I recently became embroiled elsewhere in a debate about the films of Quentin Tarantino, which I dislike, finding them ugly and fascist in their violence, misogyny, and concern with the squalid aspects of contemporary America.
Others however, wax lyrical on his “vision”, the “beauty” of his dialog, and his technical re-invention of the exploitation genre of the 70s. This perspective is justified using high language and erudition.
What has this got to do with film noir? Well, it is about film, why films are made, and what makes them of value.
Films are essentially entertainment, Hollywood films anyway, and commodities produced for profit. Somehow, this endeavour has produced and continues to produce films that not only have wide appeal but value as works of art to a lesser or greater degree. The great films noir had both popular appeal and artistic merit because their themes address the human condition and the frailty of normal lives, which at any moment can be plunged into the chasm of chaos, through chance or individual action – innocent or otherwise. How moral ambivalence, lust, love and greed can destroy lives is explored outside the closed romantic realism of mainstream movies.
What do the films of Tarantino offer outside some appeal to a coterie of aficionados who elevate technique over content? Violence, criminality, and baseness as urban cool.