Somewhere in the Night

Nicholas Christopher, Author
Nicholas Christopher, Author Free Press $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-684-82803-9
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Film is perhaps the most American of art forms, and film noir is easily the most American of its genres, a dark mirror that momentarily captures our ever-changing culture. In his new book, poet (Five Degrees and Other Poems) and novelist (The Soloist) Christopher guides readers into the labyrinth of the genre's gritty, urban underworld with its ruthless gangsters, hard-boiled detectives, femmes fatales and other fringe elements. Intellectually stimulating, thoroughly researched and excellently written, the book draws on a myriad of intellectual sources, from Roland Barthes to Marshall McLuhan. Christopher handily deconstructs the essence of film noir and shows the exchange of influences between the noir sensibility and every other aspect of American culture, from the paintings of Edward Hopper to the new role of women in the 20th century to the cultural paradigm shift of the war years and the atomic age. He discusses multitudes of films, from classics like Double Indemnity to neo-noirs like Chinatown, and, notably, a thorough and complex interpretation of the recent The Usual Suspects. Christopher writes with the mind of a scholar and the heart of a poet--incisive, metaphorical, illuminating and artful, yet without conceit or grandiosity. This fascinating book will be a treat for film buffs, film professionals and everyone in between. (Mar.)
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