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

From: Michael Robison (
Date: 07 Mar 2005

bruce wrote:

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.

*************** Great points! The big-picture humor in noir is indeed black humor, graveyard humor. The sound you hear in the background is fate laughing at the futility of the human struggle.

And your puzzle between THE POSTMAN and CAPE FEAR depends on your definitions. If your definition of noir doesn't require the sound defeat of the protagonist at the end, then it can have a happy ending and fate doesn't necessarily get the last laugh. For me, I subscribe to Jack Bludis's "screwed"
(referring to the protagonist) definition for noir, so I wouldn't call CAPE FEAR noir. CAPE FEAR would have been noir if told from the con's viewpoint.

And yes! The ending to THE POSTMAN is indeed a humorous irony. They finally quit their selfish scheming and actually love one another, and all of a sudden Cora is dead and Frank is condemned to death for a murder he did not commit. You gotta love it!


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 07 Mar 2005 EST