Week 1: American Film Noir: The History of An Idea - Naremore

  • Film Noir originated in America, combined with the ideals of hard-boiled fiction & German expressionism
  • When the period of Film Noir end's and begin's is hazy and often debated.
  • Noir is almost entirely a creation of postmodern culture. A way of reading into classical Hollywood through a filmic lenses birthed during the cineaste (scholarly film writing) that came from the French New Wave.
  • By stating Noir is a history of ideas, it showcases that it wasn't just attached to cinema because of it's attachment to general discourse.
  • Thesis: explaining the paradox of film noir as an important cinematic moment and an idea that created to project onto the past.
  • Boris Vain, a written for many things (novels,plays,columns, reviews, songs). Was asked to write a murder series and released "I'll Spit On Your Grave" first, under the name Vernon Sullivan. He changed his identity since his work was influenced from America, more specifically Faulkner and Wright.
  • Vain's book revolved around a black man asserting racial vengeance by raping and murdering two women. Wouldn't be published in the US and ever was prosecuted for obscenity in France. Later, Vain is jailed after a murder is done at a hotel with his book there with a specific underlined passage.
  • Vain's ends up dying of heart failure watching the film adaptation of his novel in 1959.
  • Vain's novel identifies two issues of film noir: sexual violence and otherness.
  • Instead of dealing with historical ideals, noir films identify with the 'social fantastic' and the 'dynamism of violent death.
  • During the 40's, French reviews wrote about noir films critically and were defining them, whilst American reviews did not invent anything. ex. Double Indemnity as a 'murder melodrama'
  • French existentialism was intertwined with surrealist ideals, was added in examination of Noir films.
  • Noir slowly died out in the mid-50's due to: the birth of television, cinemascope, biblical epics, old writers blacklisted, a tired formula.
  • Sartre: claims modern life had become 'fantastic', with signposts that dot routes, but signify nothing. To convey this life, literature would be extreme situations that were narrated ambiguously without all-knowing witnesses. A pov that is half lucid/half overcast.
  • The ambiguity of noir that Bazin speaks of: captures the 'structure of reality', where there is a radical isolation, or individuality that forces the subject to create an identity out of existential choice.

Younger critics at Cahiers du Cinema used Bazin's theories on noir, but identified Nicholas Ray as the important figure, instead of Bazin's opinion of Humphrey Bogart.

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