Thursday, March 30, 2006

Male Noir Heroes

As I said in my post about X-Factor #5, the central male figures in noir films often had to overcome significant submissive experiences before they ultimately went on to "reclaim" their heroic and, (in the preferred coding of the time period), masculine status.

To illustrate what I've been getting at, here's a still from Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep (1946):

A brief description:
[T]here is a sadistic aplomb in the way Canino lets ball bearings spill from his hand just after he has slugged Marlowe [Bogart]. Then Marlowe comes to, and he's tied up and handcuffed, with an open wound in his jaw. Mrs Eddie Mars is there ... Marlowe rides her, taunts her ... until she tosses liquor in his open wound. And then Marlowe is left with Vivian [Bacall]. ... Of course, she unties him, with another kiss first, the more sensual because he is tied up... (Thomson, pp. 47 & 49)

Essential reading:
E. Ann Kaplan, (ed.), Women in Film Noir, (British Film Institute, 2d ed, 1980).
D. Thomson, The Big Sleep, (BFI, 1997).
M. Eaton, Chinatown, (BFI, 1997).
P. Shrader, "Notes on Noir," in Grant, (ed.), Film Genre Reader II, (Texas, 1995).

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