Le polar dans tous ses états

If the term film noir was originally coined by French critics during the 1940s to describe what was perceived as a predominantly American genre (Hollywood adaptations of hard-boiled detective fiction), France is also the only country outside the US to have built up a large and consistent body of crime films (or “polars”) which frequently garner critical recognition while generating popular appeal.

This course will provide students with an overview of the evolution and scope of French crime cinema, emphasizing key historical phases and subgenres:

– colonial proto-noir in the 30s (J. Duvivier)
– post-WW2 psychological thrillers (H.-G. Clouzot)
– iconic gangster flicks in the 50s (J. Becker; J. Dassin)
– the Nouvelle Vague’s infatuation with and redefinition of the genre in the early 60s (J.-L. Godard; F. Truffaut)
– the stylized, male-dominated microcosm of Melville and the social commentaries of C. Chabrol’s films in the 70s
– neo-noir in the 80s-90s (C. Miller)
– the current polar revival (G. Nicloux; J. Audiard).

An effort will be made to isolate and define a possible set of specificities in noir à la française, but more generally we will discuss issues of ethics, ideology, gender, sexuality, violence, or spectatorship, through a variety of critical lenses (psychoanalysis, socio-historical and cultural context, aesthetics, politics, gender…).