The Western unquestionably indicates the truth and the ideological lie of America as “the home of free Americans.” The paradox here is well-pictured in a famous movie of this genre, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, directed by Sergio Leone, an Italian–his films seem to be American to such an extent that their names directly signify America: consider Once Upon a Time America and Once Upon a Time The West. The identification of Westerns with America appropriates all territories of cinematic representations.
In a similar way, the Noir crime genre doubles the literary representation of America, for it summarizes the private eye genre, which was born in America and reached its summit there. (It is noteworthy however that British fictions such as Sherlock Holmes or Hercules Poiro are based on a hero whose profession was detection of crimes with private capital; these fictions were not crime fictions as such but mystery stories). It was the Noir that cleansed the American body of crime fiction of all impurity or contamination that was insidiously trafficked from Europe. It shows the truth of crime fiction.
In a brilliant essay on Raymond Chandler, Fredric Jameson puts his finger on the fact that, in British crime fiction, the ideal topos is an idyllic countryside or the shire, and the murder itself is an interruption in the pastoral intimacy and gentle nobility of the British universe; while in Chandler’s novels, the crime is an everyday and quotidian reality, same as in Noir fictions, which are set in the streets of modern metropolises (usually Los Angeles). Its view is the infinite horizon and long-shots, not locked-rooms or the castles of the Lords; for this reason, Chandler’s style is a hysteric and telegraphic one which is looking on the exteriority, narrating the cruel, dirty reality of liberal society, while the poor, standardized style of Agatha Christie’s works is proper to an obsessive expedition in the suspects’ psychology in the hope of finding a non-English element which unveils the criminal; because affirming the English nobility in its whole is the ideal of this literary genre.
To be continued…