Shades of Noir

Overview

For this was the summer when, after the hiatus of the Second World War, French critics were again given the opportunity to view films from Hollywood. The films they saw, including The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity. Laura, Murder, My Sweet, and The Woman in the Window, prompted the naming and theorization of a new phenomenon: film noir.

Much of what has been written about the genre since has remained within the orbit of this preliminary assessment. While sympathetic towards ...

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Overview

For this was the summer when, after the hiatus of the Second World War, French critics were again given the opportunity to view films from Hollywood. The films they saw, including The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity. Laura, Murder, My Sweet, and The Woman in the Window, prompted the naming and theorization of a new phenomenon: film noir.

Much of what has been written about the genre since has remained within the orbit of this preliminary assessment. While sympathetic towards the early French critics, this collection of original essays attempts to move beyond their first fascinated look. Beginning with an autonomy of that look—of the ‘poujadist‘ climate that nourished it and the imminent collapse of the Hollywood studio system that gave it its mournful inflection—Shades of Noir re-explores and calls into question the object first constructed by it. The impetus for this shift in perspective comes from the films themselves, viewed in the light of contemporary social and political concerns, and from new theoretical insights.

Several contributions analyze the re-emergence of noir in recent years, most notably in the hybrid forms produced in the 1980s by the merging of noir with science fiction and horror, for example Blade Runner and Angel Heart, and in films by black directors such as Deep Cover, Straight out of Brooklyn, A Rage in Harlem and One False Move. Other essays focus on the open urban territory in which the noir hero hides out; the office spaces in Chandler, and the palpable sense of waiting that fills empty warehouses, corridors and hotel rooms.

Finally, Shades of Noir pays renewed attention to the lethal relation between the sexes; to the femme fatale and the other women in noir. As the role of women expands, the femme fatale remains deadly, but her deadliness takes on new meanings.

Contributors: Janet Bergstrom, Joan Copjec, Elizabeth Cowie, Manthia Diawara, Frederic Jameson, Dean MacCannel, Fred Pfeil, David Reid and Jayne L. Walker, Marc Vernet, Slavoj Žižek.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The essays in this volume examine the widely studied and discussed genre from a variety of perspectives, not always agreeing on exactly what constitutes film noir or which movies exemplify its elements. Beyond such acknowledged classics as Double Indemnity (1944), one contributor sees noir elements in recent black-oriented films such as A Rage in Harlem (1991), while another attempts to explain the noir significance of Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). The more interesting selections here include an essay on female characters and one on the making of Fritz Lang's The Blue Gardenia (1953). Other pieces, notably the introduction and essay by Copjec, become bogged down in virtually impenetrable academese and are too nitpicky to interest most readers. Not really suitable as an introduction to the genre, this is worth considering as a secondary source for larger collections.-- David C. Tucker, DeKalb Cty. P.L., Decatur, Ga.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780860916253
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 11/28/1993
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 7.75 (w) x 8.62 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Joan Copjec is Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Director of the Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture at the State University of New York, Buffalo.
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Table of Contents

Introduction
1 Film Noir on the Edge of Doom 1
2 The Synoptic Chandler 33
3 Strange Pursuit: Cornell Woolrich and the Abandoned City of the Forties 57
4 The Mystery of The Blue Gardenia 97
5 Film Noir and Women 121
6 The Phenomenal Nonphenomenal: Private Space in Film Noir 167
7 'The Thing That Thinks': The Kantian Background of the Noir Subject 199
8 Home Fires Burning: Family Noir in Blue Velvet and Terminator 2 227
9 Noir by Noirs: Toward a New Realism in Black Cinema 261
10 Democracy's Turn: On Homeless Noir 279
Notes on Contributors 299
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