Journal of
Media and Communication Studies

  • Abbreviation: J. Media Commun. Stud.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2545
  • DOI: 10.5897/JMCS
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 232


Looking for low-key: Noir and Neo-Noir from a cinematographic perspective

David Vanden Bossche
  • David Vanden Bossche
  • Film Department, Communication Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 103 K, Eagle Heights, 53705 Madison, Wisconsin, United States.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 19 December 2022
  •  Accepted: 02 February 2023
  •  Published: 31 March 2023


Film Noir has always been an elusive category, determined by vague definitions. Even scholarly work has its focus on thematic connections, and standards of tone and mood and periodization of both ‘classical noir’ and ‘neo-noir’ has always been problematic. Kathrina Glitre and Patrick Keating have championed an approach that categorizes ‘noir’ as a visual category, determined by changing technical standards. This article will compare these arguments against changes in filmmaking technique and cinematography from the fifties onwards and will argue that – save for some nuances the technical evidence undergirds an approach to ‘noir’ and ‘neo-noir’ in which the visual element is maybe not a sufficient, but at least a necessary condition for any form of ‘noir’.


Key words: Film Noir, film stock, film technology, neo-noir, visual categories, visual style.