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Classic French Noir

Gender and the Cinema of Fatal Desire

Deborah Walker-Morrison

272 pages
I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd

This book forms an innovative departure from traditional film noir scholarship by introducing a biocultural approach to the genre. Focusing on the underexplored French counterpart of Hollywood noir, the author reveals that the former's dark aesthetics and gendered, fatal passions are deeply underpinned by the socio-political context of both occupied and post-war Fourth Republic France – and yet still affected by evolutionary imperatives. This richly analytical study therefore provides a crucial alternative to thinking about gender as a construct, and whilst not negating these ideas, examines them in the light of biological root causes. The author argues, for example, that during this period the emerging urgent demand for population growth, coupled with the severe shortage of eligible males, rendered the mating game particularly perilous for traditional French women beginning to enter the workplace. This is clearly reflected in the cynical objectives and seductive behaviour of the femme fatale. Covering a corpus of over fifty films from 1941 to 1959, Deborah Walker-Morrison focuses on the dangerous, often fatal, desires of an array of male and female character-types: moving past the celebrated, fatal 'femme' to tragic heroines, psychopathic narcissists, fatal 'hommes' and gangster anti-heroes. The book re-examines productions by influential directors such as Henri Georges-Clouzot, Jacques Becker and Jules Dassin and pulls together strands of sociological, biological and evolutionary science to create a rare, insightful study of the cut-throat world of noir.

The cut-throat world of noir is a mirror on the idea of survival of the fittest by any means possible.

Author Bio
Deborah Walker-Morrison is Associate Professor of French at the University of Auckland. She has published widely on French cinema and is co-author (with Alistair Rolls) of French and American Noir: Dark Crossings (2009).