Reading reviews of movies, you often come across certain terms that you don't quite understand. The genres of cinema have been always defined. But sometimes come along certain movies that do not seem to fit into any of them. A doomed anti-hero, a damsel, shady motivations and shadier settings is everything that defines noir cinema.
A by-product of German Expressionism, the term was first coined in 1946 by Nino Frank, a French critic. These movies which were earlier termed as melodrama were a rage between the 1940s to early 60s in Hollywood. The directors, inspired by German cinema had started using shadows to their advantage as the tales became more sinister.
Noir is still not classified as a genre because of its ambiguous definition but you can hear the critics still labeling movies as so. Once color movies came into the picture, the term was dropped until the 70s when filmmakers again worked with the anti-hero narrative and experimenting with camera angles.
These new films are now termed as neo-noir. If you have not studied cinema, it is difficult to understand the difference between a noir movie and an action or a gangster movie. If you are a fan of the art of cinema, here are some movies that can help explain the term better.
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
It is termed as the first major movie which can be termed as film-noir. The film features a private detective with loose morals and a damsel in the form of a widow. There is a seven-minute long uninterrupted take along with some fantastic lighting, which classifies this as one of the film-noirs. It is also one of the first titles to be included in the National Film Registry.
Fred McMurray who until then was known for essaying positive roles played a truly negative hero in this movie. His character falls in love with a married lady and then plots to kill the lady's husband. This is considered as one of the finest noirs as every character is shown with a shade of gray and all of them put on a convincing mask to justify their motives.
Night Moves (1975)
A football player-turned-private investigator is hired by an aging starlet to track her daughter. All seems fine till the investigations open a can of worms better left shut. The movie explored conspiracy theories and the audience who were then reeling from the recent Watergate scandal could relate to them.
Directed by Christopher Nolan, this movie is considered a fine example of neo-noir. Guy Pearce superbly performs in a non-linear storyline that jumps between vintage images and present day. This may require every bit of your concentration but in the end, it is well worth it.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
A gripping whodunit plot, a lot of people with not ulterior motives and quotable dialogues, this film has it all. Robert Downey Jr.'s comeback journey began with this movie and it is regarded as one of the best neo-noirs of the postmillennial.
Did these help you understand the term better? Tell us your favorite noir movie in the comments below and don't forget to share.