Neo-noir is a modern or contemporary motion picture rendition of film noir. The term film noir (popularised by two French critics, namely, Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton, in 1955) was applied to crime movies of the 1940s and 1950s, most produced in the United States. It meant dark movie, indicating a sense of something sinister and shadowy, but also expressing a style of cinematography. The film noir genre includes stylish Hollywood crime dramas, often with a twisted dark wit. Neo-noir has a similar style but with updated themes, content, style, visual elements or media.
Neo-noir, as the term suggests, is contemporary noir. The film directors knowingly refer to 'classic noir' in the use of tilted camera angles, interplay of light and shadows, unbalanced framing; blurring of the lines between good and bad and right and wrong, and a motif of revenge, paranoia, and alienation, among other sensibilities.
The term "neo-noir" is a contraction of the phrase "new film noir", using the Greek prefix for the word "new" rendered as "neo" (from the Greek neo). "Noir", when used as an isolated term in film theory and critique, is a short form reference to "film noir". As a neologism, neo-noir is defined by Mark Conard as "defining any film coming after the classic noir period that contains noir themes and noir sensibility".
The term film noir (French for "black film" or "dark film") was coined by critic Nino Frank in 1946, and popularized by French critics Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton in 1955. The term became revived in general use beginning in the 1980s, with a revival of the style.
The classic era of film noir is usually dated to a period between the early 1940s and the late 1950s; the films were often adaptations of American crime novels of the era, which were also described as "hardboiled". Some authors resisted these terms. For example, James M. Cain, author of The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) and Double Indemnity (1943), is considered to be one of the defining authors of hard-boiled fiction. Both these novels were adapted as crime films, the former more than once. But Cain is quoted as saying, "I belong to no school, hard-boiled or otherwise, and I believe these so-called schools exist mainly in the imagination of critics, and have little correspondence in reality anywhere else."
Typically American crime dramas or psychological thrillers, films noir[a] had a number of common themes and plot devices, and many distinctive visual elements. Characters were often conflicted antiheroes, trapped in a difficult situation and making choices out of desperation or nihilistic moral systems. Visual elements included low-key lighting, striking use of light and shadow, and unusual camera placement.
Although there have been few new major films in the classic film noir genre since the early 1960s, it has had significant impact on other genres. These films usually incorporate both thematic and visual elements reminiscent of film noir. Both classic and neo-noir films are often produced as independent features.
It was not until after 1970 that film critics took note of "neo-noir" films as a separate genre. Noir and post-noir terminology (such as "hard-boiled", "neo-classic", etc) are often denied by both critics and practitioners alike.
Robert Arnett stated that "Neo-noir has become so amorphous as a genre/movement, any film featuring a detective or crime qualifies." Screenwriter and director Larry Gross, identifies Alphaville, alongside John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967) and Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973), based on Raymond Chandler's 1953 novel, as neo-noir films. Gross believes that they deviate from the classic noir films in having more of a sociological than a psychological focus.
Inflected Form(s): plural film noirs \-'nwär(z)\ or films noir or films noirs \-'nwär\