We take a quick peek into how the genre has survived the dual dominance of changing face of Hollywood and commercialization to ensure it holds its place, in spite of not being considered as a genre by many critics.
Often classified as the art of making black films, film noir has crime trapped in black and white. There are no shades of gray in the story telling or the narrative. Every word uttered by the protagonists are filmed and shown to the viewer. And the most important part of the genre is creating that psychological shroud that propels the viewer in the audience to experience thrill, crime, and goriness coupled with a pessimistic view of the life of a fear stricken man. With fear of God replaced by fear of crime, film noir has always exploited the psychological tension that it builds up in its audiences (Conard & Porfirio, 2007, p.122). In film noir, it is all about using a set of standardized techniques to create an atmosphere of suspense and thrill. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the thriller movies in Hollywood under the crime and action genres, which rely on showing the activity of crime (like an explosion) happen, than concentrate on building up psychological tension through motion picture of scenes related to the crime (like ticking of the time bomb). This genre evidently has a good amount of impact in engaging the audience and is a challenge for directors to achieve while filming the story.
Let us take for example, the case of this film from the mid-nineties, “The Usual Suspects”. It is a story of five people who are held as suspects in a series of crimes. While the detective is busy trying to find the real criminal, which ultimately happens over the loud twist in the end, each of the five subjects offer elaborate and often untrue flashbacks to their gory pasts during the interrogation, only to mislead the officers. Why they do so is a story that reveals itself slowly, but what we look for in this film is how different
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