“Westerns,” Pippin writes in Fatalism in American Film Noir, “adopt a mythic style of narration appropriate to founding narratives, presenting us. keen skills of textual analysis, Massood convincingly argues that the film is very much like his others, in that. 4 Little Girls includes “a focus on African American. Robert B. Pippin. Fatalism in American Film Noir: Some Cinematic Philosophy. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press x + pages. $ (cloth.

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Fatalism in American Film Noir: Some Cinematic Philosophy

Many recent philosophical debates about the locus of human agency have turned on very large issues: Has the reign of the commodity, refined by cilm, turned us into bundles of manufactured desires seeking fulfillment?

Both sides of this debate significantly broaden the more technical question of how we understand the actions of others and ourselves, adding to it a complicating historical component, giving the question an added gravity.

In two recent books Robert Pippin has offered a compelling and unique contribution to this philosophical project through the seemingly modest path of examining two genres that flourished in midth century American film: Variants of the reflective model that run through the Western cannon include Aristotle, Kant, and Nietzsche, and many of our intuitions about self-knowledge or how we determine moral responsibility will line up with this view of agency.


We are not likely to broaden our appeals to fate anytime soon, nor are we going to malign a model of deliberative planning.

Yet Pippin is quite convincing in arguing that the characters we meet in film noirs, and the kinds of actions that we witness them performing, are not well served by the fikm model of agency. This is interesting not because it confirms the post-WWII historical moment of American fatalism or gives more firepower to a psychoanalytic reading of film noir already one of the more common forms of criticism when issues of agency are being discussed.

The goal is clearly normative at some level: Fatalism in American Film Noir is fataliem on a number of levels. Pippin is justified in calling it a piece of cinematic philosophy as opposed to philosophy of cinema because fatalksm uses the grammar of these films to do some original philosophical work on their own terms.

Some might be skeptical about turning the philosophical exploration of agency over to popular films, but why are these scenarios necessarily worse than the beloved thought experiments that usually underwrite the reflective model?

Fatalism in American Film Noir | The University of Virginia Press

Furthermore, Pippin avoids the reductionist tendencies of much cultural criticism of the cultural studies sortor the kind of psychoanalytic read that these films often get. It is true that he is highly associative at times, and the parenthetical statements pile up as the work goes on.

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But this is mostly a way to capture the complexity of the notoriously complicated plotlines of noirs, as well as a way to capture insights from the films without slowing down the analysis that is reliant to some extent on the unique philosophical work that cinema can do.

Film noir is an interesting genre.

Pippin relates the story of how it got its name: The influence of these films in France was worked through by both critics and filmmakers, leading to the masterful post-war policiers of Jean-Pierre Melville and flm inspiring the Nouvelle Vague. Film noir is also interesting for the forms of life that it puts on display, a strange admixture of contemptible and compelling qualities residing in a single character.

I find them appealing for reasons that are often very difficult to pin down. This is a bold proposal, but to my mind a welcome contribution to the broad discussions about human agency that we should be having today. Join our mailing noid to receive news from Full Stop: The Full Stop Reviews Supplement 4. A Amreican of Dust — Evald Flisar.