8 Comments

  1. I’m a little perplexed by the thesis here: is it that Border Incident, by linking noir and politics, brings out into the open a subtext apparant in many other noir films – the social critique implicit in noir’s twisted and darkened mise en scene and story structures? It seems like that’s what Auerbach is saying, but statements like “a concept or mode that tests the very permeability and limits of borders” seem to take us down some other path, one more specifically related to the film at hand (and not necessarily to other noirs).

    Though I haven’t seen Border Incident, one thought did occur to me in your description: that the blackness of night – the “noir” of the “nuit” – provides a kind of formal nightmare quality to the film’s vision of America, creating a kind of looking-glass reversal of sunny westerns and musicals (though of course, many scenes in those take place at night too), thus doubling the film’s (and perhaps, by extension, the genre’s) ideological reversal with a visual reversal.

  2. Thanks MM for your comment. I have offered only a brief overview of a long article, and I am ready to say that that the issues you raise may stem from my perhaps inadequate representation of Professor Auerbach’s thesis rather than what he actually argues. This said, you have pretty well covered my understanding of the article.

    Hopefully, Professor Auerbach, will respond to my post and your response himself.

    I was directed to his article by a comment he made to this post on FilmsNoir.Net: Wierd
    Science…
    .

  3. Jonathan Auerbach

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments about my essay on Border Incident, which is part of my book in progress(tentatively titled Dark Borders) that focuses on the concept of uncanny un-Americaness in these movies–strange feelings of non-belonging stemming from a transgression of boundaries, literally national borders in the case of the Mann film. Throughout the book, with detailed readings of movies like Double Indemnity, Stranger on the Third Floor, and Pickup on South Street, I emphasize the political implications of noir, particularly its relation to Cold War redefinitions of citizenship and criminality: native-born members of the USA Communist party, for example, were considered “un-American” and treated like strangers in their own home, despite (or because) of the fact that there are no legal way to take away their citizenhip.

  4. Jonathan, as someone who commented on Tony’s review earlier, thanks for your input and clarification. Your thesis sounds very compelling and hopefully I will be able to read your book when it appears on shelves – I’m always interested in the confluence of history and film, particularly in an era where the confluence was substantially hidden. I’m currently reading Marc Norman’s history of screenwriting (What Happens Next) which contains some interesting stories about the era of communist politics in history (I haven’t yet reached the section on the blacklist). Makes me interested to delve into a whole book on the subject.

  5. Jonathan Auerbach

    Most people who write about noir talk about alienation as if it were some philosophical abstraction connected to existentialism, etc., but I’m trying to give it some historical precision and specificity since the overlap between noir and first stage of Cold War is so close, roughly 1940-58. I date the Cold War from 1940 because from the standpoint of internal security/state of emergency, it mattered little if our foreign enemies from within were Nazis or Soviets.

  6. Sorry for the delay in responding to your posts Jonathon – I have been out of town. Thank your for your comments and for the information on your forthcoming book, which will be a very original work, and will certainly make fascinating reading! I am reminded of Philip Slater’s ‘The Pursuit of Loneliness’ (1970) – my paperback copy of the book has a detail of Edward Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks’ (1942) on the cover…

    Thanks MovieMan for your valuable contribution to this discussion.

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