Everything profound these days seems to have the word “noir” added to it. All that noir means is “black” in French. In fact, this stylish phrase would sound very politically incorrect, if we used the Spanish version of the word. Somehow a “film negro” festival just doesn’t cut the mustard. And for all you Anglophiles, film black is better, but not as catchy, as the French version. And as a sideline, if you go to a restaurant in Paris and ask for a cafe noir, you’ll receive a cup of coffee without any sugar or cream. Go figure.
Classic Era of Film Noir
According to Wikipedia, the term “film noir” was first used by the French film critic, Nino Frank, in 1946 to describe a set of intriguing murder mystery movies made in black and white. Moreover, the heyday of Hollywood’s “film noir” lasted from the early 1940’s to the late 50s, including such movies as “The Big Sleep”, “D.O.A.”, “The Big Heat”, “The Set-up”, “Gun Crazy” and “The Night and the City”. Most of these movies were low budget, black and white affairs, which lead to similar bigger budget dark films, such as the “Maltese Falcon”, “Key Largo” or a host of Alfred Hitchcock productions.
Film Noir Today
Film Noir never died, it just transformed itself into the modern equivalent of Crime Fiction, which can still be found in film as well as TV and literature. Modern stories, such as “Pulp Fiction”, “Body Heat”, “Miami Vice”, “L.A. Confidential” and Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Series”, all owe at least a little bit to 40s and 50s Hollywood. This ever-popular may even be seeing a resurgence today – perhaps even a golden age, where superb film productions and literary efforts can be found in many quarters.