Film Noir… black film. The genre conjures up images of private eyes and femme fatales – of obtuse shadows and smokey night clubs. The endless night. It’s a style and genre – but what is it? In this guide we hope to shed some light on what exactly does Film Noir refer to, how it has been used and how it’s being shaped even in contemporary films.


Film noir is a type of film that is, fatalistic, pessimistic, or cynical in mood and often dealing melodramatically with urban crime and corruption, generally regarded as stretching from the early 1940s to the late 1950s.

OK, that’s the simple textbook definition, but the questions of what defines film noir and if it is a true genre continues to cause debate. There have been innumerable attempts at definition, yet in the words of cinema historian Mark Bould, film noir remains an “elusive phenomenon … always just out of reach”.

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