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The Invisible Hand in Popular CultureLiberty vs. Authority in American Film and TV$
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Paul A. Cantor

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780813140827

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813140827.001.0001

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America as Wasteland in Detour

America as Wasteland in Detour

Film Noir and the Frankfurt School

Chapter:
(p.243) 8 America as Wasteland in Detour
Source:
The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture
Author(s):

Paul A. Cantor

Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
DOI:10.5810/kentucky/9780813140827.003.0009

Chapter Eight analyzes Edgar Ulmer's classic film noir Detour and its bleak portrait of America as a land of frustrated desires and lost dreams. It explores the affinities between Detour and the Frankfurt School critique of Hollywood as a dream factory. Detour deconstructs the American myth of the West, especially Hollywood, as a land of opportunity. The chapter argues that film noir is not a purely home grown American product, as many have claimed. Like Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Ulmer was a European émigré who looked at America from an alien perspective, and found himself alienated even from its landscape. This alienation surfaces in his characters, who drift hopelessly through a world empty of love, family, and companionship. Aspects of America that represent freedom to its citizens—like open roads—look like sources of disorder and chaos to Ulmer's European sensibility.

Keywords:   Edgar Ulmer, film noir, Detour, Frankfurt School, Hollywood, dream factory, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno

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