Ginette Vincendeau
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French film noir
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This chapter explores the assumptions and investigates the specificity of French film noir, assuming it can be said to exist. It seeks to locate French film noir in terms of the relationship between narrative, visual style and 'tone', arguing that a key mark of its 'Frenchness' is a particularly paradoxical relationship between these elements. The chapter provides insights into the specificity of French film noir rather than an exhaustive survey. Historians of French cinema of the années noires (the German Occupation) have identified its dominant feature as a series of paradoxes. French film noir appears to be at its blackest when not in the policier mould, and often at its lightest in the gangster/detective films proper. Apart from Jean-Pierre Melville's films and a few other thrillers such as Le Trou, the greatest coherence of noir style, narrative and tone is to be found in poetic realism and social noir.

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