Film Noir (literally 'black film or cinema') was coined by French film critics who noticed the trend of how dark and black the looks and themes were of many American crime and detective films released in France following the war. It is a style of American films that first evolved in the 1940s, became prominent in the post-war era, and lasted in a classic period until about 1960. .
Film noir is a distinct branch, sub-genre or offshoot of the crime/gangster sagas from the 1930s (i.e., Little Caesar (1930), Public Enemy (1931) and Scarface (1932)), but different in tone and characterization. The criminal, violence or greed elements in film noir are a metaphoric symptom of society's evils, with a strong undercurrent of moral conflict. Strictly speaking, however, film noir is not a genre, but rather the mood, style or tone of a film. .
The themes of noir, derived from sources in Europe, were imported to Hollywood by emigre film-makers. (Noirs were rooted in German Expressionism of the 1920s and 1930s, such as in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) or Fritz Lang's M (1931), and in the French sound films of the 30s.) Classic film noir developed during and after World War II, taking advantage of the post-war ambience of anxiety, pessimism, and suspicion. So-called post-noirs (modern, tech-noirs or neo-noirs) appeared after the classic period with a revival of the themes of classic noir.
Primary Characteristics and Conventions of Film Noir: .
The primary moods of classic film noir are melancholy, alienation, bleakness, disillusionment, disenchantment, pessimism, ambiguity, moral corruption, evil, guilt and paranoia. Heroes (or anti-heroes), corrupt characters and villains include down-and-out, hard-boiled detectives or private eyes, cops, gangsters, government agents, crooks, war veterans, petty criminals, and murderers. These protagonists are often morally-ambiguous low lifes from the dark and gloomy underworld of violent crime and corruption.