The Philosophy of Film Noir
In the fall of 1976, when I wrote the article “No Way Out: Existential Motifs in the Film Noir” for Sight and Sound (vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 212–17), little would I have expected that some twenty-five years later a collection of essays under the title The Philosophy of Film Noir would be published. Yet here it is, a welcome indication of how far we have traveled in terms of public awareness and scholarly respectability. Indeed, in 1976, the term film noir was little known beyond a coterie of French and American cineasts and derided by some as a specious classification created in a post hoc manner and not worthy of serious critical attention. By now, the ontology of film noir seems to be settled in its favor, although epistemological argumentation rages on. Anyone interested in tracing the course of this argumentation over the past quarter century would be well advised to consult the appendices in Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style (ed. Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward, with Carl Macek and Robert Porfirio, 3rd ed., rev. and expanded [Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook, 1992]) as well as the Film Noir Readers (Alain Silver and James Ursini, eds., Film Noir Reader [1996; New York: Limelight, 2001], Film Noir Reader 2 [New York: Limelight, 1999], and Film Noir Reader 4 [New York: Limelight, 2004]; and Robert Porfirio, Alain Silver, and James Ursini, eds., Film Noir Reader 3 [New York: Limelight, 2001]), which, taken together, cover virtually all the controversies surrounding the field of film noir scholarship and evidence the debt that such scholarship owes to Alain Silver.
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