The Noir Turn
For historical, literary, and artistic comparison, Daumier and Dmytryk share similar aesthetic vision and political critiques of their societies, which produced the first American noirs. When addressing film noir as a genre, debates immediately arise as to whether it is a genre, a style, a movement, a response to a zeitgeist, a narrative strategy, a psycho-social reaction to modernity, or some combination of all of these essential elements. The problem, then, is not with film noir, but with the concept of genre. Homology, topology, taxonomy—all relate to the process of imposing systematic, often rigid categories upon art. The issue of genre has plagued studies of film noir for decades, since its inception as a French category for films. Discussions of film noir fall prey to several divisive problems; in short, whether film noir can be defined as a genre or as a style. Of course, scholars and critics have used these initial categories to distinguish more precisely the nature of film noir as a cycle, an aesthetic movement, a psycho-emotional mood, a skeptical modernist tone, an existential narrative, or some combination of these elements. It is time to open up the noir canon temporally, aesthetically, and generically.
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