Film noir is a type of film genre that portrays the underside of society. The genre began in the 1930’s and remained as a strong cinematic medium until the early 1960’s. Film noir literally means “black film” in French and features themes which are more negative than positive, with an overall dark and shadowy outlook–being filmed in black and white. This film genre takes in detective and crime noir as well as many gangster films of the 1930’s. Movies such as Bullitt and Vertigo are just a few examples of “black film. Although these movies were filmed in different eras, they share common aspects that really define the genre and will further be discussed. These aspects are as follows: film noir stories feature main characters who find themselves embroiled in hopeless situations, fighting against a force that threatens to overtake them, and that the main character is often a male. It may not be intentional for the main character to become involved in a situation that takes a turn for the worst and lands them in a hopeless state of being.
Steve McQueen’s character in Bullitt, Lt. Frank Bullitt, was specially assigned by a would-be Senator to protect a character witness. But as the movie unfolds, Frank Bullitt soon finds himself tangled in a web of deceit and the blood of his partners on his hands. A similar misfortune had befallen James Stewart’s character detective John “Scottie” Ferguson in the movie Vertigo. He was a retired police detective suffering from acrophobia who is hired as a private investigator to follow the wife of an acquaintance to uncover the mystery of her peculiar behavior.
This sense of hopelessness is essentially the main driving force behind these successful film noir movies because of the way that it incorporates spine tingling suspense and relative emotions to its audience. Struggles and threatening forces cooked up a storm for both Lt. Frank Bullitt and detective Scottie in variety of ways. Be it mental, physical, emotional and/or financial; they all take its toll on the main characters and leaves a lasting effect on viewers when watching film noir classics like Bullitt and Vertigo.
Frank Bullitt underwent puzzling mental struggles and received physical threats from the politician who assigned him to the special protective case; in addition to, the ever present threat of the Chicago Mafia who is pursuing the man in Bullitt’s custody. Unlike the triple headed hydra that Lt. Frank Bullitt battled, detective Scottie had a less pervasive bout with threatening forces in Vertigo. Scottie had survived a near death experience after dangling from a multi-level highrise early on in the film but that latent acrophobia stayed with him and set troubling limitations as to where he could go and what he was able to do.
Through soundness of character, perseverence, mental toughness; the main characters of both films were able to find their way through the darkness and shadows cast upon them in the world of film noir. Usually most main characters of film noir movies are males. Perhaps because the role of a private dectective or gun man-prominent film noir characters-were given to males. Blame it on the era in which these films/movies were made. We didn’t have many females back then who were contending with males on multiple fronts.
Front lines of WW I/WW II and Executive officers or CEOs of major fortune 500 companies were just a few examples of prominent spots occupied by men. Although women did have cruical roles in all of the above, from a film noir stand point, they were deemed, “femme fatale,” and used their sex appeal and minds to achieve their goals of fame, fortune, and power. More often than not, though, film noir viewers are more than likely to continue seeing males as the main character of many a “black film” to come. Bullitt and Vertigo were just a few of many great movies that are catagorized as film noir.
All film noir films and movies will inherently share these common aspects of hopelessness, threatening forces, and often a male portraying the lead role. Without these few aspects, the thrill and suspense would be lost as if the overall darkness and shadowy outlook were lifted by brightness and color that is modern day Disney films… What began in the 1930’s will always be herald as a classic film genre for days to come. http://www. filmnoirstudies. com/essays/progressive. asp http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Vertigo_%28film%29 http://www. essortment. com/film-noir-definition-information-65487. html
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