Film Noir/Noir Cultures

"Film noir" is a French term used in reference to "dark films," traditionally understood as a type of mystery, suspense thriller, or crime melodrama from Hollywood of the 1940s and 1950s. This course suggests that to learn the history of film noir, we need to study it at the intersections of different cultural expressions and determining factors. Our investigation will therefore span genres, styles, and time periods in U.S. narrative cinema. What cultural needs and desires does noir serve? What does noir illuminate (albeit darkly) about our culture? To begin addressing these questions, we will analyze cinematic elements of mise-en-scène, such as costumes, lighting, sets, and locations, emphasizing the relationship between Classical Hollywood style and what came to be called “film noir.” We will then examine how crime fiction, painting and photography, and popular music all helped shape noir styles, as well as how classic-era noir influenced “neo-noir,” which has expanded and, in some cases, reinterpreted what noir means (including films made by and about women, queer people, and people of color). Finally, we will consider the legacy of film noir in comics, television, and video games to recognize its diverse uses over time and across visual media. In addition to watching films in weekly screenings, students will have opportunities to play the game L.A. Noire in the SU Digital Scholarship Space and visit the SU Special Collections Research Center to look at archival material from the Pulp Literature and Science Fiction holdings for a primary research project.