Lets for fun call ourselves Noir Gods
And we are now creating from scratch the perfect NOIR GENRE.
We all sort of have an idea what Noir Style films are from a sampling of the 500 or so films labeled Film Noirs that already exist. And we also all know how ridiculously varied and fuzz the label has become, noir means many different things to many people, some titles seem to just basically be called “Noir” just for an advertising gimmick. Arguments can be endless.
Remember we are not trying to define noir as they exist now, its just a real can of worms, obviously, its a very loosley defined style and everyone has their own opinion of what fits it.
I'm saying from here on out let US narrowly define a Hard Core Noir Genre and back existing films that fit our criteria into it.
Examples, Out Of The Past considered a Noir classic but has an awful lot of day shots and can stay comfortably where it is as noir is currently defined now, along with The Naked City another film that is almost 90% dayshots and quite a few others that don't fit into a hard core Noir Genre. Another film that is not noir enough but is considered a Noir is The Big Steal its more of a Crime/Road picture.
With out having a concrete definition (or Genre) going in these noir style films are going to range all over the map like they do now, because they were never thought of as a genre. In fact in Eddie Muller's Dark City Dames one of the actresses featured was quoted referring to the current vogue for Noir saying "we didn't think the films were anything special we just thought they were cheap". No one ever started out to make a Noir Genre Film.
Think about the Western Genre. A studio or a producer decides to make a Western, so they automatically say to themselves what do we need/do. Well the film needs to take place out WEST, it needs horses, cattle, cowboys, indians and their accouterments and paraphernalia. Wagons, saloons, dust, etc., etc., every one of us can rattle off a list of archetypes. And on the flip side we also know what a Western shouldn't have in it.
Just like the Western Genre there are certain conventions that Westerns have used that became visually generic. So in creating a true NOIR GENRE we can now come up with a list of conventions and archetypes that will fit it. I’m drawing these conventions from the darkest and most stylistic Noirs that I’ve seen to date.
So here is my list (feel free to add):
Cinematography - Noir Stylistics - no fill light, Dutch angles, high contrast, shadows, etc.
Time Period roughly between 1934 to 1960 + or - coinciding with aerodynamic cars, boxy square-ish cars are OUT
Time of Day - basically perpetual NIGHT less than 5-15% of the film should be ever in daylight
Location - at least 95 % of the film should be filmed in The City and its industrial periphery or a small town, no farms, mountains, beaches, forests, wilderness, unless at night and only 5%.
Music mostly 95% Jazz and Blues, Dino, Sinatra, Bennett, Horne, Holliday, etc., some rock & roll but absolutely no Beatles
Storyline 95% CRIME related and its diegetic world of characters and their usually shady forms of employment.
Characters either obsessed or alienated and adrift in a world out of their control.
Voice Over Narration to advance the story is always acceptable.
Flashbacks can be used to also to advance the story.
Costuming fedora hats a must for men or whenever appropriate, Women in heels, seamed stockings and garters always unless naked ;-) Smoking & Drinking mandatory
Weather overcast 50% of the film and some rain to provide pavement reflections
Graphic Novel Style as used in the film Sin City is perfectly acceptable in the Noir Genre in fact it may be the least expensive way to create the Diegetic Noir World of the Genre time period.
Archetypes that must always appear, bare lightbulbs in ceiling fixtures or hanging from cords, neon signs, etc., etc. we can make a use list of these. ;-)
So what we should do from here on out is examine each of the criteria and go into them in depth, or add any if something is missing (as in the archetypes) list iconic characters that should be in these films. If you have a list of favorite Noir Style films examine the elements used in their creation and discuss the elements rather than just say a film title. Remember that we are also creating the Film Soliel Genre so the sun baked desert and crossroad diners Noir stylistic films that have more day than night should go into that Genre ;-).
Hard Core Noirs (that I've seen) so far that could be backed into the genre
The Big Combo
The Asphalt Jungle
He Walked By Night
The Narrow Margin
Night And The City
They Live By Night
Where Danger Lives
The Set Up
The Phantom Lady
99 River Street