A few weeks ago, I wrote this post on “The Elements of Neo-Noir.” Since writing that post, it has occurred to me that I missed one key element of neo-noir (though, to be fair, I probably missed a few more that haven’t yet occurred to me): the mental and physical fragility of the protagonist.
I’ve mentioned the term “neo-noir” quite a bit lately in my “Next Game” series of posts, but I’ve never given a concrete definition of what elements or characteristics constitute the genre. Also, what differentiates between “film noir” and “neo-noir” in the first place? Film noir, as a genre, is most commonly said to begin with John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon (1941) and end with Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958), though there are precursors to film noir throughout the 1930’s. Neo-noir must then begin some time after 1958, but there is much debate about which is the first American film that should be classified as such. Internationally, the first neo-noir film would have to be Jean-Luc Godard’s A bout de souffle (1960), which was remade by Jim McBride in 1983 as Breathless (which is a translation of the French title), starring Richard Gere. The reason the first neo-noir film is a French film is at the heart of one of the main reasons the two genres are divided in the first place. In 1930, the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America, later known as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), adopted a strict code of moral censorship known as the Hays Code, which it began enforcing in 1934. With the beginning of World War II and changes to the social fabric of American life that the war brought with it, the time was ripe for the rise in popularity of film noir. Other things that facilitated the rise of film noir were the introduction of high-speed film stock and new cinematographic techniques that made shooting outside of film studios more practical, and the large number of French and German film directors who fled the war and ended up in Hollywood. This type of film remained popular throughout the post-war period and was marked by a number of characteristic elements:
I went to see the World War Z movie today. While there were some great moments in the film, the overall product was not well put together. I honestly don’t care that it has very little in common with the book. I knew that going in. What bothered me were some fundamental flaws in the movie.