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Force of Evil, John Garfield

What are the key characteristics of film noir?

If you watch BBC4 this weekend you’ll be sure to find out. The channel is not only showing six classic film noir movies over the course of the next two days, but the accompanying documentary The Rules of Film Noir, presented by film historian Matthew Sweet, will tell you everything you need to know.

Apparently the film noir genre is back in fashion. Read more about about that here.

The Lady from Shanghai

In the meantime, here’s my personal film noir checklist:

1.    The world of the film is corrupt.

2.    The hero is a loner, often a loser too.

3.    There’s an obligatory femme fatale.

The Lady from Shanghai

4.    There’s a voice over narration.

5.    The film’s narrative has a complex twisty-turny structure, full of flashbacks.

6.    The characters are constantly double crossing each other.

7.    The external world of the movie features rainslicked mean streets and dark alleyways.

8.    The internal world in the film is claustrophobic and imprisoning, often featuring shuttered windows and blinds resembling prison bars.

Stranger on the Third Floor

9.    The camera is often low, so the characters seem menacing.

The Lady from Shanghai

10.    Shadows, smoke, flashing neon lights and grotesque imagery feature throughout.

BBC4’s film noir weekend starts today at 7.30pm and the line-up is as follows:

Farewell My Lovely at 7.30pm

The Rules of Film Noir at 9pm & 3.35am

The Lady of Shanghai at 10pm

The Big Combo at 11.25pm

Force of Evil at 1.50am

SUNDAY

Build My Gallows High at 9pm

The Rules of Film Noir at 10.35pm

Stranger on the Third Floor at 11.30pm