Criminality and the Left in Spanish Retro Noir Films


Davies A (2009) Criminality and the Left in Spanish Retro Noir Films. Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies, 15 (1), pp. 15-28.

First paragraph: In their now classic overview of contemporary Spanish cinema, Barry Jordan and Rikki Morgan-Tamosunas observe a strong preoccupation with the past within the culture of democratic Spain, not only as a result of a simple indulgence in nostalgia but also of an attempt to come to terms with the problematic history of the Francoist dictatorship (1998, pp. 15-16). They highlight film as an example of this preoccupation, noting that Historical film, perhaps more than any other generic category, places the question of the relationship between reality, perception and representation firmly in the spotlight. And since historical reality is itself an elusive concept, accessible only through the imperfections of memory and representation, the mediation of that reality (such as it is) inevitably interposes a series of lenses or filters which both facilitate and obfuscate its interpretation. (Jordan and Morgan-Tamosunas 1998, p. 16) What I intend to do in this paper is consider Spanish retro noir as one of these filters. I will discuss examples of Spanish retro noir with the purpose of indicating the problematic nature of the recuperation of the suppressed history of the Spanish left during the Franco era precisely because of the motifs used in noir, in particular criminality. In films such as these, the lost history becomes depoliticized, subsumed to the romantic gloss of retro noir, so that the dictatorship itself becomes a source of remembered pleasure (see Davies 2007, pp. 223-224), while the left remains ideologically other, linked in some measure with that quintessential icon of noir otherness, the femme fatale. This paper is concerned with how the left is presented as criminal in some retro noir films, and what that implies for the recuperation process. It will argue that, to avoid discomfort in the perception of the left as simply noir criminals, criminality is displaced onto the femme fatale, serving to recuperate the left while blurring some of the more sordid elements of their history as posited in retro noir.

Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies: Volume 15, Issue 1

Publication date30/04/2009
PublisherTaylor and Francis