RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir with no crime?

From: John Woolley ( JohnWWoolley@comcast.net)
Date: 09 Jan 2007

It occurs to me that warfare, rather than crime per se, can provide the disorientingly violent (and possibly meaningless?) milieu in which noir becomes possible, or unavoidable. _All Quiet on the Western Front_, for instance, is pretty thoroughly noir, as is the magnificent Kubrick film _Paths of Glory_. Heck, World War I even gave us noir poetry -- "The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells", "Myriads of broken reeds, all still and stiff", and so on.

And how about espionage fiction? Often noir, and not exactly about crime. _A Drink to Yesterday_ by Manning Coles might have been my first real noir experience (at age 14 or so, which explains a lot); then there's Len Deighton, John le Carre', James Sallis (_Death Will Have Your Eyes_, a totally noir title), and many others.

To my mind, the essence of noir isn't in the protagonist's defeat, but rather in the horrible thought that success or defeat may be a matter of uncontrollable chance; and behind that, the even more terrible suspicion that it may not even matter.

-- Fr. John Woolley

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