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

Joes Project

The piece of media I am going to look at for our project is the present day(2009) Sherlock Holmes. There are some quite obvious reasons was to why it could be closely related to Noir but after watching it again recently I think there are some aspects that will tie in nicely with the characteristics and effects that traditional Noir films contain. A clip to the movie showing one of the fight scenes can be found here. Should be interesting as well to compare present day portrayals of  “detectives” vs. past portrayals.


Controversial Films?


  • This assignment should access the core elements that make up the genre noir and apply those to what really makes a film a “noir”.
  • Pick two of the most controversial/challenged film in the noir community. Divide the class in two giving each half their own film. It is now that groups job to make the most logical and supportive case for why that film should truly be considered a noir or not. Each group should feel free to present this information to the class in any way they pursue. 
  • Grading will be based on how well the group provides evidence for why or why not the film should be considered noir. This should heavily include elements that are established in noir but can consist of outside views as well.