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The Problem of Film Noir

I was browsing through the internet on anything I could find about film noir and I came across a website that had many interesting things to say about film noir. The site contains several good pages/articles about film noir but one caught my eye in particular titled The Problem of Film Noir. You can find the page here. So this is a website created by the University of Groningen, which is one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands, but I could not ever find whether or not the site was made by a student or if a professor or faculty member created it. Nonetheless I think it provides some interesting information that we did not necessarily cover in class. The page starts off by giving some basic history on film noir; what it means, how it came to be, etc. It then brings up the problem of genre and film noir together and how they function which is where it gets interesting. It begins by stating that “there are some critics(Higham, Greeenberg and Paul Kerr) that view film noir as a genre; thus it will rely upon a system of well defined conventions and expectations like other genre defined movies” but states that there are problems even with this. According to our reading, Altman says that “just as genres must have clear borders in order to facilitate the kind of genre criticism described here, the individual films of any particular generic canon must clearly serve as examples of that genre”. As we all know and as the page points out ” film noir tends to cross traditional genre boundaries; there are noir  westerns, gangster films and comedies to mention some”. Now this may seem vague but the point I am trying to get across is that these characteristics clearly contradict one another even though we consider them both to be considered noir. On the other hand the page says that “other critics, like Durgnat and Schrader, avoid these problems by viewing film noir not as a genre, but by emphasizing the stylistic elements”. This is something I think we can all agree upon but the page raises an interesting debate to this as well; it states that ” this `noir style´ is actually not what it seems. Instead of being subversive of the traditional or classical norms of Hollywood style film making, as many critics values it to be, the noir style was a part of the systemization of Hollywood’s narrational regulation during the 1940s”. Here it is again, another contradiction of noir that seems true. After thinking critically about this article I am sitting on the fence because it brings up some very interesting points that we did not really cover in class. So after reading this I want to know what you guys  think about it?!

problem troll


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