RARA-AVIS: The Derivation of Film Noir (French Films or French Mystery Publishers?)

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 05 Oct 2007


Re your comment below:

"Here's my dilemma. When Nino Frank and the other French critic mentioned 'noir' in their 1946 articles, they were making an off-hand reference -- a gesture -- to a film form already in existence in France and other countries. It is that definition that I think defines noir."

I've stayed out of this discussion for the most part, primarily because I know the two articles you refer to only by reputation. In other words, I've never read them, but I've read what others, including you, have said about them.

But it has always been my understanding that, when they called the post-war American crime films "noir," they were not referring to some pre-existing French style, but to the novels, mostly American, published by Gallimard under the Serie Noire label.

In other words, the title "America Has Noir Films, Too," did not mean "AMERICA Has Noir Films, Too, Just Like We Frenchies Have Had Since the '30's," but rather "American Has Noir FILMS, too, in Addition to the Noir Novels That Gallimard Has Been Publishing."

Now, not having read wither article, and only going by what others have said about them, I can't really argue with you in any kind of informed way, on the basis of material with which you better acquainted than me.

But if the conventional interpretation (that "Film Noir" referred to films that were similar in style and theme to, and very often based directly on, the crime novels published as under the "Serie Noire" logo) is correct, then it follows that "noir" as it applies to the films the two critics were referring to, and to noir fiction in other mediums as well, must have a far broader definition than you're giving it, because the books published in that line range across a far broader spectrum than your definition would allow.

I'd be interested in hearing from other Rare Birds who have actually read the articles in question.


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