Film Noir

William Luhr

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
Film Noir

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Film noir emerged out of a nexus of American sociopolitical crises, including the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. It presented the underbelly of the traditionally optimistic and utopian “American Dream” and drew upon numerous cultural influences, such as German Expressionism, American hard-boiled fiction, French Poetic Realism of the 1930s, tabloid journalism, Italian neorealism and American postwar documentary filmmaking. The formative discourse about film noir appeared in journals such as L’Ecran Francais and Revue du cinema in post–World War II Paris. No new American films had arrived in France during the Nazi occupation; and when, in spring 1946, wartime Hollywood movies became available, critics identified a new and darker quality in them that they termed “film noir.” The first book on the subject, Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton’s Panorama du film noir americain 1941–1953, was published in Paris in 1955. English language discourse on it did not emerge until the 1970s, after the genre had lost its commercial viability: but simultaneously, cinema studies was growing and becoming institutionalized in journals, film clubs, and universities. At this time, film noir held a special appeal for young critics in light of the fact that their elders had dismissed many of the films on their original release; the younger generation tried to overturn these categorizations and embraced film noir in an enthusiastic exercise of rediscovery and of rewriting film history. Early articles in English and American journals sought to define the form. In the 1980s book-length studies appeared and have continued unabated; they range from general surveys to those using newly developing, cross-disciplinary methodologies. These analytical tools include formal, structural, and po ststructural approaches as well as feminist, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered methodologies. There were also masculinity, psychoanalytic, spectatorship, and genre studies as well as approaches linking film noir with American literary and social history, particularly of the Cold War era.

Article.  5399 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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