The cinematic flaneur: manifestations of modernity in the male protagonist of 1940s film noir
AuthorNolan, Petra Desiree
AffiliationArts: School of Fine Arts, Classical Studies and Archaeology
School of Art History, Cinema, Classics and Archaeology
Document TypePhD thesis
CitationsNolan, P. (2004). The cinematic flaneur: manifestations of modernity in the male protagonist of 1940s film noir. PhD thesis, School of Art History, Cinema, Classics and Archaeology, University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
Deposited with permission of the author. © 2004 Dr. Petra Desiree Nolan
The hardboiled hero is recognised as a central trope in the film noir cycle, and particularly in the classical noir texts produced in Hollywood in the 1940s. Like the films themselves, this protagonist has largely been understood as an allegorical embodiment of a bleak post-World War Two mood of anxiety and disillusionment. Theorists have consistently attributed his pessimism, alienation, paranoia and fatalism to the concurrent American cultural climate. With its themes of murder, illicit desire, betrayal, obsession and moral dissolution, the noir canon also proves conducive to psychoanalytic interpretation. By oedipalising the noir hero and the cinematic text in which he is embedded, this approach at best has produced exemplary noir criticism, but at worst a tendency to universalise his trajectory. This thesis proposes a complementary and newly historicised critical paradigm with which to interpret the noir hero. Such an exegesis encompasses a number of social, aesthetic, demographic and political forces reaching back to the nineteenth century. This will reveal the centrality of modernity in shaping the noir heros ontology. The noir hero will also be connected to the flaneur, a figure who embodied the changes of modernity and who emerged in the mid-nineteenth century as both an historical entity and a critical metaphor for the new subject.
Keywordsfilm noir; men in motion pictures; hardboiled hero; film history and criticism; noir hero; modernity; femme fatale
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