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Fritz Lang

, 230 pages

14 b&w illus.

July 2003
List price:$31.00
Sale price:$10.99
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Fritz Lang

Genre and Representation in His American Films

Challenging the myth that Fritz Lang's best work ended when he reached Hollywood, Reynold Humphries takes a new look at seventeen of the director's twenty-two American films. Made between 1936 and 1956, these films— Fury, You Only Live Once, You and Me, Man Hunt, Hangmen Also Die, The Ministry of Fear, The Woman in the Window, Scarlet Street, Cloak and Dagger, Secret beyond the Door, House by the River, Rancho Notorious, The Blue Gardenia, The Big Heat, Moonfleet, While the City Sleeps, and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt—broadly validate the insights of auteur theory while emphasizing the importance of the narrative and representational codes peculiar to a given genre.

Humphries examines these films in light of semiotics and psychoanalysis, drawing on Freud's "Wolfman" case and Lacan's theories of "the subject" and "the look" to bring novel solutions to crucial theoretical problems in such areas as the spectator, classical film narrative, and genre. In applying critical theory to Lang's Hollywood-made film noirs, melodramas, Westerns, and spy films, Humphries provocatively complicates auteur theory and revitalizes an unjustly neglected phase in the career of one of cinema's boldest visionaries.

Reynold Humphries is a professor of film studies at the University of Lille and the author of ThE AMERICAN HORROR FILM: AN INTRODUCTION. He is currently researching aspects of blacklisting in Hollywood.

"Reynold Humphries dismisses any suggestion that Lang lost his artistic soul the moment he was sucked into industrial Hollywood, and he wastes no time trying to show that Lang's American films are 'about' innocence, guilt, and destiny. Instead, he goes beyond the meaning of the films... and dismantles the techniques which Lang used to serve up what he wanted us to see. What he offers is a detailed, sometimes minute analysis of how Lang presents us with images to look at.... Lang does not simply emerge as a Mabuse who makes us see faces in the wallpaper, but as an artist who exploits his audience as a functional element of the filmmaking process."

"Sheds new light on basic theoretical problems of the interrelationship between genres, classical film narrative, and audience perceptiveness."