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Brick is simultaneously about as far as one can get from the classic noir detective movies and evidence of how firmly established are its conventions in our culture.
It is set in a college, almost all of the cast of characters are adolescents, and as much as it is a homage to s noir, it is also a contribution to another popular American genre, the high school movie. Brendan is not an official detective, simply one by proxy. Its reference to Chinatown — itself a self-reflexive homage to s noir movies — indicates the long history of this kind of film.
It is true that Brendan, on one level, represents the fearless Everyman who refuses to conform to social norms and exposing corruption at the heart of a 3 society. He brings to light the destructive selfishness of the rich kids in this unnamed Southern California school. These would seem, in their openness and sunniness, to mark a departure from the claustrophobic world of hotel rooms, bars and rented apartments of classic film noir. Brendan traverses this world both as someone who is quite at home in it and also a complete outsider.
His movements have the effect of opening up ordinary spaces to suggest that they are the location for something extraordinary. It is this dimension that means Brick, though on the face of it a radical updating of the noir template, is in fact one of its most representative examples.
In particular, I want to examine how space is deployed in the classic noir private eye movie. In this essay, I want to suggest that this is especially true of the function of the private eye.
Despite the character figuring in the familiar roster of noir archetypes and therefore being practically ubiquitous in discussions of film noir, his function remains insufficiently analysed in comparison to, say, the femme fatale. My aim in this essay is to sketch out ways in which the balance might be redressed. The private eye is a figure who forfeits his own private life in order to expose that of others. This is 5 because post-war American life is beset by a simultaneous longing for a nourishing, intimate and secure home supposedly forever lost to its citizens because of the traumatic upheavals of the Second World War [careful — as this seems to be framed in quite specific gender, race, and class ways?
This is a world where there is no space for the cycles and rituals of the family, and so there are few weddings, births, and family meals; children rarely appear, women are seldom cast as mothers, and men are typically not fathers. It has an immediate resonance with the film which sets the standard for the noir private detective and which was the most explicit reference-point in the writing of Brick but which Sobchack does not consider: The Maltese Falcon What is striking about this film is that although it is the vehicle for a new kind of mobile, fearless, and aggressive detective, most of the key scenes are played out in private interiors.
True to type, Spade is always on the move as he comfortably traverses outside spaces, such as a deserted San Francisco suburban street, the waterfront where there has been a fire aboard the steam ship, The Paloma, the bus terminal, or a taxi rank. More important are the private locations where he pursues, interrogates, and encounters people. It is just somewhere Spade sleeps when he is not at work.
This is a reading which could easily be supported by any number of noir detective movies from the period, but a blackly comic moment in The Dark Corner should suffice. The maid never cleans under the bed. Irwin, , p. But this desire for economic independence is not the whole story. What we see him doing there has a purpose lacking in the kind of exchanges we are presented with in the noir carousel of lounge bars and nightclubs.
The private eye is as disaffected as the rest of the characters in noir, living in an environment which is the opposite of a conventionally private, 9 family space, indulging in erotic encounters which are a long way from nourishing love and given to acting impulsively in ways that run counter to the norms of patriarchal and capitalist culture. Yet, he still he has a purpose and an energy seldom present in others except some of the criminals.
He labours continuously, forever being called from one place to another, and is seldom seen relaxing. Rather than sleeping and being woken, he is startled out of sleep by the phone or suddenly comes to in the morning — to be immediately thrust into work again.
Later private eye movies, such as Zodiac , typically show the private eye eating in the car while on the job. The typical noir character examined by Sobchack does not work or play, but the private eye does nothing but work.
It is not the private eye who determines when he works, but the unfolding of events beyond his control. Throughout the film it is clear that Spade has no private life of his own. No detachment is possible from the shady world he is investigating and it is impossible for Spade to separate his private and professional lives. He is on screen practically the whole time to service the insatiable demands of work.
So in fact there is no division between private and professional in this film: the private is the professional. The private eye sacrifices his private life for his professional life, which ironically involves prying into the world of those who do have private often secret lives. This also sets Brendan Fraser in Brick apart from the people who share his world. We see the other teenagers lounging in cul-de-sacs, around cars, at parties, but Brendan is consumed by the task he has set himself.
Visits to parks, cinemas and theatres see him trailing behind or tailing? I came alive only in a public situation. In a later scene which strikes an incongruously disturbing note in this light- 11 hearted movie, Christoforou expands further on this definition of the private detective by asking Belinda to look at his eye: Do you know what this is?
One of the Seven Wonders of the World: the completely public eye which looks entirely outward. And for 10 days it was focused exclusively on you.
For all the idiosyncrasy of this particular film, it accurately presents the Private Eye as a man without a private life, one whose individuality dissolves into his professional role. If someone is in the public eye it presumes an awareness of his or her behaviour on a collective scale, judged against universal norms.
We conceive of those in the public eye, including celebrities, politicians, and sports stars, as being watched or scrutinized by a community of people: the public. The public eye thus figures as a kind of neutral, anonymous detracted? To continue with the symbolic approach adopted by Lacanian theory, the detective, while observing private activity, occupies the position of the big Other and thus paradoxically represents the public eye. Again, the gaze of the private detective is complicated and paradoxical in this regard.
In the Private Eye: The Work of the Private Eye This complexity is never far from the figure of the private eye as he appears in film noir. The private eye therefore is an exception to the rules of noir as set out by Sobchack in that he represents relentless work.
The nature of his work, too, means that the spaces which Sobchack identifies as noir actually have someone from within the fictional universe that can observe them and enter them — and when this occurs, it is usually in way which changes them. His presence, and the fact that the camera is able to show the viewer just what he sees, opens them up to our view. The Problem of Film Noir Andrew Spicer. The Problem of Film Noir. I wanted to be twelve years old again and the best spin bowler in Southport High.
I wanted a lot of things. So did my landlady, including the rent. EC This is the voice-over narration of Michael Stacey as he shambles along the shore- line of a sun-drenched beach in a crumpled white suit en route to his shabby R boarding house after having been sacked following a rigged inquiry.
Asked by an old school friend and state senator to locate his missing daughter, Cathy, Stacey R finds himself enmeshed in a right-wing plot led by his former army associates.
In an apocalyptic finale in which their attempted coup is overthrown, Stacey realizes he O has been used as a pawn by the state authorities to gain intelligence about the conspirators. In the final scene, Stacey bids Cathy farewell and comes to an elegiac C acceptance of middle age.
The mode of narration, characterization, and plot mark Goodbye Paradise Carl N Schultz, as a film noir, as it was recognized and received at the time of its release in Australia. However, such an acknowledgment raises a number of U significant issues that have important implications for the ways in which we need to understand film noir and this introduction will review some of those significances and how the contributors to this Companion have sought to address them.
Edited by Andrew Spicer and Helen Hanson. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Chapter No.: U An International Genre? The presence of film noir in Australia should not surprise us. Jennifer Fay and Justus Nieland argue that film noir is the product of the uneven development of modernity as a global force, a critical category that casts doubt on the ability of Chapter No.: The various national forms of film noir that they identify — in Europe, Latin America, and Asia I would like to add Australasia — are local instances of this transnational phenomenon that exhibits a complex process of adaptation and assimilation, attaining a particular coherence at certain moments.
Nikki J. It challenges a major strand of the construction EC of film noir that defined it as an exclusively American phenomenon. It is a self-contained reflection of American cultural preoccupations in film form. In short, it is a unique example of a wholly American film style. It is a discourse that has significance within the academy, the history of ideas, film TE history, and within the industry itself in the production, marketing, and consump- tion of neo-noirs such as Goodbye Paradise, which work with a loose concept of film noir and have a relationship, however indirect, with this central body of films.
EC The chapters in Part I engage with these broad issues. Only with the arrival of neo-noir R did this looser association of motifs and ideas solidify, self-consciously, into a genre. In common with other film movements, film noir possesses a recognizable body of R films exhibiting shared stylistic characteristics, sufficiently capacious to allow dis- O tinct personal variations, that marked a radical aesthetic break — with, in this case, the classic Hollywood style.
Film noir thus U became a way in which both groups could register their profound dissatisfaction with Hollywood studio practices and with current American values, which, in turn, can be related to a more widespread response to broader traumatic sociopolitical conditions: Bould argues that discussion needs to move beyond the currently fashionable notion of hybridity, in which noir becomes part of a series of proliferating hyphenates e.
Bould adduces the striking example of The Lost Weekend FS Billy Wilder, , which was initially seen as central to defining and delineating film noir but which has now dropped off the map or is seen as a marginal case. Film noir thus needs to be recognized as the product of the claims of various material O agents writers, producers, distributors, marketers, readers, fans, critics whose unstable heterogeneity needs to be accepted, keeping the canon fresh.
O Henrik Gustafsson Chapter 3, a wet emptiness has a rather different orienta- tion: Of course, to label them precursors implies their subordination to the canonical films of the s, but acknowledging their existence should prompt a reconsideration of Chapter No.: This line of inquiry could be extended productively in the other direction, ques- tioning the supposed watershed of Touch of Evil, Orson Welles or Odds Against Tomorrow, Robert Wise , by taking a fresh look again at the s and such films as Why Must I Die?
Roy Del Ruth, , Blast of Silence Allen Baron, , Mickey One Arthur Penn, or Seconds John Frankenheimer, , which FS cannot quite be called neo-noirs because they lack the temporal and conceptual distance, the self-consciousness, that is integral to that term. This double valency as both idea and prac- tice subtends the ways in which American film noir was identified and perceived.
In contradistinction, Phillips traces the crisscrossing patterns of EC a two-way exchange between Europe and America, a complex story of cultural nego- tiation and assimilation. Film noir was thus an international form from its inception, but this ancestry was disavowed, as noted, by R Borde and Chaumeton and subsequent commentators in favor of a construction that posited the uniqueness of the American cycle.
O This European influence was also apparent in the horror films of the s which C have been seen as part of the cultural mulch from which film noir emerged. Like Bould, Hutchings argues that genres are not fixed and coherent entities but loose, shifting clusters between which critics can forge connections.
Hutchings argues that tracing these connections requires sensitivity to different institutional and historical contexts and that generic categorizations are constantly changing, terms mutate through critical reappraisal.
Barton Palmer also examines unstable classifications and porous boundaries through his consideration of another problematic group of films, the semi-documentaries, deeply influenced by wartime documentaries and neo-realism.
In Chapter 9, crime fiction and film noir, William Marling argues that this customary focus on hard-boiled fiction needs to be wid- ened to include the newspapermen Jack Lait, W.
The subsequent developments in crime fiction — detective fiction e. Cain and Horace McCoy , or stories with a focus on irra- tionality and psychosis Jim Thompson or Cornell Woolrich — were each addressed to different reading publics which can now accommodate a taste for authors who are EC highly allusive and intertextual, including Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy. Building on occasional comments in existing scholar- ship, Ryall analyzes the subject matter and visual style of painters — the Ashcan R School, notably John Sloan and George Bellows, and also Edward Hopper and Reginald Marsh — and that of the news photographer Weegee, to provide a coherent O and detailed analysis of the rich native cultural context from which noir emerged.
C N Redefining Film Noir: Social and Industrial Contexts U As a critical mode of filmmaking, film noir has often been associated with a left-wing agenda that made it distinctive within Hollywood. Analyzing these films within their specific contexts of production, Neve reveals a creative use of a popular form, the crime film, capable of containing a corrosive critique of cor- porate capitalism and of appealing to a broad public.
Their momentum was halted Chapter No.: Wilt has a particularly valuable section on women writers, FS whose significant presence was put under threat as the studios took to employing an increasingly male writing staff.
In a marketplace dominated by the blockbuster, film noir continued to exist both as an innovative, R critical form of filmmaking — low-budget indies — and as a highly commodified one, slickly stylized and aimed at the cable or rental markets.
R Films are, of course, always commodities that have to be marketed and sold. The Fabric of Film Noir: