Film noir is . . .
1. A French expression signifying "black film," or film of the night, motivated by the Series Noir, a line of shabby soft cover books that interpreted hard-bubbled American crime authors and found a famous group of onlookers in France.
2. A motion picture which at no time misdirects you into intuition there will be an upbeat completion.
3. Areas that stink of the night, of shadows, of rear ways, of the secondary passages of favor spots, of loft structures with a high turnover rate, of cab drivers and barkeeps who have seen it all.
4. Cigarettes. Everyone in film noir is continually smoking, as though to state, "On top of everything else, I've been assigned to get through three packs today." The best smoking motion picture ever is "Out of the Past," in which Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas smoke angrily at each other. At a certain point, Mitchum goes into a room, Douglas expands a pack and says, "Cigarette?" and Mitchum, holding up his hand, says, "Smoking."
5. Women who would just as soon kill you as love you, and vice versa.
6. For ladies: low neck areas, floppy caps, mascara, lipstick, changing areas, boudoirs, calling the concierge by his first name, high heels, red dresses, elbowlength gloves, blending drinks, having hoodlums as beaus, having weaknesses for alcoholic private detectives, needing a great deal of another person's ladies, sprawling dead on the floor with each appendage carefully masterminded and each hair set up.
7. For men: fedoras, suits and ties, shabby private lodgings with a neon sign squinting through the window, getting yourself a drink out of the workplace bottle, autos with running sheets, throughout the night coffee shops, securing kids who shouldn't play with the enormous folks, being on first-name terms with manslaughter cops, knowing many people whose depictions end in "ies, for example, bookies, newsies, addicts, alkys, racers and cabbies.
8. Films either shot in high contrast, or feeling like they were.
9. Relationships in which love is just the last flounder card in the poker session of death.
10. The most American film sort, in light of the fact that no general public could have made a world so loaded with fate, destiny, dread and selling out, unless it were basically credulous and idealistic.