Last night I had the oddest dream . . . no, no, wait, wait. It’s not the dream itself that’s going to be the focus of attention here: it’s something that came out of it.
I dreamt I was being asked a string of dumb questions by a journalist about my film noir encyclopedia, and I was having difficulty swinging the interview around to the place where it could be of any value. If she’d simply not known what film noir was, I could have managed; the problem was that she had some erroneous notion of the genre. At the end of the Q&A, when she asked me if I had anything to add, I produced a definition of film noir that had just occurred to me. (No sooner had I done so than Sylvio Berlusconi, who for some reason was also there, started laughing like a jackass and I stalked out. But that’s by the bye.)
When I woke up moments later, the definition was still in my head. While it’s in no sense a complete description of the genre, it does cover great swathes of the movies concerned and is therefore, I think, useful:
Films noirs are stories about people who’re good enough not to deserve to be in the circumstances they’re in, but not good enough to be able to haul themselves out of them.
I’m now hoping, of course, that this isn’t an instance of my subconscious bringing to the surface something I read long ago in someone else’s work. If not, I plan to use this . . .