Film Noir/Noir Cultures
Film noir (or “dark film”) is a French term used in reference to dark melodramas, mysteries, and crime thrillers, traditionally from 1940s and 1950s Hollywood. Its definition varies from a genre to a visual style to a historical period. This course suggests that to understand noir, we need to study it at the crossroads of different cultural expressions and determining factors. Our investigation will therefore span genres, styles, periods, and even media. What cultural needs and desires does noir serve? What does noir illuminate (albeit darkly) about our culture? To begin addressing these questions, we will look at cinematic elements of mise-en-scène, including costumes, lighting, sets, and locations, emphasizing the relationship between Classical Hollywood style and what came to be called “film noir.” However, we will expand from noir’s literary sources and precursors to examine the influence of street photography and period music, as well as the legacy of classic noir in video games, television, and “neo-noir.” We will also think about the cultural politics of noir, not only in low-budget Hollywood filmmaking from the blacklist era, but also in later African-American, feminist, and queer films that reveal the diverse uses and meanings of noir over time.