Philosophy, Black Film, Film Noir

By (author) Dan Flory

Hardback - £61.95

Publication date:

17 June 2008

Length of book:

368 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271033440

In the past two decades, African American filmmakers like Spike Lee have made significant contributions to the dialogue about race in the United States by adapting techniques from classic film noir to black American cinema. This book is the first to examine these artistic innovations in detail from a philosophical perspective informed by both cognitive film theory and critical race theory.

Dan Flory explores the techniques and themes that are used in black film noir to orchestrate the audience’s emotions of sympathy and empathy felt toward morally complex characters whom people might not typically find appealing in real life, such as thugs, drug dealers, or murderers. Using an approach that combines the cognitive insights of theorists like David Bordwell, Noël Carroll, and Murray Smith with the reflective Wittgensteinian methods for considering film employed by Stanley Cavell, Stephen Mulhall, and William Rothman, Flory shows how these films scrutinize the state of race in America, induce their viewers to do so as well, and illuminate the ways in which categories of race have defined and continue to direct much of our vision of the moral self and what counts as appropriate moral sensibility.

The darkness of film noir was always meant to illuminate as well as reflect the shadows of the mean streets of Gangland USA. Now, in this fascinating synthesis of philosophy, film studies, and critical race theory, Dan Flory reveals to us the significance of the deeper blackness of African American noir—a light ‘doubly’ black aimed at exposing the larger crimes of White America itself.

—Charles W. Mills, Northwestern University, Author of The Racial Contract