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Through a Noir Lens : Adapting Film Noir Visual Style - Sheri Chinen Biesen

Through a Noir Lens

Adapting Film Noir Visual Style

By: Sheri Chinen Biesen

Paperback | 18 June 2024 | Edition Number 1

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Shadows. Smoke. Dark alleys. Rain-slicked city streets. These are iconic elements of film noir visual style. Long after its 1940s heyday, noir hallmarks continue to appear in a variety of new media forms and styles. What has made the noir aesthetic at once enduring and adaptable?

Sheri Chinen Biesen explores how the dark cinematic noir style has evolved across eras, from classic Hollywood to present-day streaming services. Examining both aesthetics and material production conditions, she demonstrates how technological and industrial changes have influenced the imagery of film noir. When it emerged in the early 1940s, the visual style's distinctive shadowy look was in part a product of wartime cinema conditions and technologies, such as blackouts and nitrate film stock. Since the 1950s, technical developments from acetate film stock and new cameras and lenses to lighting, color, and digitization have shaped the changing nature of noir style. Biesen considers the persistence of the noir legacy, discussing how neo-noirs reimagine iconic imagery and why noir style has become a touchstone in the streaming era. Drawing on a wealth of archival research, she provides insightful analyses of a wide range of works, from masterpieces directed by Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock to New Hollywood neo-noirs, the Coen brothers' revisionist films, and recent HBO and Netflix series.

A groundbreaking technological and industrial history of an essential yet slippery visual style, Through a Noir Lens shines a light into the shadows of film noir.
Industry Reviews
Biesen's timely book connects the evolution of the noir style to key changes in film and digital technology, providing a persuasive visual chronology from the 1940s into the 2020s. Through an impressive synthesis of primary source research and stylistic analysis of case study films that encompasses both classic and neo-noir, Through A Noir Lens is an important contribution to the vibrant film noir discourse in American film and media studies. -- Emily Carman, author of Independent Stardom: Freelance Women in the Hollywood Studio System
Meticulously researched and elegantly presented, Through a Noir Lens offers an authoritative history of the persistence (in different forms) of noir style from the 1940s to the present. Biesen pays full attention to aesthetic choices, but the book is unique in its expert understanding of how the noir 'look' has both survived and prospered, while adapting to changing technologies, industrial forms and modes of reception. -- Brian Neve, author of The Many Lives of Cy Endfield: Film Noir, the Blacklist, and Zulu
Through a Noir Lens continues Sheri Chinen Biesen's groundbreaking work on the development of film noir and its dynamic interplay with new technologies and formats, adding both breadth and nuance to our understanding of the remarkably persistent and adaptable film style. Here Biesen traces noir's development from its 1940s origins through the Technicolor and television eras and, most strikingly, into the digital age. This is the first in-depth investigation of noir's pervasive impact on original streaming programming, and it promises to change our conception of both film noir and contemporary media. -- Thomas Schatz, author of The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era
Biesen's keen attention to how technological advances shaped film aesthetics enlightens . . . Film scholars will want to add this to their shelf. * Publishers Weekly *
A must for devoted movie lovers but an enjoyable reward for general film buffs as well. * Library Journal *

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