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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Notoriously Noir and Writing Today

Film noir, French for “black film”, is the classification for the popular films of the 40’s and 50’s that combined crime, cynical attitudes and sexual motivations.
I’m a fan of Alfred Hitchcock. Add Cary Grant and you get my favorite Film Noir Notorious. It’s the story of two lovers whose lives and relationship are torn apart by espionage and undercover work for the government. Below are two of my favorite scenes from this movie.
The first is a wide look at a grand mansion. The camera shows the house packed with happy party guests, but finally zooms in on Ingrid Bergman’s hand concealing a key. No words are necessary to convey the powerful meaning of her actions.

The second scene has been termed one of the most “intimate and erotic kisses”. Production Code’s at the time banned kisses longer than three seconds in duration. Hitchcock had his actors disengage every three seconds, murmur and nuzzle each other, then kiss again. They even walk from room to room without every breaking contact for approximately three minutes.

Many screenwriters today copy or pay homage to those films, creating a kind of “Modern Day Noir”. If you are interested in writing your own Noir there are a few rules.
1. Read/watch classic Noir (see examples below).
2. Decide on the circumstances of the crime. All noir mystery stories explore the meaning of good and evil, so be sure to address this theme. There's more emphasis on characters in noir mysteries than others, the deed must be evil enough to create a dark, cynical atmosphere.
3. Decide on an angle for telling the story. You MUST capture the dark atmosphere of the genre. Remember, you can't count on the police or a private investigator to tell your story. The narrator must be someone with first-hand knowledge of the crime, if not the actual criminal.
4. Clarify exactly how the crime was committed down to the last detail. A map of the setting and a blow-by-blow description will help you organize this information. Make a list of clues and build scenes around their gradual discovery.
5. Write character sketches of everyone involved, especially the suspects. You need to figure out how to portray the steamy relationship between your femme fatale and the man she lures into the crime.
For a fun example of tips or an outline visit: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/SoYouWantTo/WriteAFilmNoir
This website is dedicated to Modern Noir Fiction: http://www.backalleywebzine.com/
Read free Film Noir scripts and screenplays: http://www.simplyscripts.com/genre/film-noir-scripts.html
Happy Writing!


Porky said...

Useful post, and great choice of clips. Of course, as Mr Hitchcock knew, the rules are there for the breaking..!

Dafeenah said...

I have often heard the term "film noir" but I had no idea what it referred to. Thanks for explaining it in such detail.

Bish Denham said...

Great kissing scene. Such passion and they never take off a stitch of clothing!

Carole Anne Carr said...

Film noir is still as strong as ever, even though most of it is now on the tv in the form of Swedish drama on this side of the pond.

the writing pad said...

Great explanations for something I'd heard of but never actually seen defined. Thanks for making a light in the noir! Love the first clip - great atmosphere
All best, Karla

Brigitte said...

I studied film noir for a few weeks in college, Hitchcock movies included. Film makers were moving away from the classic hollywood conventions so they could more accurately express their post-war feelings, which is why the film noir movies were a little less happy-go-lucky than usual.
Settings also became more important, as well as contrast lighting, women being the antagonist rather than the victim, etc.
I would also add that protagonists always have an important flaw in Noirs, which leads them to committing some major mistake (the crime, mostly), and their life from then on goes spiraling downward.

There's some other important stuff, too. I just don't have my notes with me. xD

Holly Ruggiero said...

I love Hitchcock myself. You have great tips for delving in to the that genre (and useful in others too).

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

shelly said...

Fascinating! Thank you for sharing.

Susan Kane said...

No film can go wrong with that combination of actors, directors, and script. Nowadays, that may not be true, but in that era...oh, my.

Laura said...

I think writing mysteries and horror stories would be more fun and interesting than romance writing. I like your list for writing noir style.


lishacauthen said...

I want that car in the second clip. I want it with all my heart. *sigh*

damyantiwrites said...

Great tips! Thanks for sharing :)

Alison Miller said...

Great post and very informative! Thanks for stopping by my blog - I look forward to returning to yours often!

K.C. Woolf said...

Inspiring post, thanks! :-)

Joanna said...

Fascinating. I'm going to rent that film and spend an evening with it. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Not Just Another Mother Blogger! said...

I LOVE Hitchcock! North by Northwest is one of my favorites, but I also liked The Birds. Thank you for following my blog, I really appreciate the comments!

Karen Mortensen said...

Thanks for stopping by. Nothing like a good black and white movie.

Tara Tyler said...

great advice and explanation for noir - I had an idea, but now I totally get it. And Cary Grant, to die for!
Happy N Day (on Sunday)!

Langley said...

Notorious is wonderful! Now I want to see it again. Thanks for the helpful tips for writing noir-style.

I’m A-Z Blogging on Langley Writes about Writing and Langley’s Rich and Random Life

Kari Marie said...

That's fascinating about the laws of no kiss being longer than three seconds. Love how Hitchcock and the actors got around it. I've never seen this film, but I feel like I should now!

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Wow. What an incredible resource your blog is! My very favorite Hitchcock movie is Rear Window. Grace Kelly is incredibly beautiful and I love her clothing.

Thank you so much for stopping by to say hello this afternoon.

Take care,

Kathy M.

Siv Maria said...

Well anyone who loves this is my kind of ;)Now please tell me you love Sarah Brightman as well. Just snooping around and loving it :)

Halli Gomez said...

Wonderful post! You don't hear much of film noir in the common writing magazines and such. It really is a lost art.
This was very informative. Thanks!!

I also read the screen play for Double Indemnity and it is fantastic as well.

Notorious is my favorite movie (my dog's name was Devlin and my cat's name is Hitchcock)

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