Fatalism in American Film Noir: Some Cinematic Philosophy (Page-Barbour Lectures)

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Robert Pippin has done it again. Hot on the heels of his award-winning book about Westerns, this study of film noir tells the other side of the story, the bleaker, more pessimistic side of the great age of American cinema. Seamlessly blending philosophy, history, and film analysis, it convincingly and powerfully suggests that the crucial function of film noir is to offer a worked-out picture of what life would look like were we to suspect that our most important decisions carry no real weight. With this stunning achievement, Pippin has reconfirmed his position as one of the most important critics of film writing today.

--Joshua Landy, Stanford University, coeditor of The Re-Enchantment of the World: Secular Magic in a Rational Age

In Fatalism in American Film Noir, Robert Pippin examines popular movies from a philosophical perspective and does not treat them merely as an illustration of ideas but as a way of putting the ideas to the test of concrete cinematic experience. He looks at them thoughtfully and sensitively both as an inquisitive philosopher and as an attentive film critic. An original and illuminating contribution to both philosophy and film studies.

--Gilberto Perez, Sarah Lawrence College "author of The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium "

Like tragic figures, the heroes of noir are, or seem, doomed from the start. Pippin... calls into question this accepted view through analyses of three films.... Pippin demonstrates that, far from affirming fatalism, many noir films problematize the view that modern life is lived under the sign of doom. He argues that the very uncertainty of the human condition is the subject of film noir: is an individual's conduct freely chosen or determined by forces he or she does not understand? The three chosen films answer: Maybe we're free. Maybe we're not. Radical uncertainty is where these films take readers and mostly leave them. Pippin's analyses are thoughtful, detailed (even intricate), and challenging.

--CHOICE

About the Author:

<strong>Robert B. Pippin</strong> is Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought, the Department of Philosophy, and the College, at the University of Chicago, USA. He is the author, most recently, of <em>Hollywood Westerns and American Myth: The Importance of Howard Hawks and John Ford for Political Philosophy.</em>

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