Thursday, November 7, 2013

Happy #Noirvember!

I was poking around Tumblr earlier today and found people were posting about Noirvember, I clicked the hashtag and was so happy to find people were taking the month to celebrate film noir. I love a good film noir, gorgeously shot and lit with subversive subject matter.



And it's perfect because I'd recently watched "Crime of Passion" (1957) starring Barbara Stanwyck. 
Barbara's at it again, playing the femme fatale in Double Indemnity in 1944. This time, she plays Kathy Ferguson, still looking fabulous at 50. A sharp newspaperwoman, she's unmarried and ambitious (I should just say right here the costumes are sort of forgettable so we won't talk about them) Just before she gets ready to leave California to take a big job in New York, she meets a mild-manned police detective and marries him like, five minutes later, even after she calls marriage a "life sentence":

Damn. "I don't think you'll get very far"? Cold-blooded. But she ignores that so important gut feeling and married silly Bill Doyle anyway. Oh Kathy! You were meant for big things! You were supposed to leave your agony aunt gig behind and write hard-hitting stuff in New York! Instead, you tie yourself to a nice, boring man in a boring town where you're forced to play hostess to all the wives of your hubby's coworkers.
 
Fool. He just has no idea.
The boredom and stress are so bad they take a physical toll on Kathy. And then she realizes it's okay if she gave up her own ambitions; there's still her husband. She puts all the brain power she would've spent on her career into helping her husband who's all "aw, shucks! I don't want anything more than what I have" move up the ranks. Seriously, this man is all milquetoast, surprising for a man on the police force. Kathy seduces the boss, hoping to land her husband a promotion but the boss reneges and, of course, ends up dead.
It's a solid little movie with good performances and writing. A little slow at times, and certainly no "Double Indemnity", but I liked it (mostly because Barbara Stanwyck is amazing).
Now, I'm going to get on my women's studies hat on and read Kathy's story as a feminist cautionary tale. If a woman is forced to give up a pursuit she loves and pretend she has no interests, that's going to drive her nuts. And then someone ends up dead.
 
This is one of those movies that reminds me why I love film noir and pulp fiction. More often than not, the murder or the theft isn't the real crime; it's the social taboos that are broken. In a lot of noir films it's unadulterated lust on the part of the woman but here, it's the drive for prestige. Sure, Kathy kills a man, but her real crime is being ambitious. That's a bad thing for a woman to be. It supposedly goes against a more important "natural" law of women just supporting their husbands.

You can stream this movie on Netflix or (and you didn't hear it from me) you can watch the whole thing on YouTube.

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