We experienced a 5.1 earthquake last night in Los Angeles, and it hit right in the middle of the first feature JENNY LAMOUR.
I stand by my claim that it was brought on by the lascivious booty-shaking of sexy Suzy Delair in the role of Jenny. Cynical Angelenos that we all are, we just shrugged it off and kept watching. After the lights came up, a young girl seated alone beside me told me it was only her third day in LA and she had been terrified by the quake. But when she saw that the rest of us didn’t seem to mind, she felt better and was able to calm down and enjoy the rest of the film. Which is a good thing, because this film is sensational.
The story is set in the gritty underbelly of the Parisian club scene and follows voluptuous and ambitious chanteuse Jenny Lamour in her quest to get ahead by any means necessary. Including a private rendezvous with a creepy, hunchbacked movie mogul. Also in the mix are her hot-tempered jealous husband and her lesbian neighbor, a photographer who specializes in boudoir shots and harbors a hopeless crush on Jenny.
When the lecherous old mogul turns up dead after his date with Jenny, the trio have to scramble to cover up the crime, each keeping secrets from the others and slowly becoming more and more unhinged by the pressure in classic Film Noir fashion.
The pressure in question comes from an aging police inspector who knows Jenny isn’t on the level and won’t let up until he gets to the truth. Only in the end that truth isn’t what anyone expected.
There was some disagreement over this one amidst us regulars, but I loved it. And no, not just because of Jenny’s petit tralala or because it features one of the most believable and sympathetic lesbian characters we’ve ever seen in Noir City. I felt like all the characters were complex and realistic, more like actual people than standard types. The sexy singer really does love her husband no matter what. The gruff inspector has an unexpected mother hen side, revealed in his love for his adopted African son as he frets about the boy’s geometry test and worries that he isn’t getting enough to eat. And the melancholy lesbian neighbor turns out to be the strongest, most capable character in the film, the one you’d want to help you if you needed to hide a body.
Mistress Christa says “Ooh la la.” Check this one out.
Now, on to ANGELS OVER BROADWAY.
I’d already seen this one, and even host Alan Rode admitted that it wasn’t really Noir. But, hey, I’d never seen it on the big screen, so I’m in.
A despondent working stiff is planning to kill himself after he’s caught stealing money from his boss to please his greedy, heartless wife. He heads off to a night club for one last fling before doing the deed. Throwing what little money he has around like there’s no tomorrow attracts the attention of a con artist, a wannabe showgirl and a boozy and embittered playwright. Together the four of them concoct a scheme to save the suicidal man from ruin by fleecing a local gangster in a fixed card game.
This preposterous plot is mitigated to some degree by Ben Hecht’s superb, snappy and sardonic dialog and by young, fresh-faced Rita Hayworth in the role of the showgirl. But really, this film belongs to crackerjack character actor Thomas Mitchell. It’s his movie, a writer’s movie more than a gangster movie and all the screwball machinations of the criminals involved aren’t nearly as interesting as he is. I just want to follow that character around all night and listen to him talk about fame, writing and the meaning of life, or lack thereof.
This is another film I can’t exactly recommend, but I can’t say I disliked it either. It’s definitely not Film Noir but it’s fun if you’re in the mood for something a little more light hearted. Also, if you’re a writer or love one of us, you might want to check this flick out.
Tonight ROADBLOCK and SOUTHSIDE 1-1000, with a special SoCal MWA sponsored panel discussion moderated by local LA crime writer Eric Beetner.