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Film gris (French for "grey film"), a term coined by Thom Andersen, is a type of film noir which categorizes a unique series of films that were released between 1947 and 1951. They came in the context of the first wave of the communist investigations of the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Films gris offer a leftist criticism of society in general, and of capitalism in particular. They typically examine such themes as the psychological damages of class, the false promises of middle class happiness, and the pitfalls of materialism.
Distinction from film noir
Film gris differs from film noir in some of the following ways:
- Film gris is a little more pessimistic and cynical than film noir. The dividing line between crime and law enforcement is often blurred.
- Films gris tend to blame society rather than the individual. For example, films gris will tend to focus less on what a criminal is doing, and more on how society has produced the criminal class.
- The audience identification is often with the collective in a way atypical of Hollywood films.
- The femme fatale’s motives are more obvious and easier to identify than in films noir.
List of films gris
Andersen identifies the following as films gris:
- Andersen, Thom. "Red Hollywood." Literature and the Visual Arts in Contemporary Society. Eds. Suzanne Ferguson and Barbara S. Groseclose. Columbus: Ohio State University Press. (1985).
- Hirsch, Joshua. "Film Gris Reconsidered." The Journal of Popular Film and Television 34.2. (2006).
- Maland, Charles. "Film Gris: Crime, Critique, and Cold War Culture in 1951." Film Criticism 26.3. (2002). <http://macaulay.cuny.edu/eportfolios/scott12sem2courseblog/files/2012/03/Charles-Mayland-Film-GrisFilm-Criticism-26-no-3-2002.pdf>
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