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Once more into the breach!
 
Ulf Hagberg writes:
"Maybe these definitions are to narrow. It might be useful to take a look at
Barbara Deming=B4s definition of main-characters as refered in Robert Sklar=
=B4s
 
"Movie-made America" which is as follows :
 
"The hero who sees nothing to fight for; the hero who despairs making a
life for himself; the hero who achieves succes but finds it empty; and the
malcontent who breaks with the old life, only to find himself nowhere."
 
This might widen up the discussion, and it certainly applies to a variety
of so called film noirs."
 
This isn't a *bad* definition either.  As I said, the D'Amico definition can
be useful, but if D'Amico runs the risk of being much too narrow, this one
runs the risk of being too broad.  It could apply to Antonioni's films,
for example.
 
My own definition of film noir is a tautology:
        "Film noir is 'film noir.'"
Which is to say:
        "Film noir exists when I notice a certain combination of factors
that I associate with film noir at such a level as to constitute a
'critical mass' that allows me to identify the film as 'noir.'"
 
The factors (some of them mutually exclusive) that might apply include:
        certain narrative motifs (including the ones identified by D'Amico)
        certain character traits (including the ones cited by Sklar)
        certain stylistic elements (low-key lighting, extreme camera angles,
                claustrophobic studio sets *or* location settings)
        certain generic elements (gangster film, detective film, police
                procedure film--but not exclusively)
        and historical placement (some place from 1941 or 1944 to 1949 or 1958,
                depending on what you're looking for.
 
 
For me, at least, this notion of "film noir" as a historically-defined
concatenation of elements has several merits:
        1. It avoids essentialist definitions
        2. It locates film noir where it was first found--in a particular
                period of film history.
        3. By proposing that noir consists of a combination of elements,
                it allows examination of "noirish" moments in otherwise
                non-noir films--IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, for example.
        4. By locating it historically, it means that once "film noir" is
                identified and referred to as an object of film history,
                its elements can be appropriated by filmmakers to different
                ends, but often with a high degree of self-conscious
                reference to the film past.  Once FILM COMMENT began to
                run several articles on noir, it was ripe for the picking,
                hence the explosion of "neo-noir" films in the early 1970s on.
 
 
It's not a very snappy definition, but it works for me.
 
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
 
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