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We have much to learn from Mike Davis, CITY OF QUARTZ (Vintage, 1992) who discusses the paradoxical effects that the representations of Los Angeles in hardboiled novels and their translation into film noir cinema had on the image and myth of that city.
Together they radically reworked the metaphorical figure of the city, using the crisis of the middle class (rarely the workers or the poor) to expose how the dream had become nightmare. . . . It is hard to exaggerate the damage which noir's dystopianization of Los Angeles, together with the exiles' [European intellectuals living and working in L.A.] denunciation of its counterfeit urbanity, inflicted upon the accumulated ideological capital of the region's boosters. Noir, often in illicit alliance with San Francisco or New York elitism, made Los Angeles the city that American intellectuals love to hate (although, paradoxically, this seems only to increase its fascination for postwar European intellectuals). As Richard Lehan has emphasized, "probably no city in the Western world has a more negative image". . . . It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the paramount axis of cultural conflict in Los Angeles has always been about the construction/interpretation of the city myth, which enters the material landscape as a design for speculation and domination (Davis, 20-21).
Miami, most notably in the works of Elmore Leonard and Charles Willeford, and in the Television series MIAMI VICE, has received some of the same treatment, belatedly, or in a post- or neo- noir modality of the genre. . As Davis noted, "noir was like a transformational grammar turning each charming ingredient of the boosters' arcadia into a sinister equivalent" (38). We need to sort out those aspects of this noir/booster conflict that are generic and those that are specific to Miami. Boosterism is a fundamental feature of Miami's existence. The same paradoxes of attraction are an important part of Florida tourism. However, noir carries with it a state of mind, an atmosphere and mood, that are specific to the genre and may or may not have anything to do with the spirit of place specific to our zone.
In any case, we should keep in mind that a book about the mythical America of crime writers includes some discussion of the Miami River setting. The Interviewer, John Williams, spoke with James Hall, author of the hard-boiled SQUALL LINE, as they rode in Hall's boat on the bay near the river's mouth.
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Since we are concerned with our zone as image, we can learn something about how such atmospheres evoke world views by studying the effects of noir versions of our zone.
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The most immediately relevant aspects of noir for us are: atmosphere as the definitive quality of the genre; the concern with destiny or fate (alienated disjunctive relations between individual experience and collective structure).
Butler, Jeremy G., "Miami Vice, The Legacy of Film Noir," in FILM NOIR READER, Eds. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight, 1996).
Davis, Mike, CITY OF QUARTS: EXCAVATING THE FUTURE IN LOS ANGELES (New York: Vintage, 1992).
Williams, John, INTO THE BADLANDS: TRAVELS THROUGH URBAN AMERICA (London: Flamingo, 1993).