Wednesday, June 9, 2010

So Dark the Night (1946)

From the American Film Institute:

"Parisian Detective Henri Cassin, suffering from overwork, takes the advice of his doctor and goes to the village of St. Margot for a restorative vacation. The inn at which he stays is run by Pierre Michaud and his wife Mama. Although Pierre's daughter Nanette is engaged to be married to farmer Leon Archard, her gold-digging mother urges her to marry the wealthy Henri instead. Nanette takes her mother's advice to heart and begins to woo him with her charms. The scheme works, and Henri soon falls in love with Nanette. In a short time, they become engaged, and at their engagement party, Henri vows never to let another man romance her. Although Nanette's mother is eager to see her daughter marry Henri, Pierre and the inn housekeeper, Widow Bridelle, are opposed to the marriage. When it is discovered that Nanette and Leon have disappeared, Henri wastes no time starting an investigation."

To label this film as a film noir is to do it a disservice for those who haven't seen it yet. The fact that it is a film noir suggests to the viewer that the protagonsit is a criminal, but since he doesn't yet know that, the film's narrative takes a pretty straightforward approach to the crime(s). Our hero is just that, a straight hero, until his own powers of deduction outwit his concealed culpability. "Wagon Wheel Joe" Lewis turns in another fine directing job, moving his camera in and out, and placing objects in front of the action, particularly in a striking shot where the bow of a violin violently cuts across Nanette's face. He seems to relish finding natural, outdoor objects to foreground, such as weeds growing from the earth or branches hanging from a tree. All of it helps keep the audience interested until the twist is revealed and he can really play with some lighting effects that reminded me of THE RED HOUSE, which came out early the next year.

Judgment: Noir

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