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Homer B. Pettey and R. Barton Palmer

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748691104

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748691104.001.0001

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The New Sincerity of Neo-Noir

The New Sincerity of Neo-Noir

(p.193) 9. The New Sincerity of Neo-Noir
International Noir

R. Barton Palmer

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter is devoted to the neo-noir phenomenon in Hollywood, and it bears remarking that a similar renovating secondariness manifests itself as well in some other national cinemas, whose post-classical noir traditions are dealt with in other chapters in the this volume of this series, International Noir. Beginning with the genre revisionist work of noted Hollywood Renaissance auteurs in the early 1970s, American neo-noir is much too extensive, having endured now for more than four decades, more than twice the temporal reach of the original series, to be surveyed adequately in a brief essay. Here, I trace some of the general features of the phenomenon through a sustained focus on two noteworthy and exemplary releases, Body Heat and The Man Who Wasn’t There. Both of these films connect to James M. Cain’s novels Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. The neo-noir Cain revivals speak eloquently about the urge to begin again with materials and visual styles initially developed and popularized about fifty years earlier. Like classical film noir, the neo period is heavily dependent on literary adaptation, with some underexploited earlier writers —such as Patricia Highsmith, Jim Thompson, and David Goodis—even finding greater interest from film producers. Neo-noir viewership is also a readership interested in and intrigued by contemporary crime writers whose work deliberately evokes the série noire tradition, including James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard, Michael Connelly, and Lawrence Block, all of whom can claim Cain as a formative influence.

Keywords:   Neo-Noir, Cain, Highsmith, Goodis, Leonard, Ellroy, Marilyn Chambers

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