RARA-AVIS: comic noir as black humor (was hardboiled comedy)

From: bruce@brucemakous.com
Date: 07 Mar 2005

Mark said:
"I just finished The Killing of the Tinkers. I often laughed out loud, but there is no doubt it was both hardboiled and noir." and
"you're right about there being humor, often very dark humor (the darker the better for my taste) in much of hardboiled and noir. You know, maybe it goes back to the idea that the difference between tragedy and comedy is often just the point of view from which the story is written."


This begs the question: If noir represents the tragic view of the universe, the idea of "comic noir" is a contradiction in terms. Unless, I would guess, you have a comic scene, like the gravedigger scene in Hamlet, within the overriding tragic arc. Humor within a tragic viewpoint is black humor, reflecting a morbid bitterness. I'm thinking of the tone in many noir works, like The Maltese Falcon or Farewell, My Lovely.

But here's the puzzle, for me: With The Postman Always Rings Twice, the viewpoint is inevitably tragic, with a tragic ending, yet there is a bitter, almost humourous, irony at the end. Cape Fear, on the other hand, has a happy ending. Boy gets girl back. Order is restored. But it left me with shudders, especially after seeing the story this week about the real life "Executioner" in Illinois, I believe it was.


Bruce Makous Author, Riding the Brand www.brucemakous.com

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