Saturday, February 24, 2024

Noirsville Bonus Noir's Visual Style

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920)

When we say Noir is a Visual Style coupled with a Dark "Noir Stained" Story from any genre we are not just talking about Black & White Film, or Shadows. 

Noir as a Visual Style has always been on the cutting edge. YOU know it when you SEE it. 

It first shows up on film in Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920) a German Expressionist film. (For the origins of German Expressionism here) .

Black & White / Color tinted

Asymmetrical sets against distorted painted backdrops. Creative lighting. Disorientated Compositions.

One scene gives the perspective of a very low angle shot, it's done with a painted backdrop and distorted furniture. 

Perspective over policeman's shoulder of window narrowing towards ceiling give us a faux low angle shot.

It reminded me of a shot from Journey Into Fear (1943) the ants eye view of a dead body. A floorboard horizon a looming head & hand \and, in the background a man in cabin doorway.

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) another German Expressionist Horror Noir

Seven years after Caligari, in 1927 the next big thing was Sound becomes married to the Style. 

In the mid 1930s we start to see the innovations and techniques we all are familiar with the low key and  high contrast expressionistic lighting, high angle camera shots, low angle camera shots, Dutch angles, and depth of field focus, all combine to varying degrees to create disorientating compositions. 

In 1945 we get our first Color Film Noir, or looking at it another way it could be the first "neo" Noir, just a Stylistic, artistic decision but there was no difference story-wise between them until after 1960.

All the Noir is behind her shades (Gene Tierney and Darryl Hickman in Leave Her To Heaven)

John Alton's color Noir - Slightly Scarlet (1956) Done right, it works.

Add a Dash of 3D experimentation.  

So continuing on - post WWII we get the innovations made to meet the specifications for wartime intelligence and news reel reporters. The new film stocks that need less light, and lighter cameras. These tools enabled more on location sequences, traveling camera shots, and we also see aerial shots for the first time in a Noir. Cutting edge again.

Aspect ratios are experimented with after serious competition from TV stuck with the old Academy aspect ratio 4:3 (1.33:1). Widescreen, Cinerama, Techniscope.

At the same time studio strings are being replaced by hot jazz.

Some of the Color Noir have color coding to signal moods and we are starting to see how the creative use of clashing colors can also create nauseous and disorientating compositions.


Blue Velvet

In the 1960s We start to see extreme closeups, zooms, and extreme wide angle and fisheye lenses used. The crumbling MPPC and new rating system allows depictions of sex and other formulary taboo subjects 


Music is now more eclectic

Now we got hand held digital cameras, CGI, green screen, chromakey, quick cuts, Imax, etc., etc. additionally in Noir's creative tool box. 

This is what we mean by Noirs Visual Style.

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