EROTICISM AND SEXUALITY
The classic film noir era introduced the most lurid depictions of
eroticism and sexuality that had ever been seen before. Neo noir
pushed these boundaries in both heterosexual and homosexual ways.
‘Body Heat’ (1981)
‘The Crying Game’ (1992)
‘A History of Violence’ (2005)
Many neo noir protagonists have personal
codes that they strive to uphold. Many are
chivalric in nature and involve a criminal
code. An excellent example of a
protagonist with a personal code is Bill
from ‘Following’ (1998). He sets strict
rules for himself when he starts following
strangers on the streets of London. He
also commits several crimes to protect
woman’s honor. This is a key example of a
neo noir protagonist’s personal code.
Marv from ‘Sin City’ (2005).
FALSE ACCUSATIONS AND
Neo-noir are rife with false accusations, betrayals and double
crosses. A twist on the element is where some neo noirs look at how
a protagonist is accused of a crime or misdeed, the audience is led to
believe the accusations are false and the accusations turns out to be
‘Sin City’ (2005)
They are much more prominent and used to a greater effect in neo
noir films than they were in classic noirs. Where the narrators are
unreliable and tricks the audience into thinking something. It is aided
by a heavy used of analeptics to further disorientate the viewer.
‘The Machinist’ (2004)
This type of protagonist was a staple of classic noir films, and is still
popular in neo-noirs as well. The protagonist’s background and flaws
are even more questionable, if anything.
‘Taxi Driver’ (1976)
‘No Country for Old Men’ (2007)
COMPLEX PLOTS AND
This is definitely a characteristic element
of neo noir films. The films move
episodically and deals with the characters,
trying to unravel a mystery as well as
having a hopelessly complex plot that is
ultimately unimportant. Heavy use of
analepsis and achronological narrative is
relied on in some neo noirs films, such as
in ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994).
Was used often in noir films because it added contrast to the scene
and helped emphasise characters or details in the scene. However
today due to the widespread us of colour film and advanced
cinematographic techniques it is no longer necessary to use
chiaroscuro lighting as contrast can be added through the use of
colour instead of just shadow and light.
In the neo-noir film ‘’Watchmen’ (2009).
‘The Usual Subject’ (1995).
BARS, DIAGONALS AND
FRAMES WITHIN FRAMES
This still from ‘Watchmen’ (2009) is an
example of a character framed within a
frame as they are framed by the doorway
within the frame.
This still from Bryan Singer’s ‘The Usual
Suspects’ (1995) also touches on this idea
as the character is framed in a certain way
within the image.
LONG TRACKING SHOTS AND
One of the most incredible long tracking shots
ever filmed is the 6 minute long tracking shot
in the HBO series ‘True Detective’. The neo-noir
crime anthology contains some stunning
cinematography and this particular tracking
shot was filmed in one single take.
Some neo-noir films continue to the use the idea of smoke, steam,
fog or rain to obscure the background of the scene to add to the
sense of mystery. In the case of ‘Blade Runner’ (1982) however even
the foreground characters are hidden in this obscure way.
URBAN SETTINGS FILMED
MOSTLY AT NIGHT
Neo noir films have used this idea in various ways that
differ widely from each other. Where most films continue
to traditional use of darkness to convey isolation, some
films such as ‘Brick’ use the brightness of sunlight and
even white snow (‘A Simple Plan’ 1998 and ‘Fargo’, 1996)
to the same effect.
Additionally, where most neo-noir are set in cityscapes
and industrial backgrounds, some films such as David
Cronenberg’s ‘A History of Violence’ (2005) have been set
in the wilderness, in small towns or in peaceful looking
countryside, which some believe has a stronger impact on
the storyline as it provides an excellent counterpoint to the
‘The Dark Knight’ (2008) by Christopher Nolan’s is an
excellent example of the traditional industrialised urban
DUTCH ANGLES AND
Although they were much more popular in the classic noir films, there
are still a few odd appearances of the dutch angle, and other
abnormal, inverted shots in the neo noir films.
‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)
CRIME AND VIOLENCE
The level of crime and violence in neo
noir films has definitely skyrocketed
since the demise of the Hays Code and
they basically let violence take centre
stage. Some neo noirs however stick to
the subtlety of classic film noir crime
and use suggestive offscreen violence.
Violence in neo noirs usually tends to
convey something about the character
such as Travis Bickle’s mental state in
‘Taxi Driver’ (1976).
First person narrative doesn’t factor into neo-noir
quite as much as it does in the classic noir films,
although some films do still choose to include it as a
homage to the classic films. An excellent example is
Frank Miller’s ‘Sin City’ (2005).
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WATER AND REFLECTIONS
Shots of water and reflections were quite prominent in
classic noir films, but not so much in neo noirs,
although they’re still a feature in them.
‘Brick’ (2005) .
The character of the femme fatale is a element that
is used in neo noirs just as much as it was in classic
noirs. However the role can change slightly from
neo to classic, and more sympathetic female
characters are presented in neo noirs. An
interesting development in neo-noir is also blurring
of the lines between the protagonist and the femme
fatale as sometimes one can be substituted for the
Catherine Tramell from ‘Basic Instinct’ (1992).