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Film noir came into existence after the Second World War (Dirks). We have to remember this fact first before I indulge myself in the answering of this question. This was a very horrific period for the whole world. There is nothing good that a war can bring. In this regard, the period after the war was a somber one. People all over the world were picking up pieces of their lives and starting afresh.
After the war there was need for the events to be reproduced in a more appealing way. There was a lot of mistrust among the people and this needed to be recorded in the form of art. Most of the film noir films were based on detective stories, crime, murder and such. The characters were full of vices. Even when it came to love, the romantic story had to have a sad twist to it. All these elements gave a unique feel to these types of films (Muller)
There was therefore a need to have a moral obligation to incorporate a good aspect in the film so that it could appeal to the viewers. This good element would try to convey a positive message to the audience so that the film did not appear immoral. The script writers had to consider the fact that the people watching these films woud not be left with a bad taste in their mouths.
When John Bailey made that statement, according to my understanding, he meant that there is a way in which the light and shadow are contrasted to bring a certain effect. It is this effect that he terms as almost religious, spiritual or philosophical. This means that despite the fact that the themes in the film noir films were mostly sad and repelling and at the same time there was an element of goodness which had been incorporated in the same films to make them attractive. It is this relationship between good and evil that prompted him to make this statement (Muller).
Film noir films were made in black and white. According to Dirks black in most cases is used to symbolize something bad or evil. In that case, it was used in the production of these films to convey that negative element. White on the other hand shows life, the coming of good things as well as hope. It is in this regard that light was used in these films.
What John Bailey meant while making this statement, is that despite these films being dark and sad, there is an element of hope in the storyline. This hope being represented by the light that is being sshed on the characters is what the cinematographer likened to being religious.
Indeed, Hollywood movies can be philosophical. We have seen this happening in many movies leave alone the film noir films. This is when the storyline is scripted in a way that leaves the viewers thinking about the events of the movie. There is an open interpretation of how the story was written and how the story ends. Everyone is given a chance to complete and analyze the film in the way they think is most convenient to them.
I am in concurrence with John Bailey's vision of film noir as an encounter between good and evil. This is because the use of strong black and white cinematography clearly brings out the contrast between good and evil. Black being used to represent the evil while white represents the good side of the story.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that the production of the film noir films was a difficult initiative as they had to factor in the good element in their movies just after the world was coming from a war. In this respect, the cinematographers did their best to give the films a hopeful aspect that John Bailey considered philosophical, religious or spiritual.