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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Dark time(s) : non-linear narratives in the postmodern film noir Poulin, Brook


In cinematic circles, much has been made of the film noir genre. While debates continue to circulate about what exactly film noir is and how films can be seen to fit this model, contemporary examples of the film noir produced in the last ten years have begun to exhibit an exciting and inventive postmodern tendency: a non-linear narrative structure. Narratives are scrambles, run backwards, replay a significant moment several times or are a blend of two or more of these innovative narrative tropes. I will be looking exclusively at these films and have termed them post/neo/noirs. Thus, those films that feature an intersection between the film noir, the postmodern and feature an unconventional and non-linear narrative structure will form the basis for this study. I will first present a brief summary of the existing scholarship dedicated to film noir as well as my own original template of essential film noir characteristics. Next, a framework outlining the fundamental and recurring characteristics of postmodern theory will be established, as this will be the major theoretical structure used to dissect and analyze the films within this thesis. Chapters l-IV will act to show the distinct types of post/neo/noirs, provide a close analysis of ten recent films, and show how certain films and sub-categories of the post/neo/noir emerge as more successful and important cultural texts. The argumentation and subsequent conclusions of this thesis will be threefold: a) The post/neo/noir sub-genre is fundamentally postmodern and produces transnational texts that embrace these concerns. b) Only those post/neo/noirs that fully incorporate both postmodern filmmaking impulses and a deft merging of film form and content are effective at producing a significant commentary. c) Not only is film noir a stable genre category, it can be seen as a dominant one, as films that fit the film noir framework can be considered film noir regardless of what other genres they might seem to otherwise belong to. d) The post/neo/noir has the potential to offer a vital, profound and complex social criticism and is designed for consumption and interpretation by a sophisticated postmodern audience.

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