that defines film noir and its foundation in the reknowned Borde-Chaumeton article.

Henry Hathaway: The Toughest Director Living A look at the career of noir director Henry Hathaway whose noir films include “Call Northside 777”, “Kiss of Death” and the WWII thriller “House on 92nd Street.”

Michael Curtiz: Noble Cynic Though best known as the man behind the camera for “Casablanca”, Micahel Curtiz directed noir classics like “Mildred Pierce” amd “The Breaking Point”.

Bogart Remembered An excerpt of a fine article from the magazine “Films of the Golden Age” on the life of noir hero, Humphrey Bogart.

Mary Astor – The Cameo Girl A look at the life and career of the femme fatale from “The Maltese Falcon” – Mary Astor.

Dan Duryea – Charming Villain “Classic Images Magazine” reviews the life of noir’s charming villian Dan Duryea.

Audrey Totter Versatile Queen of Noir The star of many film noirs is showcased in an interesting feature by “Classic Images Magazine.”

The Noir Aesthetics

Even though the "noir style" did not represent something completely new within Hollywood film making I find it necessary to give an introduction to the noir aesthetics, because this is something that the noirs have in common. Even if the stylistics had been used in earlier movies, the combinations of these expressions and techniques was to some extent new in american movies and to the american audience.

One of the techniques used was the low-key lighting which causes the effect of obscuring the action, and deglamourizing the star so that the composition becomes more important than the actor. Earlier American movies had focused on the star. The use of night and shadows emphasizes the cold and the darkness in the noirs. The change of focus from the actors and movement in the image to the compository excitement underline a fatalistic and hopeless mood. This mood is also fortified through a complex narration, often disjuncted and fragmented. To do this flashbacks are often used, which emphasizes the feeling of lost time and despair. According to Paul Schrader time is manipulated because the form stands above the content. In the narration voice-over is also often used , and in connection we sometimes get to see the end of the film in its beginning. This is also an unconventional use of the time notion that call forth a feeling of predestination and irrevocable past.

The wide-angle cinematography participated in making the space distorted and the audience disoriented. In film noir we also find a repeated use of an image composition where the lines no longer are horizontal, but vertical and sloping. This gives an unsettling impression. In the noirs the world often seems like a prison, something that these images along with the use of image metaphors like sun blinds help to underline. We also find an extended use of extreme low and high-angle perspectives.

All of these stylistic elements served to disorient the spectators and create a mood of uneasiness, alienation and loneliness in the movies. Thus, the dark and uneasy visual expression of the film noirs emphasize the themes.

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