Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia

Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia

Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia

Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia

Synopsis

Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia is an overview of 20th- and 21st-century noir and fatalist film practice from 1945 onwards. The book demonstrates the ways in which American cinema has inculcated a climate of fear in our daily lives, as reinforced, starting in the 1950s, by television, and later videocassettes, the web, and the Internet, to create, by the early 21st century a hypersurveillant atmosphere in which no one can avoid the barrage of images that continually assault our senses. The book begins with the return of American soldiers from World War II, 'liberated' from war in the Pacific by the newly created atomic bomb, which will come to rule American consciousness through much of the 1950s and 1960s and then, in a newer, more small-scale way, become a fixture of terrorist hardware in the post-paranoid ear of the 21st century. Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia is constructed in six chapters, each highlighting a particular 'raising of the cinematic stakes' in the creation of a completely immersible universe of images. Selling points:
• Expands the definition of noir to include numerous lesser known works.
• Deals with Red Scare films of the 1950s in the US.
• Examines the 'dark side' of the 1960s, or films that questioned the emerging counterculture.
• Explores such neo-noir films as The Last Seduction (1993), Angel Heart (1987), The Grifters (1990), Red Rock West (1993), The Usual Suspects (1995), Mulholland Drive (2001), L. A. Confidential (1997), and Memento (2000).
• Details the 'noir' aspects of the cybernetic age, both in online and videogame uses.

Excerpt

This is the age of film noir. Though the genre dates from the late 1930s and early 1940s, its concerns of hopelessness, failure, deceit and betrayal are in many ways more prescient in the twenty-first century than they were at their inception. Then, too, most definitions of noir films are, it seems to me, excessively narrow. The classic archetypes of the lone protagonist in a dark, rainy alley, accompanied by an omnipresent voiceover on the soundtrack, of doomed lovers on the run from the police, or hard-boiled detectives unraveling labyrinthian mysteries with cynical assurance represent only one manifestation of this pervasive film genre.

Film noir is the cinema of paranoia, of doubt and fear and uncertainty, which blossomed in the wake of World War II, as the Allies' victory was purchased at the cost of the specter of instant annihilation by forces seemingly beyond our comprehension. Returning veterans found that prices had spiked on the home front, that the world had moved on without them, that wives had acquired a new degree of independence and financial security through war work, and that behind the dream of the white house with the picket fence there lurked a nightmarish void hidden from public view. Noir served as the most authentic version of the inherent corruption and complacency of postwar life, when forced consensus and idealized conformity were prized above all other considerations. But as the 1940s gave way to the 1950s, the 1960s and beyond, the concerns and aesthetics of noir never left the screen, or the radar of both American and world consciousness. Each succeeding generation crafted films that were more bleak, more uncompromising, more fatalistic and despairing than the last. Often these films were not the dominant voice of an era — the late 1960s, for example, were at times shot through with a utopian impulse, coupled with a nearly desperate embrace of 'wholesome' entertainment.

But at the margins of society, speaking to a large yet phantom audience, a world of loners who seemingly coalesced into a group only when they . . .

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