The banlieue wore black
Post-war French polar, from Becker to Corneau
in Screening the Paris suburbs
Abstract only
Log-in for full text

This overview charts the evolution from the 1950s to the 1980s of the French detective or crime film (le polar). Proto-noir films shot before World War II had been primarily centred on Paris, a trend furthered in post-war works which regularly conjoined seedy Pigalle and the glamorous Champs-Elysées as two sides of the same coin. From Jacques Becker (Casque d’or, 1952; Grisbi, 1954) to Jean-Pierre Melville (Le Doulos, 1962; Le Samouraï, 1967) via Jules Dassin (Rififi, 1955), a gradual shift toward suburban locales takes place around new genre conventions and motifs. The suburbs variously lend themselves to hideouts, shootouts and executions; to the sale of all things illegal or counterfeit; to the gloomy atmospherics of railway tracks, deserted roadways and abandoned villas. A subsequent generation of directors would exploit the multi-faceted social and geographical reality of the modern housing estates that encroached upon traditional allotments of single-family homes and pockets of suburban wasteland; Henri Verneuil’s mainstream caper Mélodie en sous-sol (1963) thus portrays a disorientatingly mutating Sarcelles. Most decisively, Alain Corneau’s naturalistic noirs Série noire (1979) and Choix des armes(1981) add a sociological dimension to the genre by broaching questions of violence, alienation and devastation.

Screening the Paris suburbs

From the silent era to the 1990s


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 135 73 19
Full Text Views 40 0 0
PDF Downloads 31 0 0