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Editor: Andrew Spicer

This book aims to provide an overview of the history and development of film noir and neo-noir in five major European cinemas, France, Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy, written by leading authorities in their respective fields. It contains a bibliography and extensive filmography. The book describes the distinctiveness of film noir or neo-noir within its respective national cinema at particular moments, but also discusses its interaction with American film noir and neo-noir. It commences with a reflection on the significant similarities and differences that emerge in these accounts of the various European film noirs, and on the nature of this dialogue, which suggests the need to understand film noir as a transnational cultural phenomenon. The problems of defining film noir and the reasons why it has almost always been regarded solely as an American form are discussed. Because British film noir had never received critical recognition, Andrew Spicer argues that British neo-noir had to reinvent itself anew, with little, if any, explicit continuity with its predecessors. The book also explores the changes in the French polar after 1968: the paranoia of the political thriller and the violence of the postmodern and naturalistic thriller. That new noir sensibility is different enough, and dark enough, from what preceded it, for us to call it 'hyper-noir'. British neo-noirs are highly intertextual and allusive, both thematically and visually. The book also discusses German neo-noir, Spanish film noir and neo-noir, and the Italian film noir.

Phil Powrie

if many of them use one or two of these tropes. Some films do, however, make more use of these characteristics than most, while at the same time pushing towards a new noir sensibility in the late 1990s, which combines the characteristics we shall explore in the first half of this chapter as part of the changes in the French polar after 1968: the paranoia of the political thriller and the violence of the postmodern and

in European film noir
From the silent era to the 1990s

Long before the emergence in the 1990s of a ‘cinéma de banlieue’ on the heels of Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine (1995), French filmmakers looked beyond the gates of the French capital for inspiration and content. In the Paris suburbs, they found a vast reservoir of architectural forms, landscapes and contemporary social types in which to anchor their fictions. From the villas and vacant lots of silent serials of the 1910s and the bucolic riverside guinguettes of 1930s poetic realism, to the housing estates and motorways of the second post-war, the suburban landscape came to form a privileged site in the French cinematographic imaginary. In keeping with directorial vision, the prerogatives of the film industry or the internal demands of genre, the suburb could be made to impart a strong impression of reality or unreality, novelty or ordinariness, danger or enjoyment. The contributors to this volume argue collectively for a long history of the suburban imaginary by contrasting diverse ‘structures of feeling’ (Raymond Williams) that correlate to divergent aesthetic and ideological programmes. Commenting on narrative, documentary and essay films, they address such themes as class conflict, leisure, boredom, violence and anti-authoritarianism, underscoring the broader function of the suburb as a site of intense cultural productivity.

Post-war French polar, from Becker to Corneau
Philippe Met

11 The banlieue wore black: post-war French polar, from Becker to Corneau Philippe Met To the extent that investigation, detection or suspense are not all systematically foregrounded, and the police force itself is sometimes conspicuously absent, the distinctly Gallic polar is an admittedly fairly imprecise appellation, even when focus is restricted to the second post-war, as will be the case here.1 Its urban anchoring, however, is hardly questionable. Unsurprisingly in a highly centralised nation like France, immediate pre-war, proto-noir and/or poetic realism

in Screening the Paris suburbs
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Gemma King

connections to gender representation and national cinemas – the French polar (crime/ noir thriller), the American prison film, the frequently feminised melodrama, the Western – and yet they also modify the formula to create something new. They are resolutely and at times disturbingly masculine, their male characters constrained by heteronormative and toxic models of masculinity, their female ones usually

in Jacques Audiard
Revisiting collaboration in French crime fiction of the 1980s
Claire Gorrara

  Daeninckx, Meurtres pour mémoire, pp. 63–4; ‘DEforestation … DEmarcation  …  DEfence  …  DEliberations  of  the  special  DElegation  from  Lanta’,  Murder in Memoriam, p. 52. 39  Daeninckx, Meurtres pour mémoire, p. 64; ‘DEportation was treated in exactly the same way as other administrative tasks. The bureaucrats seem to  have filled in these forms with the same punctiliousness they brought to  coal coupons or the new school year’, Murder in Memoriam, p. 52. 40  Charles Forsdick, ‘“Direction les oubliettes de l’histoire”: witnessing the past  in the Frenchpolar

in French crime fiction and the Second World War
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Violence à trois
Ann Davies

Asfalto demanded not so much film critique but an act of love in the private projection room of our dreams (Palacios, 2000: 14). This remark reminds us of Calparsoro’s own belief that cinema was there to assault us and inspire our emotions in the dark of the projection room: he and Palacios concur here that cinema is an emotional rather than intellectual exercise. The gap of a few years did not cool Palacios’s response; he would later observe that Asfalto was the summit of Calparsoro’s film noir of youth (Palacios, 2006: 380), reminding him of the French polars of the

in Daniel Calparsoro
The making of a director
Lisa Downing

star personae and the generic conventions of the films in which they had starred in their heyday. The ambitious Delon-Belmondo vehicle also featured Vanessa Paradis as the archetypal daughter in search of the secret of her paternity. Leconte and producer Christian Fechner envisaged creating a nostalgic cinematic spectacle that would appeal to the popularity of the great vintage actors of the French polar. However the film

in Patrice Leconte
Comedy and humour
Brigitte Rollet

from 1954 onwards. In 1958 the influence of American cinema over French production was quite strong, especially in a genre soon to become the rival of comedy for popularity. The French polars (thrillers) of the 1950s and 1960s ‘were often adaptations of American detective stories transposed to the French context’ (Forbes 1992 : 48). The comedians of the earlier decades such as Bourvil and de Funès continued to exploit traditional venues of comedy while newcomers from the music hall, including Francis Blanche and Fernand

in Coline Serreau
Regarde les hommes tomber, Un prophète and Un héros très discret
Gemma King

, Michel. Yet while the film is certainly informed by Audiard’s background, there are distinct differences between the heritage of 1950s and 1960s French polars and the more hybrid, unconventional genre play at work in Regarde les hommes tomber . For one, the film’s only law enforcement officer is also its tragic (and silent) victim, its detective is an unglamorous salesman and its figure fatale

in Jacques Audiard