Re: RARA-AVIS: Noir definition

Date: 14 May 2004


Re your comment below:

> There is a disparity between noir in film and
> fiction
> that goes beyond the mere difference in media. In
> film it's little more than a style, whereas noir
> fiction embraces an entire philosophy.

"Noir" was used to describe prose fiction before it was used to describe film. It was applied to film because the movies that were eventually (and retroactively) recognized as being "noir" tended to be based on books that had already been classified as noir.

The guy who classified prose fiction as noir, and who coined the term to describe a particular type of crime fiction, was Gallimard's mystery editor Marcel Duhamel. He started Gallimard's crime fiction imprint, Serie Noir. Three of Serie Noir's earlist offerings were Marlowe novels by Chandler. So, in the view of the man who coined the term "noir" to describe a particular kind of crime fiction, Chandler was a practitioner of that kind of crime fiction.

Since Duhamel coined the term, Duhamel gets to set the parameters. And he decided Chandler, and Hammett, and Burnett, and a host of other American hard-boiled writers, were within those parameters.

That leaves it to us to discern the common elements. The common elements were atmospheric qualities that were dark and sinister. Consequently, those must be the defining elements, both in prose and in film.



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