Professor Charlotte E. Howell
12 November 2012
Word Count: 1411
Film Noir to Neo-Noir: A Shift in Cultural Tides
Film noir of the 1940s captivated audiences through its distinct form of storytelling. Strongly influenced by German Expressionism, these films have a definitive look and style that still resonates with modern audiences today. Like other classical Hollywood genres, film noir sought to bring to light tensions felt within society, namely those that affected men following World War II. Neo-noir films pay a great deal less attention to social commentary. Like film noir of the past, neo-noir elevates style over narrative; however, the genre has seen significant changes in regards to narrative, the disappearance of the femme fatale, and the prevalence of onscreen violence due to shifting cultural tides.
In observing examples of film noir and its contemporary version, neo-noir, it is clear several elements in regards to the style and overall “feel” of these films have virtually remained the same throughout the years. In Nicolas Winding Refn’s neo-noir, Drive, a sense of otherworldliness is portrayed through several night scenes, intense shadows, and an overall dark rather downtrodden mood to the film. The scenes in the film take place at night and invariably in an urban setting. All of these elements are
extremely typical of classic film noir as well as German Expressionism. Drive’s narrative unfolds with surprisingly little dialogue. Instead Refn focused scenes on the mood, further strengthening the style of the film. Similarly, Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential keeps with traditional film noir in elevating the style of the movie above its narrative. This is done through the heavy emphasis of the urban cityscape. As the title suggests, Los Angeles, is a major component within the film. The peppy, orange-filled paradise portrayal of L.A. in the film’s opening scene sharply contrasts the...
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