Front cover

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Copyright page

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

read more

Foreword

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. ix-xiv

In the fall of 1976, when I wrote the article “No Way Out: Existential Motifs in the Film Noir” for Sight and Sound (vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 212–17), little would I have expected that some twenty-five years later a collection of essays under the title The Philosophy of Film Noir would be published. Yet here it is, a welcome indication of how far we have traveled in terms of ...

read more

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. xv-xv

First, I’d like to thank the contributors for all their hard work and patience, both of which are clearly evident in these terrific essays. Many thanks are also due to Steve Wrinn at the University Press of Kentucky, with whom it’s been a real pleasure to work; and I’d like to thank Paul Cantor for introducing me to Steve. I’d also like to thank Bob Porfirio for his willingness to ...

read more

Introduction

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 1-4

A drifter, driven purely by desire, is convinced by a beautiful woman—a femme fatale—to murder her husband. A whiskey-drinking, chain-smoking detective becomes involved with a gang of ruthless criminals in pursuit of a priceless artifact, for which they’re all willing to kill. An insurance salesman is lured by a restless, avaricious housewife to murder her husband for ...

read more

Nietzsche and the Meaning and Definition of Noir

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 7-22

The Postman Always Rings Twice (Tay Garnett, 1946) was adapted from a novel by the writer of hard-boiled fiction James M. Cain. Interspersed throughout the movie is voice-over narration by the protagonist, Frank Chambers (John Garfield), indicating that he is recalling events in the past. Frank is a drifter who takes a job at a remote diner owned by an older man, ...

read more

A Darker Shade: Realism in Neo-Noir

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 23-40

Classic film noir ran from the early forties to the late fifties, beginning with John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon (1941) and ending with Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil (1958). We might widen the scope a bit, citing the little-known Stranger on the Third Floor (Boris Ingster, 1940) as the inception of the classic period and Odds against Tomorrow (Robert Wise, 1959) as the terminus, ...

read more

Moral Clarity and Practical Reason in Film Noir

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 41-48

Film noir is a genre identified by a variety of stylistic conventions: unsettling or otherwise odd camera angles, the dramatic use of shadow and light, hard-boiled dialogue, settings that emphasize isolation and loneliness. Thematically, film noir is typically said to be characterized by moral ambiguity: murky distinctions between good guys and bad guys, ambivalence ...

read more

Cherchez La Femme Fatale: The Mother of Film Noir

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 49-68

In 1927, nineteen years before French critics were to notice a change in American cinema, a film was released that gave birth to what would—a generation later—be recognized in its maturity as a new genre. The hallmark characteristics of this new type of “dark film”—retroactively dubbed film noir by the French critics—were, nevertheless, present in primordial ...

read more

From Sherlock Holmes to the Hard-Boiled Detective in Film Noir

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 69-88

The time of film noir is Hemingway time—dark and cold, moody and mean, existentially void and grossly atomistic. Here is a “house built to confuse men” and lead them all about in a synthetic prison of their own design. This dark maze of the night is everywhere and nowhere, and the only one who knows it clean is the hard-boiled detective, who navigates its thousand ...

read more

Film Noir and the Meaning of Life

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 91-106

Film noir is a fabric woven out of many threads. Its various styles, themes, motifs, and forms make it a complex and contested cultural phenomenon. I suspect that many readers of this volume would agree that they know film noir when they see it even though they cannot define the term film noir per se. While doubts persist about definition,1 we can say with some...

read more

The Horizon of Disenchantment: Film Noir, Camus, and the Vicissitudes of Descent

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 107-124

Film noir may be understood as a cinematic form that, even more than standard film genres (e.g., melodramas, musicals, westerns), defies exact definition, not only because it is transgeneric in origin and to a considerable extent derivative of other genres, but also because it picked up certain subversive cultural motifs of a rapidly changing late industrial society and ...

read more

Symbolism, Meaning, and Nihilism in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 125-138

Nihilism is a term that describes the loss of value and meaning in people’s lives. When Nietzsche proclaimed that “God is dead,”1 he meant that Judeo-Christianity has been lost as a guiding force in our lives and that there is nothing to replace it. Once we ceased really to believe in the myth at the heart of Judeo-Christian religion, which happened after the Scientific Revo- ...

read more

Film Noir and the Frankfurt School: America as Wasteland in Edgar Ulmer's Detour

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 139-162

In the history of film noir, Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour (1945) occupies an honored place, appearing on just about everybody’s short list of classics of the genre, and frequently cited as the director’s best work.1 At the time Ulmer made the movie, he was operating on the fringes of the motion picture industry, virtually as an independent producer. Although Detour ...

read more

Knowledge, Morality, and Tragedy in The Killers and Out of the Past

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 163-186

Students of film find film noir interesting because it is a critics’ rather than a filmmakers’ category. Socially minded critics find interesting the pessimistic mood of so many early films noirs, coinciding as they did with wartime and the immediate postwar period.1 The pessimism, menace, and violence of the films also clash with their prima facie status as mere popular ...

read more

Moral Man in the Dark City: Film Noir, the Postwar Religious Revival, and The Accused

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 187-206

A principal problem for historians of the American film is how to explain, as Andrew Spicer puts it, “the eruption of film noir’s dark, cynical, and often pessimistic stories into the sunlit pastures of Hollywood’s characteristically optimistic and affirmative cinema.”1 Although influences from other cinematic traditions (primarily German expressionism) and from ...

read more

On Reason and Passion in The Maltese Falcon

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 207-222

An elegant, dark-haired woman in a fur wrap enters the office of the private detective firm of Spade and Archer. Sam Spade’s secretary has already told him that he’ll want to see her because “she’s a knockout.” Miss Wonderly, as she initially identifies herself, wants to hire Spade to find her younger sister, Corinne, who has apparently run away to San Francisco ...

read more

Ride the Pink Horse: Money, Mischance, Murder, and the Monads of Film Noir

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 223-238

The history of film noir is simple enough. Despite occasional squabbling over the identity of the first film noir, it is clear that, after some early prototypes, the classic period of film noir transpired over a mere two decades. While most commentators would agree on the key motion pictures that constitute the body of noir films, beginning with John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon ...

Contributors

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 239-242

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 243-248