Download A drifter with no name and no past, driven purely by desire, is convinced by a beautiful woman to murder her husband. A hard-drinking detective down on his luck becomes involved with a gang of criminals in pursuit of a priceless artifact. The stories are at once romantic, pessimistic, filled with anxiety and a sense of alienation, and they define the essence of film noir. Noir emerged as a prominent American film genre in the early s, distinguishable by its use of unusual lighting, sinister plots, mysterious characters, and dark themes. From The Maltese Falcon to Touch of Evil , films from this classic period reflect an atmosphere of corruption and social decay that attracted such accomplished directors as John Huston, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, and Orson Welles.
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Pippin Aeon J. University of Virginia Press, Unlike most genres, the makers of the classical films typically so categorized were not consciously setting out to make films noir; the term was retroactively coined to refer to them. Scholars do not even agree that noir is a genre at all, some arguing instead that the term denotes a loose grouping of similarities.
Pippin argues that several films noir serve as excellent illustrations of this problem, as we see plans go awry and protagonists swept along by currents of events not in their control. But literature and film are certainly helpful in prompting us to think about the problem, and teasing out its ramifications.
Moreover, since these are persistent issues in philosophy, stories reflecting them might add layers of depth and resonance to philosophical discussions of them. So Pippin is right to think that we can profitably explore philosophical problems through a close examination of film, and appreciate film better through assessing their philosophical undercurrents. He has previously done as much in his book on Westerns, and this volume is a worthy companion to the earlier work.
This is a felicitous way to describe the way a film can illuminate a philosophical problem. Films do not merely tell a story, of course; they also display the story. In each chapter, Pippin looks at the films as wholes: he considers not only the plot—the story—but also the visual aspects of cinematic story telling — the If you would like to authenticate using a different subscribed institution or have your own login and password to Project MUSE.
Fatalism in American Film Noir: Some Cinematic Philosophy – Robert Pippin
I had to watch a lot just to try to keep up with everyone else in the philosophy department, both grad students and faculty, who had an overwhelming knowledge of movies. Zed organized a screening of North by I watched a lot of movies in grad school. Zed organized a screening of North by Northwest with special guest commentator Ted Cohen. I went to screenings for a class on Ophuls that Miriam Hansen taught, I watched all the Westerns that Pippin screened in Doc Films that led to his Westerns book, and I watched both The Lady from Shanghai and Out of the Past in the big lecture theater in the Social Science building at Chicago when Pippin was screening them for this book. I think Jay loaned me his copy of Scarlet Street.
Has the reign of the commodity, refined by technology, turned us into bundles of manufactured desires seeking fulfillment? Both sides of this debate significantly broaden the more technical question of how we understand the actions of others and ourselves, adding to it a complicating historical component, giving the question an added gravity. In two recent books Robert Pippin has offered a compelling and unique contribution to this philosophical project through the seemingly modest path of examining two genres that flourished in midth century American film: the Western and film noir. Variants of the reflective model that run through the Western cannon include Aristotle, Kant, and Nietzsche, and many of our intuitions about self-knowledge or how we determine moral responsibility will line up with this view of agency. We are not likely to broaden our appeals to fate anytime soon, nor are we going to malign a model of deliberative planning. Yet Pippin is quite convincing in arguing that the characters we meet in film noirs, and the kinds of actions that we witness them performing, are not well served by the reflective model of agency. This is interesting not because it confirms the post-WWII historical moment of American fatalism or gives more firepower to a psychoanalytic reading of film noir already one of the more common forms of criticism when issues of agency are being discussed.