Dark Years, Dark Films, Long Shadows: The Occupation, Noir, And National Identity In French Film And Criticism
Although the term arises in French film criticism, "noir" has long been associated with American cinema and a certain, recognizable type of visual and thematic style. Through a return to the French critics of the late 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s this dissertation defamiliarizes and redefines noir's value to film and French studies by demonstrating its negatively constitutive role in the negotiation of French national identity and the central place of the Occupation in any discussion of French noir. By locating noir within criticism and performing close readings of the critical archive, which includes figures as diverse as Georges Sadoul and André Bazin, Lucien Rebatet and François Truffaut, I argue that noir critical discourse is defined by a tension between the category's ever-changing value and the efforts of those who deploy it to fix the meaning of the nation before, during, and after the Occupation through careful omissions of the historical, collective memory. Because noir is central to debates on how the nation should and, more precisely, should not be represented, I also resist conventional, generic approaches to advance that individual films noirs are secondary to noir critical discourse. Particular films, such as those by Julien Duvivier, Jean-Pierre Melville, and also Henri Decoin's lesser-known Non coupable (Not Guilty ) may thus only be viewed as "noir" insofar as they bring into frame aspects of recent French history and sociocultural identity left out of dominant narratives of the national imaginary. Ultimately, through a focus on the critical and filmic archives and the dynamic value of noir during an era marked by the Occupation, I wrest noir scholarship from the hegemony of Hollywood and the rigidity of conventionally generic readings to restage it as the beginning of a new conversation. Film noir, that is to say, French film noir as I articulate it here brings together questions of not only national cinema, but of the larger obstacles facing any articulation of national identity related to the era that shares noir's name: the Occupation, the dark years, les années noires.
French cinema; Noir; Occupation
Murray, Timothy Conway
Villarejo, Amy; McNulty, Tracy K.
Ph. D., Romance Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis