Friday, May 20, 2005

Roman Noir - Film Noir & "The Browning Version"

After viewing The Browning Version, one of our class-fellows did some helpful research into film noir & roman noir. Her findings embellish the course theme nicely, and she has kindly allowed me to blog a paragraph or two here.

Film Noir developed out of the gangster and the detective genre, so it may apply to Brighton Rock as well ...
Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts : by Susan Hayward: noir emerged from a period of political instability: 1941-1958, the time of the Second World War and the Cold War. In the United States this was a time of repressed insecurity and paranoia: the American Dream seemed in tatters and American national identity under severe strain. As a result of the war, women had moved into the workforce and had expanded their horizons beyond the domestic sphere--which they had controlled--to go and fight. The men's return to peacetime was a period of maladjustment: what had 'their' women been up to? where was their role at work and in the political culture generally? and what had they fought the war for, only to find the United States involved in a new kind of hostility based in suspicion and paranoia? So the question of national identity was also bound up with the question of masculine identity. noir is not so clear-cut in its misogyny. Film noir gives a very central role to the femme fatale and priveleges her as active, intelligent, powerful. dominant and in charge of her own sexuality--at least until the end of the film when she pays for it (through death or submission to the patriarchial system) .... a break with classic Hollywood cinema's representation of woman (as mother/whore, wife/mistress--passive). These women are interested only in themselves (mirrors....) and in getting enough money by all means foul, to guarantee their independence.

Oxford History of World Cinema, "Britain at the end of Empire."The Browning Version (1951) p.374 does not identiy the film as either Film Noir or as British New Wave, but here's what it says: "With some historical distance from the war it became possible for cinema to question the conventions of masculinity required by patriotism and conventional gender roles. ...The Browning Version...indicts any version of manhod which sets store by stoicism, silence, and repression of feelings. A classics master is shown to have become a wizened, embittered husk through years of mute tolerance of his wife's unfaithfulness, and because of a failure to show his own emotional life, either to her, or to his pupils".
Some other references:

1. "The post-war Age of Anxiety" Cahpter 7 in Film and the Working Class:the
Feature Film in British and American Soc. Peter Stead, 1989.
2. "Hitchcock and Genre: The Classic Thriller Sextet" Chapter 6 in Alfred
Hitchcock and the British CVinema. Tom Ryall, 1986.

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