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Film Noir

March 2012, ©2012, Wiley-Blackwell
Film Noir (EHEP002836) cover image


Film Noir offers new perspectives on this highly popular and influential film genre, providing a useful overview of its historical evolution and the many critical debates over its stylistic elements.

  • Brings together a range of perspectives on a topic that has been much discussed but remains notoriously ill-defined
  • Traces the historical development of the genre, usefully exploring the relations between the films of the 1940s and 1950s that established the "noir" universe and the more recent films in which it has been frequently revived
  • Employs a clear and intelligent writing style that makes this the perfect introduction to the genre
  • Offers a thorough and engaging analysis of this popular area of film studies for students and scholars
  • Presents an in-depth analysis of six key films, each exemplifying  important trends of film noir: Murder, My Sweet; Out of the Past; Kiss Me Deadly; The Long Goodbye; Chinatown; and Seven
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Table of Contents

List of Plates ix

Acknowledgments xiii

1 Introduction 1

2 Historical Overview 20

3 Critical Overview 50

4 Murder, My Sweet 73

5 Out of the Past 100

6 Kiss Me Deadly 123

7 The Long Goodbye 146

8 Chinatown 171

9 Seven 191

Afterword 215

References 217

Further Reading 223

Index 225

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Author Information

William Luhr is Professor of English at St. Peter's College, Co-Chair of the Columbia University Seminar on Cinema and Interdisciplinary Interpretation, and Standing Editor of the Oxford University Press Online Bibliography on Cinema and Media Studies. He is the editor of The Coen Brothers’ Fargo (2004) and The Maltese Falcon: John Huston, Director (1995) and the author of, amongst others, Screening Genders (with Krin Gabbard, 2008), Thinking About Movies: Watching, Questioning, Enjoying, third edition (co-author with Peter Lehman, 2008) and Raymond Chandler and Film, second edition (1991).
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“It is the most comprehensive and lucid study of the genre I have read … I was also impressed with Luhr's handling of the shift in Hollywood from the 1930s to 1940s. The morally compromised "heroes" of the 1940s were unthinkable in the 1930s. Like all good film critics, Luhr makes me want to see my favorite films again because he has shown me things I missed. And then there are all those films I didn't see that are now on my list because of William Luhr.”  (Carl Rollyson, 16 June 2012)


"A superb guide to the main streets, back alleys, penthouses and abandoned lots of film noir. A comprehensive survey of canonical movies, written with a fan's eye for noir's killer-cool and an academic's desire for contextual precision and analytical insight."
Peter Stanfield, University of Kent

"William Luhr is the intrepid sleuth of cinema studies, tracking down film noir under all the aliases – classic noir, pre-noir, neo-noir – that its infinite variety has produced. Writing with energy, clarity, and verve, Luhr explodes narrow conceptions of noir as conclusively as the Great Whatsit blew up postwar innocence in Kiss Me Deadly. Carry a copy of this timely, spirited book in your trenchcoat. It is a boon for film scholars, general readers, and movie buffs alike."
David Sterritt, Chairman, National Society of Film Critics

"Informed by a rich body of previous scholarship, conceptually sophisticated, yet written with grace and clarity, Film Noir by William Luhr provides an ideal introduction for students and fans to the dark corner of American culture represented by these gloriously perverse crime films."
Jerry W Carlson, PhD, The City College & Graduate Center CUNY

"William Luhr, who knows all the many questions raised by film noir, supplies lucid, elegant, provocative answers. His knowledge is deep, his comments far-ranging. This is an essential addition to the vast literature on the genre."
Charles Affron, New York University

"Writing with broad expertise and deep sensibility, Professor Luhr heightens our nostalgic delight in noir films while also pointing to the lost spectatorial experience of film noir's once present tenseness."
Chris Straayer, New York University Department of Cinema Studies

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Purchase Options
Film Noir
ISBN : 978-1-4443-5593-2
248 pages
January 2012
$34.99   BUY

Film Noir
ISBN : 978-1-4051-4595-4
246 pages
March 2012
$42.95   BUY

Film Noir
ISBN : 978-1-4051-4594-7
246 pages
March 2012
$93.95   BUY

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