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Similarly, while the private eye and the femme fatale are character types conventionally identified with noir, the majority of film noirs feature neither; so there is no character basis for genre designation as with the gangster film.Nor does film noir rely on anything as evident as the monstrous or supernatural elements of the horror film, the speculative leaps of the science fiction film, or the song-and-dance routines of the musical.
Film noir's aesthetics are deeply influenced by German Expressionism, an artistic movement of the 1910s and 1920s that involved theater, photography, painting, sculpture, and architecture, as well as cinema.Film noir encompasses a range of plots: the central figure may be a private eye (The Big Sleep), a plainclothes policeman (The Big Heat), an aging boxer (The Set-Up), a hapless grifter (Night and the City), a law-abiding citizen lured into a life of crime (Gun Crazy), or simply a victim of circumstance (D. Many pictures released from the 1960s onward share attributes with film noir of the classical period, and often treat its conventions self-referentially. "We'd be oversimplifying things in calling film noir oneiric, strange, erotic, ambivalent, and cruel […]"—this set of attributes constitutes the first of many attempts to define film noir made by French critics Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton in their 1955 book Panorama du film noir américain 1941–1953 (A Panorama of American Film Noir), the original and seminal extended treatment of the subject.The authors' caveats and repeated efforts at alternative definition have been echoed in subsequent scholarship: in the more than five decades since, there have been innumerable further attempts at definition, yet in the words of cinema historian Mark Bould, film noir remains an "elusive phenomenon […] always just out of reach".Film noir similarly embraces a variety of genres, from the gangster film to the police procedural to the gothic romance to the social problem picture—any example of which from the 1940s and 1950s, now seen as noir's classical era, was likely to be described as a "melodrama" at the time.While noir is often associated with an urban setting, many classic noirs take place in small towns, suburbia, rural areas, or on the open road; so setting cannot be its genre determinant, as with the Western.The opportunities offered by the booming Hollywood film industry, and, later, the threat of growing Nazi power, led to the emigration of many important film artists working in Germany who had either been directly involved in the Expressionist movement or studied with its practitioners.
Fritz Lang's M (1931), shot only a few years before his departure from Germany, is among the first major crime films of the sound era to join a characteristically noirish visual style with a noir-type plot, one in which the protagonist is a criminal (as are his most successful pursuers).
Directors such as Lang, Robert Siodmak, and Michael Curtiz brought a dramatically shadowed lighting style and a psychologically expressive approach to visual composition, or mise-en-scène, with them to Hollywood, where they would make some of the most famous of classic noirs.
The film noir genre generally refers to mystery and crime dramas produced from the early 1940s to the late 1950s.
Movies of this genre were characteristically shot in black and white, and featured stories involving femmes fatales, doomed heroes or anti-heroes, and tough, cynical detectives.
The term film noir, French for "black film" (literal) or "dark film" (closer meaning), were referred to as "melodramas".
Whether film noir qualifies as a distinct genre is a matter of ongoing debate among scholars. Although film noir was originally associated with American productions, films now so described have been made around the world.