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April 20, 2013


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Sven m.

Hello Glenn, I love your essay for Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Doulos Criterion booklet. It is great.


Just went and read that essay, and have one niggling question: am I wrong to think that what is referred to as the noir trope of the swinging lightbulb was actually initiated by Psycho two years prior? Or is this one of those things where a late adopter gets the credit?


Haven't read the Le Doulos essay, but I know Anthony Mann and cinematographer George Diskant did the swinging light bulb thing in DESPERATE in 1947.

Glenn Kenny

It's been a while since I wrote that, and for a minute I almost believed that I had made such a careless mistake. But no. I call the swinging lightbulb not just a noir trope but a "noir staple," as in "basic or principal element or feature." So I'm not talking about the film initiating anything but rather about its relentless and imaginative mixing of already familiar elements. The sentence reads: "In the wake of Faugel and Gilbert's confrontation, that noir staple the swinging lightbulb, appears—not via overhead wire but rather a proper table lamp, after the table has overturned."

Hope that clears things up. Anyway, thanks, Sven.


Glenn--Sorry for the lack of clarity; I just meant that if Psycho started that deathless trope, then it could hardly be a noir staple, but I stand corrected...

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