Black & white & noir: America's pulp modernism by Paula Rabinowitz

By Paula Rabinowitz

Black & White & Noir explores America's pulp modernism via penetrating readings of the noir sensibility lurking in an eclectic array of media: workplace of battle details images, women's experimental motion pictures, and African-American novels, between others. It lines the darkish edges of cultural detritus blowing around the postwar panorama, discovering in pulp a political concept that is helping clarify America's fascination with lurid spectacles of crime. we're conversant in deliberating noir as a movie shape popularized in video clips like The Maltese Falcon, the massive Sleep, and, extra lately, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. however it can also be, Paula Rabinowitz argues, an street of social and political expression. This publication bargains an unprecedented ancient and theoretical review of the noir shadows solid while the media's glare is concentrated at the unseen and the unseemly in our tradition. via far-ranging discussions of the Starr file, videos similar to Double Indemnity and the massive warmth, and figures as quite a few as Barbara Stanwyck, Kenneth Fearing, and Richard Wright, Rabinowitz reveals in movie noir the illustration of contemporary America's try and submerge and masks its violent background of racial and sophistication anatagonisms. Black & White & Noir additionally explores the speculation and perform of stilettos, the ways that ladies within the Fifties seen movie noir as a mystery language approximately their moms' pasts, the extreme tone-setting photos of Esther Bubley, and the smutty element of social employees' case reports, between different unforeseen twists and provocative turns.

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These women are irresistible, hiding a darkness, like America itself. My take on film noir, like James’s and Adorno’s, is symptomatic. This book is less about film noir as a subject of study than as a leitmotif running thorough mid-twentieth-century American culture. ” Instead, I view film noir as the context; its plot structure and visual iconography make sense of America’s landscape and history. The terrifying size and emptiness of the American continent are tamed by the incessant crossings of telephone wires, linked by a never-ending web of female operators routing calls through their switchboards, highways traversed by lone roadsters driving through the night, and road houses where a satinsheathed chanteuse sits alone on her cigarette break.

What distinguishes Bubley’s images of the rooming-house young women from Helen Georgesson or Miss Lonelyhearts, for that mat32 Rabinowitz PT1, CH 01 3/18/02 5:05 PM Page 33 esther bubley invents noir ter, is the way her camera has opened the doors finding behind each rather clean, well-lighted spaces often cluttered with friends, magazines, pictures from home, and drying hand laundry. These women have made this zone of violent transience homelike, inviting, quite unlike the noir vision of enclosure.

Women like Kathie Moffet in Out of the Past call the boss when the caper collapses; women like Leona Stevenson in Sorry, Wrong Number rely on the telephone to protect them; women like Vera in Detour die of strangulation by a telephone cord. , incarnated the iconography so central to film noir’s sense of dislocation: the lonely aggressive female who can adroitly use a series of mundane objects—telephones, cigarette lighters, radios—with deadly results and who inhabits and works in a world full of others like her.

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