Dick Lochte quoted Dave Kehr, NY Times movie critic's definition of film noir:
"... a pervasive sense of urban menace and malign fate, conveyed by a Germanic visual style full of threatening shadows and forced perspectives; a fall-guy hero wrenched out of a comfortable existence by an arbitrary twist of fate or a moment of moral weakness; a femme fatale who leads the hero on with her sexuality but ultimately only wants to use him and toss him away; a downbeat ending that finds the protagonist defeated or dead - or, preferably, both."
Delete the words after the first semicolon, and I believe we have an almost perfect description of noir fiction.
It ain't concise, but it's quite precise.
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