Edited by Don Malcolm on 5/5/2018, 6:45 am
Clearly O'Brien is limited in his own way (his title, "Freudian Noir," is tellingly unoriginal and not at all on target), and is more enthralled with Bordwell's fetishization of Hollywood and his dubious suggestion that the writers were driving the entire process. There's no doubt that the "second wave" of mystery thrillers came into vogue right behind the advent of the Black Mask school, bringing suspense, distress, peril, plot twists, and an elevated body count to stories that were based on more ambiguously flawed characters.
But, of course, something analogous is happening in Britain and France at the same time, with spy noirs continuing during WWII, along with the unique contribution of the "provincial gothic" during the French Occupation. As with so many Americans, academic or otherwise, Bordwell simply ignores the possibility of other national cinemas innovating in these areas, and ignores the impact that they had on Hollywood. His book pretty much comes down to an auteurist "theory of two"--Hitchcock and Welles. Versatile directors with analogous talent who did not obsessively shape their material to fit their personal style are, in the fashion of the Cahiers/NV cadre, dismissed or vilified.
I do think it's important to look at what happens to the "woman in distress" noir in the 50s, and see how and why it changed. This is part of the reason why noir narrows and coarsens during this time frame, and why the full range of noir is summarily omitted from the theories that emerge in the 70s. Borde and Chaumeton also downplay the sub-genres of American noir in PANORAMA, which also pushed "theories of noir" in the direction of the hard-boiled.