Not a comback: the persistence of decadence in film noir
In this thesis, I will argue that the decadent movement survives in twentieth-century America through noir films, or what I refer to as “noir decadence.” However, noir films make decadence more accessible to a wider audience through a change in perspective and more complicated depictions of class and gender. The first section of this thesis, “The Decadence of Film Noir,” compares and contrasts fin-de-siècle decadence and noir decadence through the noir film Sunset Boulevard. This section also discusses the shift in the narrator’s perspective to set up the discussion of narrative structure, characters, and how they come together to form a perspective that makes decadence accessible to mass audiences. “Narrative Structure,” the second section, examines the way fin-de-siècle decadent narratives are constructed and how that relates to noir decadence. The third section, “Primary Characters,” discusses the noir detective archetype, the fin-de-siècle decadent dandy, and the shared character of the “femme fatale.” Finally, the conclusion extends noir decadence into the twenty-first-century and examines the perseverance of decadence in neo-noir films.