Film Noir and Neo-Noir

What do the terms film noir and neo-noir mean? Good question.

The best way I’ve found to describe what I’m trying to create in the Red Dog Conspiracy is:

A gender-flipped novelized film noir (more technically, a neo-noir), set in a far future steampunk dystopia.

What is film noir?

We’ve all seen the flanderized versions: the fedora-wearing detective in a trenchcoat, the slinky femme fatale, the dark room lit only by a neon light through the slats of a partially-open blind. But film noir is so much more.

Film noir was a movie genre of the 1940’s and 50’s, the love child of the German Expressionist filming styles and hard-boiled detective fiction of the 1920’s and 30’s, raised in post-WWII angst and beaten daily with the strict censorship of the Hays Code.

It features

  • anti-hero protagonists, often with morally ambiguous motives at best: self-destructive, addicted, alienated from the mainstream society, and cynical, having seen too much
  • with a fatalistic view of life, but trying to do the best they know how
  • trapped in situations they didn’t cause, but make worse by their own actions
  • in a society which doesn’t make sense, which used to be beautiful but is now distorted somehow.

Random fate is a theme often seen in film noir – to those returning from WWII having seen one person die and another live - seemingly at random - this must have had a certain rightness about it.

I like this summation of noir by CT Phipps very much:

Noir is a sensibility where there are no easy answers, endings are never completely happy, everyone is flawed, corruption is rampant, and mankind is never going to be any better than it already is. The trick is understanding this doesn’t make life not worth living. Noir heroes continue to muddy through life, trying to find answers, even if they’re not to be found.

Maybe it’s why the genre is so successful. We’ve all felt like that from time to time.

What is neo-noir?

Neo-noir simply refers to those works with noir themes which were made after the 1950’s. Some of the best examples are movies such as Chinatown and Blade Runner.

So those of you who have read the Red Dog Conspiracy ... what do you think? How am I doing so far? ;)

If you haven’t read it yet, get a copy of The Jacq of Spades: Part 1 of the Red Dog Conspiracy, and see for yourself.

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