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Street with No Name

Street with No Name: A History of the Classic American Film Noir

Andrew Dickos
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Street with No Name
    Book Description:

    A Choice Outstanding Academic Title

    Flourishing in the United States during the 1940s and 50s, the bleak, violent genre of filmmaking known as film noir reflected the attitudes of writers and auteur directors influenced by the events of the turbulent mid-twentieth century. Films such as Force of Evil, Night and the City, Double Indemnity, Laura, The Big Heat, The Killers, Kiss Me Deadly and, more recently, Chinatown and The Grifters are indelibly American. Yet the sources of this genre were found in Germany and France and imported to Hollywood by emigré filmmakers, who developed them and allowed a vibrant genre to flourish.

    Andrew Dickos's Street with No Name traces the film noir genre back to its roots in German Expressionist cinema and the French cinema of the interwar years. Dickos describes the development of the film noir in America from 1941 through the 1970s and examines how this development expresses a modern cinema. Dickos examines notable directors such as Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, John Huston, Nicholas Ray, Robert Aldrich, Samuel Fuller, Otto Preminger, Robert Siodmak, Abraham Polonsky, Jules Dassin, Anthony Mann and others. He also charts the genre's influence on such celebrated postwar French filmmakers as Jean-Pierre Melville, François Truffaut, and Jean-Luc Godard. Addressing the aesthetic, cultural, political, and social concerns depicted in the genre, Street with No Name demonstrates how the film noir generates a highly expressive, raw, and violent mood as it exposes the ambiguities of modern postwar society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7033-6
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-59)

    The persistent questions in most theoretical discussions of the film noir are what makes a film a film noir and whether such films can be considered to constitute a genre, an entity that possesses a language of iconography and conventions, or whether they instead merely display a certain cinematic style, intergeneric and substantially the product of film technique that augments screen narrative. To answer these questions, perhaps consideration of what a screen genre is and is perceived to be will help; it may illuminate not only the fundamental recognitions we make of genres but also the cultural meaning we attach...

  5. 1 The Noir in America
    (pp. 60-95)

    It is perhaps most useful to consider the development of the film noir as the confluence of cinematic changes that, in themselves, are found in other kinds of films without the specific resonances and appeals that in play with one another establish the coherent mythology that we recognize as noir cinema. The nexus of these changes occurred at a crucial time in the nation’s history and in the history of film. Around 1940, with war looming in Europe, the artists of film, theater, and literature who emigrated to America found the apparatus of Hollywood at their disposal; too often, however,...

  6. 2 The Hard-Boiled Fiction Influence
    (pp. 96-155)

    From the early 1920s and continuing throughout the war years, the hardboiled fiction of the pulp magazines and booklets, published cheaply and selling briskly, attracted a readership all too familiar with the emotions, crimes, and violence that would find expression in the film noir. This literature as a body of work spoke in a language that alternately described a cold, cynical, and grimly ironic world and the obsessive, overripe passions consuming its characters. Often sordid, fatalistic, and quite punitive, it was just as often expressive of a failed romanticism, contemptuously accepted by those caught short in life. Hard-boiled fiction largely...

  7. 3 Women as Seen in the Film Noir
    (pp. 156-171)

    Sexual power is defined most clearly in the context of gender conflict, and noir cinema illustrates this in all its creative tension and tragic consequences as few other film genres do. Bracketing the treatment of women in noir cinema is a dubious and faintly rewarding exercise, for women are an essential part of the noir world; their depiction as harbingers of destructive passions or heartless self-interest combines all too well with the weaknesses of their male counterparts to form an explosive and often corrosive dynamic. Women in the film noir are created and seen through the eyes of men, and...

  8. 4 Noir Production
    (pp. 172-221)

    The films noirs produced in Hollywood were not identified as such, and even well into the fifties they did not receive generic definition by the industry. They were very much a part of the melodrama/thriller films, often of B-movie status, financed by the studios. The stylistics of these movies, discussed in this chapter and intrinsic to the styles of their directors (at least in certain periods of their work), find a pattern of generic development emerging—in theme, of course, but also in technique, through the use of voice-overs, flashbacks, expressionistic lighting and set designs, and low- and high-angle camera...

  9. 5 The Noir Influence on the French New Wave
    (pp. 222-234)

    The French romance with American culture extends back to the turn of the previous century and before, but the appeal of American popular art stems from the interwar and immediate postwar attraction to products elusively appealing in their liberating vulgarity. What do we find valuable, even ennobling, in Bogart and Wayne, in Rita Hayworth and Lauren Bacall? Nothing less than the effrontery of a public to insist that they merit serious attention in the face of an expanded commercial film enterprise that generally reduces distinctions, homogenizes heroism, and dilutes genuine tragedy. The images of gangster and western heroes, much more...

  10. Epilogue: Comments on the Classic Film Noir and the Neo-Noir
    (pp. 235-244)

    Like errant children, films noirs have changed, subsumed by their history and turning into self-referential creatures not always beholden to their parents. What is it that makes one film made in the nineties a great noir(The Grifters),whereas another made almost twenty years ago(Body Heat)is a decided offshoot of the classic film noir? A new variant of an old look with a new, yet not unfamiliar, feel? At the beginning of this millennium, critics and historians are still refiguring the scope and boundaries of the film noir, taking into account the cultural and political changes in the...

  11. Appendix: Credits of Selected Films Noirs
    (pp. 245-270)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 271-282)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 283-290)
  14. Index
    (pp. 291-307)