Classic French Noir: Gender and the Cinema of Fatal Desire

Classic French Noir: Gender and the Cinema of Fatal Desire

by Deborah Walker-Morrison


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781784539719
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Publication date: 11/29/2018
Series: International Library of the Moving Image
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.44(w) x 7.53(h) x 1.06(d)

About the Author

Deborah Walker-Morrison is Associate Professor of French at the University of Auckland. She has published widely on French cinema and is co-author (with Alistair Rolls) of French and American Noir: Dark Crossings (2009).

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations x

Acknowledgements xii

Part I Setting the Scene

1 Introduction 3

Defining film noir 4

Corpus 5

French and American film noir: historical links 6

Sociological theory 7

Constructivism and psychoanalysis 8

Biocultural approaches 9

Evolutionary psychology 10

The biocultural turn in evolutionary science 12

A biocultural approach to gender: similarity and difference 14

The cinema of fatal desire 16

2 Fatal(e) Desire in French Poetic Realism 18

Introduction: poetic realism as proto-noir 18

Gendered figures in poetic realism 19

Star-crossed lovers: the tragic hero and French fatale as fatalitaire 20

Conclusion 27

Part II The Long Shadow of War

3 Looking for the Light 31

Introduction: invasion, occupation, collaboration 31

A cinema of paradox 32

Les Années noires and crime drama 33

Liberation crime drama and the myth of the Resistance 40

Le réalisme noir and flawed masculinity 41

Conclusion 49

4 Too Many Women? War and Fatal(e) Desire 50

Introduction 50

Classic American femme fatale as spider woman 51

French fatale: 'Cherchez la femme' 53

War, demographics and assertive femininity: sex ratio theory 59

Conclusion 67

Part III Cherchez La Femme

5 Fatal(e) Passions: Tragic Fatalitaires and Star-Crossed Lovers 71

Introduction: passionate love as universal human adaptation 71

Love styles 73

Star-crossed lovers 74

Male sexual jealousy 79

Simone Signoret as modern girl and prostitute fatalitaire 80

Femininity as masquerade? 83

Evil pimps 85

Race, class and gender in J'irai cracker sur vos tombes [I will Spit on your Graves] (Gast, 1959) 86

Conclusion 93

6 'Thou Shalt Not Covet': Adulterous Fatalitaires 94

Introduction: what do women want? 94

Le dernier tournant [The Last Turn] (Chena), 1939) 96

The Postman Always Rings Twice (Garnett, USA, 1946) 97

From fatalitaire to femme fatale 99

Thérèse Raquin [The Adulteress] (Carné, France/Italy, 1953) 104

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud [Lift to The Scaffold] (Malle, 1958) 106

Conclusion 111

7 Bad Girls 113

Introduction: the bad-girl fatale as archetypal unruly woman 113

The unruly femme and male paranoia 114

What does the femme want? 116

Demonic fatale as amoureuse 117

The long shadow of war 119

The unglamorous fatale as camouflage 120

Paranoia, lethal femme power and risk 122

Woman as spectacle and exchange object 128

The femme as avenging angel 132

Conclusion: from spectacle to subjectivity 134

Part IV Cherchez L'Homme

8 Fatal Men 139

Introduction 139

L'homme fatal 140

Bonnes à tuer [One Step to Eternity] (Decoin, 1954) 140

Une Manche et la Belle [A Kiss For A Killer] (Verneuil, 1957) 148

La Bête à L'Affût [Beast at Bay] (Chenal, 1959): after Forests of the Night (Keene, 1956) 155

Conclusion 160

9 Law Enforcers Meet the Femme 162

Introduction 162

Honourable cops and shady dames 163

Cops and robbers; blurred boundaries 165

Investigating the femme 169

En cas de Malheur [Love is my Profession] (Autant-Lara, France/Italy, 1956) 172

From protection to violent surveillance: the bodyguard hypothesis 176

Bardot as new fatalitaire 180

Conclusion 181

10 Love and Money: Gender and Consumption in Gangster Noir 183

Introduction 183

Urban spaces of conspicuous consumption 184

Conspicuous consumption, honour and hyper-masculinity 186

Reconfiguring left-handed endeavour as collaborative labour 187

Females in (gangster) noir: insatiable consumers 189

Domestic spaces: tradition vs modernity 192

Iconic objects of conspicuous consumption: the ultimate consumer durable 195

Rififi: questioning gangster culture 198

Du rififi chez les femmes: the first French noir action babe 201

Conclusion 203

Part V Conclusions

Classic French Noir: The Dark Side of 'Quality' Cinema (1946-59) 207

Gender and power in classic French noir 209

Noir as sociohistorically inflected dramas of mate selection 210

French fatale as romantic fatalitaire 211

French noir as an evolving constant 212

Directions for future research 213


Appendix 1 101 French Films Noirs 217

Filmography layout 217

1930s: poetic realism/early noir (18) 217

1941-4 Occupation noir (8) 218

1946-59 Classic French noir (75) 219

Appendix 2 Tables 223

Notes 226

Bibliography 247

Index 261

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