To Live and Die in L.A.: Understanding Noir's Status as a Film Genre and the Differences Between Film Noir and Neo-Noir
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"To Live and Die in L.A.": Understanding Noir's Status as a Film Genre and the Differences between Film Noir and Neo-Noir. Primary Researcher: Michael Rickard Film critics are still divided on whether or not film noir is a genre or a style of film. Genre is a classification based on narrative structure while style is classified by filming techniques such as cinematography. Noir is defined both by its narrative and technical elements which makes categorizing it problematic. Even more confusion exists over the genre of neo-noir. This discussion is important to film studies because if neo-noir is not a genre, then noir may not be a genre either. It is also important in answering the question of whether film genres even exist. Although neo-noir proponents often argue that the neo-noir genre began with the film "Body Heat", there are still questions over what, if any, elements differentiate neo-noir from film noir. These questions can be answered with an examination of William Friedkin's 1984 film, "To Live and Die in L.A.", a true neo-noir film. The film contains noir stylistic elements such as rain, shadows, and symbols such as Venetian blinds. The film contains noir narrative elements such as fatal women and fatal men; and the city as spectacle, with Los Angeles seen as a corrupting labyrinth from which there is no escape. Friedkin inserts neo-noir narrative elements such as post-feminist characters and a renegade cop who skirts the law to enforce it. The film includes neo-noir technical elements such as the dynamic use of color and light. This combination of narrative and technical elements transform what could have been a traditional noir film into one of the best examples of neo-noir. This presentation will establish that noir is a genre, and that it continues today as neo-noir, a genre built on the foundation of noir, but with elements unique to itself. This presentation will incorporate specific scenes from the film, along with critical analysis of the film, and the neo-noir genre.
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