Paint It Black

If you live long enough junk becomes antiques, and cast-offs are classics. It's pleasant to think that the popular culture of only a few decades ago is now revered, but it's also scary. A recent visit to a clothing store flashing lime-green and neon-yellow polyester revivals of the 70's was enough to remind me that not everything passé deserves recycling.

But some things do. Shakespeare himself provoked that sense in a fastchanging England over 300 years ago. And there have been times in our violent century when people knew they had experienced a creation that would outlive its time. I experienced that phenomenon myself 40-odd years ago. More importantly, I learned about it from members of the previous generation. I was impressed when veterans of combat took certain books and music and movies seriously, and I still am. What we call "film noir" was in effect made for those veterans to watch; in fact, it was, often enough, about veterans returning to a corrupted civilian life.

Of course, they didn't (we didn't) call it "film noir" then. They called it good stuff. You recognized it for its refusal of smarm, its gritty exception to the slick, even feminized corporatism inundating America which would be perfected later on in Bill Clinton's public weeping. What we call "film noir" were some of the jewels among the cheap pictures. They got no respect except from the...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here