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International Noir$
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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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British Noir

British Noir

1. British Noir
International Noir

Jim Leach

Edinburgh University Press

British film noir is not a pale imitation of its Hollywood counterpart, as its critics have often claimed. The frequent casting of American actors did indeed feed into widespread concerns about the perceived Americanization of the national culture, as did the filmmakers’ resistance to the critical canon of ‘quality’ cinema in the late 1940s. The films’ vision of postwar Britain drew on discourses lamenting the political and moral decline of the nation, while later films placed these themes within the context of emergent youth culture and the consumer society. Anxieties about sexuality, crime and national identity were worked through in the figures of the spiv and the femme fatale. Several films also used the point-of-view of a child to bring out the strangeness of the adult world, reinforcing the nightmare quality of the noir vision. As in the case of Hollywood, the classic period of film noir, when the darkness was evoked by the shadowy black-and-white cinematography, ended with the shift to colour in the 1960s. However, many later British “neo-noir” films revived noir themes and style, with varying degrees of nostalgia and critique, to explore continuities and discontinuities with the nation’s past.

Keywords:   British Noir, Post-War, Spiv, Diana Dors, Basil Dearden, Neo-Noir

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