Philosophical Film: Trapped by Oneself in Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past

The belated genre classification, “film noir,” is a contested one, much more so than “Western” or “musical.”2 However, there is wide agreement that there were many stylistic conventions common to the new treatment of crime dramas prominent in the 1940s: grim urban settings, often very cramped interiors, predominantly night time scenes, and so-called “low key” lighting and unusual camera angles.3 But there were also important thematic elements in common.Two are especially interesting. First, noirs were almost always about crime, usually murder, often cold-blooded, well-thought-out murder. Even more surprisingly, the larger social context for such deeds, the historical American world in which they take place, was itself just as bleak, amoral, and ugly as the individual deeds and the characters themselves. Secondly, and perhaps most distinctively, many films challenged, in sometimes startling ways, many of our most familiar assumptions about psychological explanation. In ways that seemed both mysterious and credible, characters who had been righteous, stable, and paragons of responsibility all their adult lives were seamlessly and quite believably transformed in a few seconds into reckless, dangerous, and even murderous types, all suggesting that anyone, in the right (or wrong) circumstances, was capable of almost anything, and that one’s own sincere avowals of basic principles could be ludicrously self-deceived.4 This last theme—that a virtuous character can be as much a matter of moral luck (of having avoided by mere chance the particular temptation that would reveal the fragility of one’s principles) as an individual accomplishment—is connected with an even larger philosophical issue
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index Translate to english
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 9,357
External links
  •   Try with proxy.
  • Through your library Only published papers are available at libraries
    References found in this work BETA

    No references found.

    Citations of this work BETA

    No citations found.

    Similar books and articles
    Elizabeth A. Linehan (2005). Crime and Catholic Tradition. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 79:61-72.
    Daniel Frampton (2009). Sublime Confusion. The Philosophers' Magazine 47 (47):73-78.

    Monthly downloads

    Added to index


    Total downloads

    18 ( #78,298 of 1,088,814 )

    Recent downloads (6 months)

    1 ( #69,666 of 1,088,814 )

    How can I increase my downloads?

    My notes
    Sign in to use this feature

    Start a new thread
    There  are no threads in this forum
    Nothing in this forum yet.