The Philosophy of Film Noir
Les Reid sees through a lens darkly with Mark Conard.
Film noir represents a dark night of the soul in American cinema. In the 1920s and 30s the most popular genre was the Western, with its tales of courage, self-reliance, male toughness and female sweetness. Westerns were infused with the values of the American Dream, and the Western hero was likeable, trustworthy and admirable. By contrast, the films made in the 1940s and 50s referred to as ‘film noir’ convey dark feelings of disillusionment, pessimism and cynicism. Recurring characteristics of these films are that the whole society portrayed seems corrupt; the protagonist is more anti-hero than hero; a femme fatale lures the protagonist into crime; crime is presented as a cunning exploit; and fatalism rules as plans go awry.