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Open Access Publications from the University of California

“Femme/s, Film/s, Noir/e: Revisions”


Film noir is a relatively small group of films, which span the years between World War II and the late 1950s. These films share a number of stylistic conventions which include the use of various permutations of stereotypical bad girl/femme fatale and good girl/household nun (Martin 207) type characters. In most of these films, women and their sexuality are considered to be (as Freud believed) “ a dark continent” (Breger 331), symbolically “Other” (Leitch 1283), outside the norm, therefore not ‘normal.’ This phallocentric bias permeates film noir (as well as most film up until that point, and since,) and “reflects the normal status of women within contemporary society” (Harvey 38). However, due to noir’s topsy-turvy nature, where contradictions, nightmares, narrative disconnects, and role reversals abound, “the normal representation of women as the founders of families undergoes an interesting displacement” (38).

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