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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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Early Japanese Noir

Early Japanese Noir

(p.85) 4. Early Japanese Noir
International Noir

HomerB. Pettey

Edinburgh University Press

In the Japanese language, kuro or koku shares similar meanings with the French word noir, such as the visual absence of color, black, dark, and shadowed as well as the metaphorical associations with emptiness, mystery, and evil. The complex aesthetic history of Japanese filmmaking, however, reveals not only its adaptation of proto-noir and noir techniques, but also the development of its own noir sensibility. Shifting values of modernism, existential angst and paranoia, crises of socio-economic identity, sense of doom, pervading neurasthenia and resignation to failure, skeptical views of progress as well as ambivalent views of the past, the penchant for violent and sexual narratives, and the creation of chiaroscuro aesthetic that mirrored psychological and ethical problems—these certain tendencies of film noir were already ingrained within the Japanese literary and artistic consciousness. While early Japanese filmmakers, very much like their American counterparts, relied upon modernist technological, narrative, and aesthetic experiments from Europe, they did so by adapting and transforming them into a 20th century Japanese art form. Both proto-noir and early Japanese noir reveal a cultural fascination for modernity and its re-evaluation of social and gender roles for those struggling at the margins of contemporary urban life.

Keywords:   Kuroi, Japanese Noir, Japanese Silent Film, Moga, Mizoguchi, Kurosawa, Yakuza

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