The ‘Série Noire’
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The Série Noire was a series of thrillers which Gallimard began to publish after the war under the editorship of Marcel Duhamel. Initially the series consisted of translations from the Anglo-American ‘hard-boiled’ school (Cain, Chandler, Hadley Chase, Cheyney, McCoy, etc.), but in 1948 it began to include French authors as well. Frequently the books had been adapted or were to be adapted for the screen, and the phrase ‘série noire’ came to stand for a film genre as much as a literary one, hence the otherwise inexplicable success of Pierre Foucaud’s disappointing film entitled Série Noire (1955). This chapter examines the two films which, it is generally agreed, were the first in France to be adapted to the screen from Duhamel’s fiction series: Bernard Borderie’s La Môme vert-de-gris (1952) and Jacques Becker’s Touchez pas au Grisbi (1953). These films are fascinating both because they inaugurated two different styles of thriller which have continued to flourish in France to the present day, and also because they enact the crisis of the French film industry as it tried to come to terms with the postwar settlement – a crisis which can be summed up in the single word ‘Hollywood’. They exemplify the desperation of French film-makers in the face of American competition and explore possible ways of coming to terms with it.
KeywordsRival Gang American Cinema French Author Petty Bourgeoisie Wide Open Space
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