Mean Streets and Raging Bulls

Mean Streets and Raging Bulls book cover

Title: Mean Streets and Raging Bulls
Subtitle: The legacy of film noir in contemporary American cinema
Author: Richard Martin
Publisher: Scarecrow Press
First published: November 1997
ISBN hardback: 9780810833371
ISBN paperback: 9780810836426
ISBN ebook: 9780585080956

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Classic film noir was Hollywood’s dark cinema of crime and corruption. It was a genre underpinned by a tone of existential cynicism that stripped bare the myth of the American Dream and offered a bleak nightmare vision of a fragmented society, reflecting many of the social realities of post-war America. Mean Streets and Raging Bulls was the first book-length study of the neo-noir phenomenon. It explores how, since its apparent demise in the late fifties, the noir genre was revitalised in the post-studio era of US cinema, examining a nation coming to terms with the effects of war in Vietnam, political scandal, assassinations, counterculture and the rise of neoliberalism.

Mean Streets and Raging Bulls is divided into two sections. In the first, the evolution of film noir is contextualised in relation to industrial transformation, as well as the political, social and cultural history of the United States from WWII to the mid-1990s. In the second, the evolution of neo-noir and its connection with classic film noir is illustrated by detailed reference to films representative of the decades in which they were made: Chinatown, Night Moves and Taxi Driver in the seventies; After Hours, Blood Simple and Sea of Love in the eighties; and Reservoir Dogs, Romeo is Bleeding and One False Move in the nineties.

Not only do these films suggest noir’s continuing exploration of the collective anxieties of US society, but they also reflect a sustained tradition of artistic creativity and technical virtuosity nurtured within the confines of genre cinema. Such a tradition is epitomised by the work of Martin Scorsese whose influence on the post-sixties history of the genre is considered in some detail.



Part I – From film noir to neo-noir
1. Industrial evolution: conservative policies, low-budget innovation
2. America noir: political paranoia, social malaise

Part II – The legacy of film noir
3. Seventies revisionism
4. Eighties pastiche
5. Nineties irony