Title page for ETD etd-08142009-040450

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Maltère, Hugues
URN etd-08142009-040450
Title The socio-political dimension of film noir
Degree Master of Arts
Department Political Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Luke, Timothy W. Committee Chair
Prince, Stephen R. Committee Member
White, Stephen K. Committee Member
  • Politics in motion pictures
Date of Defense 1992-08-18
Availability restricted

After World War II, Hollywood produced a series of low budget pictures characterized by a dark mood, bleak urban landscapes and fierce violence. French critics called them films noirs (black films). These movies presented a critical vision of the social injustice present in the American capitalist society. This thesis examines the socio-political dimension of film noir firstly through its social, literary and filmic origins, then through a piecework study of shots and dialogues from six noir pictures: Body and Soul (1947), Force of Evil (1948), Knock On Any Door (1949), Kiss of Death (1947), I Walk Alone(1948) and The Set-up (1949). It is shown how the Marxist convictions of their makers influenced their style and their content. Even films noirs made by apolitical or moderate filmmakers follow a similar pattern. It is concluded that film noir contains expressions of anti-capitalist struggle toward social justice and moral redemption. The appeal of these ideas to many Americans is shown by the box-office success of these pictures, while many noir writers, actors and directors were the victims of the reactionary repression of the early fifties.

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