The 1960s and 1970s
While it is hard to draw a line between some of the noir films of the early 1960s such as Blast of Silence (1961) and Cape Fear (1962) and the noirs of the late 1950s, new trends emerged in the post-classic era. The Manchurian Candidate (1962), directed by John Frankenheimer, Shock Corridor (1962), directed by Samuel Fuller, and Brainstorm (1965), directed by experienced noir character actor William Conrad, all treat the theme of mental dispossession within stylistic and tonal frameworks derived from classic film noir.
In a different vein, filmmakers such as Arthur Penn (Mickey One , clearly drawing inspiration from Truffaut's Tirez sur la pianiste and other French New Wave films), John Boorman (Point Blank , similarly caught up, though in the Nouvelle vague's deeper waters), and Alan J. Pakula (Klute ) directed movies that knowingly related themselves to the original film noirs, inviting audiences in on the game. Conscious acknowledgment of the classic era's conventions, as historical archetypes to be revived, rejected, or reimagined, is what puts the "neo" in neo-noir, according to many critics. Though several late classic noirs, Kiss Me Deadly in particular, were entirely self-knowing and post-traditional in conception, none that were top- or midbudgeted (like Aldrich's masterpiece) tipped its hand in a way noticeable to most audiences of the time. The first broadly popular crime drama of an unmistakabe neo-noir nature was not a movie, but the TV series Peter Gunn (1958–61), created by Blake Edwards.
Neo-noir/Take 1: As car thief Michel Poiccard, aka Laszlo Kovacs, Jean-Paul Belmondo does his best Bogey in └ bout de souffle (Breathless; 1960), written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard from a story by Franšois Truffaut.
A manifest affiliation with noir traditions—which, by its nature, allows for different sorts of commentary on them to be inferred—can also provide the basis for explicit critiques of those traditions. The first major film to work this angle (that might be thought of as the most "neo" of "neo") was French director Jean-Luc Godard's └ bout de souffle (Breathless; 1960), which pays its literal respects to Bogart and his crime films while brandishing a bold new style for a new day. In 1973, director Robert Altman, who had worked on Peter Gunn, flipped off noir piety with The Long Goodbye. Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler, it features one of Bogart's most famous characters, but in iconoclastic fashion: Philip Marlowe, the prototypical hardboiled detective, is replayed as a hapless misfit, almost laughably out of touch with contemporary mores and morality. Where Altman's subversion of the film noir mythos was so irreverent as to anger many contemporary critics, around the same time Woody Allen was paying affectionate, at points idolatrous homage to the classic mode with Play It Again, Sam (1972).
The most acclaimed of the neo-noirs of the era was director Roman Polanski's 1974 Chinatown. Written by Robert Towne, it is set in 1930s Los Angeles, an accustomed noir locale nudged back some few years in a way that makes the pivotal loss of innocence in the story even crueler. Where Polanski and Towne raised noir to a black apogee by turning rearward, director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader brought the noir attitude crashing into the present day with Taxi Driver (1976), a cackling, bloody-minded gloss on bicentennial America. In 1978, Walter Hill wrote and directed the The Driver, a chase movie as might have been imagined by Jean-Pierre Melville in an especially abstract mood. Hill was already a central figure in 1970s noir of a more straightforward manner, having written the script for director Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway (1972), adapting a novel by pulp master Jim Thompson, as well as for two tough private eye films: an original screenplay for Hickey & Boggs (1972) and an adaptation of a novel by Ross Macdonald, the leading literary descendant of Hammett and Chandler, for The Drowning Pool (1975). Some of the strongest 1970s noirs, in fact, were unwinking remakes of the classics, "neo" mostly be default: Altman's heartbreaking Thieves Like Us (1973), based on the same source as Ray's They Live by Night, and Farewell, My Lovely (1975), the Chandler tale made classically as Murder, My Sweet, remade here with Robert Mitchum in his last notable noir role. Detective series, prevalent on American television during the period, updated the hardboiled tradition in different ways, but the show conjuring the most noir tone was a horror crossover touched with shaggy, Long Goodbye–style humor: Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974–75), featuring a Chicago newspaper reporter investigating strange, usually supernatural occurrences.