Modern Film Noir (II)

Film Noir and Neo-Noir

There is a slight difference between the two genres. I defined the Film Noir genre in an earlier post and will now look a bit more into Neo-Noir films.

Neo-Noir which stands for a sort of Film Noir revival, characterises films that feature elements of the classic Film Noir period, however with updated themes and contents, then, absent from the 1940s films. The elements of these classic films include conflicted heroes, complicated/ depressing situations, unusual camera placement and a striking use of light and shadow.
Films don’t need to be in black and white to have a Film Noir feel. The colour palette used, with desaturated tones and darker hues, can work just as well to create atmosphere and give the movie a striking, personal visual identity.


Homages to Film Noir

Something I have noticed when watching modern TV shows, are the numerous ‘specials’ that usually pay tribute to classic genres of the film industry: Film Noir, Musical, Animation and so on. Sometimes, these genres are even mixed together to create a very interesting episode, that is not always at the centre of the main plot of the series but that in a way, explores possibilities and the character’s personalities more thoroughly than any other episode of the season.

I can site the episode Charmed Noir that was the 8th episode of the 7th season of the TV show Charmed that aired in 2004. The show, which is originally about witches, took on the look and style of classic Film Noir for this one episode.

In the science fiction TV show Fringe, the 20th episode of the 2nd series called Brown Betty does not only borrow features from Film Noir but is also a musical. The episode which is actually a story that one of the protagonists tells to a child, is not in black and white and features science fiction elements. However it still does a good job through the costumes, the music and the camera angles of reminding the audience of the Film Noir of old.

More recently, the TV show Pretty Little Liars also featured a Film Noir episode entitled Shadow Play. This season 4 episode was shown in black and white and while the protagonists’ outfits are said to have had very striking colours, the audience never saw them as anything but grey.


To conclude, it is interesting to note that although Film Noir may have lost its importance after the 1950s, the genre never died and is still a source of inspiration for directors nowadays. The fascinating visual identity one can create through the use of lighting and camera angles is what probably appeals the most to artists. While serious films can be classified as Neo-Noirs, several TV shows use the features of this genre in a single episode as an homage to this period that heavily influenced Hollywood a few decades ago.

When looking at the examples cited above, perhaps a Film Noir Fairy-tale isn’t that far-fetched after all.


DIRKS, T., Film Noir [online]. American Movie Classics Company. Available at: [Accessed April 2015]


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