Titus Techera and Terry Teachout Substacking on Film Noir.
The films noir that remain watchable, by contrast, are the ones that concentrate on the dark crosscurrents of middle-class American life & revolve, as do the great Westerns of the ’40s & ’50s, around the problem of individual responsibility. To be sure, the tacit assumption is that the anonymous cities in which films noir are set are so corrupt that upright individual conduct is all but impossible. Nevertheless, every classic film noir hinges on a crucial moral choice made by the protagonist, as Walter Neff, Fred MacMurray’s character, admits to the audience in his voice-over narration for Double Indemnity: “I’m not trying to whitewash myself,” he says about the crime he commits out of love, lust, & greed. “I fought it…only maybe I didn’t fight it hard enough.”