Temptresses swathed in glossy red, falling out of strapless sheaths with plunging necklines, their full wet lips the color of sin. Steely-eyed toughs in trench coats or tuxedos, with cigarettes hanging from the corners of determined mouths, drawn .45s in their hands. These are the images in The Art of Noir: The Posters and Graphics from the Classic Era of Film Noir, by Eddie Muller (Overlook, $50). In this midnight realm, shadows mix with the garish colors of honkytonks and roadhouses, trust leads to treachery, and love is bought and sold or sold out. To look at these movie posters for "Gilda," "The Killers," "Double Indemnity," "Macao" and dozens of other films -- many in German or Italian -- is to glimpse a world of passionate intensity, one mingling desperation, loneliness, erotic obsession and greed.
At least as much as any of his actual creations -- which include the once notorious "Large Glass," a k a "The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even," the outrageous "Fountain" made from a urinal, and the celebrated "Nude Descending a Staircase" -- Marcel Duchamp haunts 20th-century art. Alice Goldfarb Marquis's Marcel Duchamp: The Bachelor Stripped Bare (Museum of Fine Arts, $37.50) was 25 years in the researching and writing, and it's a scrupulous account of the man and the artist, his work and his influence. For Duchamp, the intellect lay at the heart of making, and his influence can be seen in Dada, surrealism, conceptual art, pop art, cutouts, readymades and every sort of avant-gardism. Throughout his life, Duchamp lived by his wits -- or off the largess of admirers -- and loved many women; he passed the last decades of his life concentrating on his chess game.
-- Michael Dirda