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Conventions of neo noir

Powerpoint on the typical conventions of neo noir films and comparing these to conventions of classic noir films.

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Conventions of neo noir

  1. 1. CONVENTIONS OF NEO NOIR Ellen Kenrick
  2. 2. 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. Examples: ‘Body Heat’ (1981) ‘Breathless’ (1983) ‘The Crying Game’ (1992) ‘Bound’ (1992) ‘A History of Violence’ (2005)
  3. 3. PROTAGONIST’S PERSONAL CODE 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. Example: Marv from ‘Sin City’ (2005).
  4. 4. FALSE ACCUSATIONS AND BETRAYAL 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 true. Examples: ‘Sin City’ (2005)
  5. 5. UNRELIABLE NARRATOR 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. Examples: ‘Memento’ (2000) ‘The Machinist’ (2004)
  6. 6. CYNICAL, WORLD-WEARY PROTAGONIST’S 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. Examples: ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976) ‘Chinatown’ (1974) ‘No Country for Old Men’ (2007) ‘Se7en’ (1995)
  7. 7. COMPLEX PLOTS AND ANALEPSIS 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).
  8. 8. CHIAROSCURO LIGHTING 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. Examples:  In the neo-noir film ‘’Watchmen’ (2009).  ‘The Usual Subject’ (1995).
  9. 9. 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.
  10. 10. LONG TRACKING SHOTS AND DEEP FOCUS 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.
  11. 11. OBSCURED SCENES 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.
  12. 12. 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 violence on-screen ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008) by Christopher Nolan’s is an excellent example of the traditional industrialised urban settings.
  13. 13. DUTCH ANGLES AND INVERTED FRAMES 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. Example:  ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)
  14. 14. 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).
  15. 15. FIRST-PERSON VOICE-VOICE NARRATION 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). <iframe width="420" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  16. 16. 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. Example: ‘Brick’ (2005) . ‘Prestige’ (2006).
  17. 17. FEMME FATALE 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 other. Examples: Catherine Tramell from ‘Basic Instinct’ (1992).