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Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia

Wheeler Winston Dixon


Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia is an overview of 20th- and 21st-century noir and fatalist film practice from 1945 onwards. The book demonstrates the ways in which American cinema has inculcated a climate of fear in our daily lives, as reinforced, starting in the 1950s, by television, and later videocassettes, the web, and the Internet, to create, by the early 21st century a hypersurveillant atmosphere in which no one can avoid the barrage of images that continually assault our senses. The book begins with the return of American soldiers from World War II, 'liberated' from war in the Pacific by the newly created atomic bomb, which will come to rule American consciousness through much of the 1950s and 1960s and then, in a newer, more small-scale way, become a fixture of terrorist hardware in the post-paranoid ear of the 21st century. Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia is constructed in six chapters, each highlighting a particular 'raising of the cinematic stakes' in the creation of a completely immersible universe of images.

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1. The Dream of Return
2. The Postwar Bubble
3. Fifties Death Trip
4. The Flip Side of the Sixties
5. The Failure of Culture
6. Living in Fear
Appendix: A Gallery of Classic Noir 'Heavies'.

About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon is the James Ryan Endowed Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and, with Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, Editor-in-Chief of the Quarterly Review of Film and Video. His newest books include A Short History of Film (co-written with Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, 2008); Film Talk: Directors at Work (2007) and Visions of Paradise: Images of Eden in the Cinema (2006). He worked as a filmmaker in the 1960s and 1970s. In 2003, Dixon was honored with a retrospective of his films at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and his films were acquired for the permanent collection of the Museum, in both print and original format.


In Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia, Dixon displays a true cinephile's fascination with the gunslingers and femmes fatales of film noir, and the dark, uneasy world they inhabit. Wide-ranging and packed with compelling detail, this work will be an invaluable addition to the bookshelves of fans, academics and completists alike.
- Mikita Brottman, Maryland Institute College of Art
The book offers an impressive catalogue of marginal and forgotten films of the studio era, accompanied by handfuls of Hollywood Babylon dirt for added impact... noir addicts will walk away with one hell of a screening list.
- José Teodoro, Film Comment