Week 6: Short - Why Is It Noir And How Is It New?

  • The term “neo-noir” originated as a means of breaching an apparent impasse in noir criticism, admitting links between classic and contemporary noir while also maintaining a division between them
  • Neo-noir only became a true genre in the 1980’s, considering examples in the 60s and 70s as in their embryonic state
  • Erickson also states that, although there is many example of neo-noir films, many don’t succeed as authentic noirs
  • What renders neo-noir distinct from its forbear is self-awareness, contending that ‘neo-noir is made and watched by people familiar with the concept of film noir’
  • For all of neo-noir’s self-knowledge, this doesn’t make it knowable and opt not to impose a specific orthodoxy on what constitutes neo-noir
  • Roger Ebert stating three versions of noir: classic noir (respects the conventions of the genre), deadpan noir (riducles them), and neo-noir (resituates noir angst to the present day)
  • While noir was always characterized by toughness, these new noirs evince a greater sense of disillusionment, combined with an extended sociopolitical critique
  • Critics have thus perceived an initial phase of innovation aligned with new hollywood directors, inspired to use European “modernist” techniques, followed by an erosion of creativity in a period deemed to be emblematic of Reaganite conservatism and a cannibalistic “postmodern” culture that recycled what it could for a fast buck
  • Alain Silver notes a ‘resurgence of interest in the noir style by low-budget film makers’ and equates the B-film of the 1940s with ‘made-for-TV efforts of the 80’s and 90’s.
  • If noir has one consistent feature it is to avoid easy answers.
  • Noir may have been born in the USA but did not take up sole residency there and although claiming it as a national cinema has the benefit of attributing sociopolitical relevance - regarding films as a specific statement about America- concerns about corruption, betrayal, unequal social relations, remorse, redemption and the temptations of criminality are ideas that clearly exceed national borders


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