To kick off last night’s triple feature, we started with a Jean-Pierre Melville flick I hadn’t seen yet, LE DOULOS.
First, a note on the slang phrase “le doulos.” It literally means a stingy brim hat like the ones worn by pretty much all the men in this movie, but it also means a rat. A snitch. A police informant.
And this idea is at the heart of the often baffling plot. Betrayal, double crossing, snitching. There are no good guys. Old loyalties are put to the test and nobody trusts anybody. Rightly so, too, because everyone is lying. Or are they?
None of that really matters, honestly. In fact, you get the distinct feeling that the director is deliberately trying to mislead and confuse us. This film is all about the look and feel and man, is it gorgeous.
I can’t be the only one who saw a connection between the famous Frank Lloyd Wright Ennis House here in Los Angeles and these decorative pillars in the scene pictured above. See for yourself.
Melville was a hardcore Americana fetishist (hence, his name) and I doubt he ever put a single thing in the frame that wasn’t deliberately chosen to be there.
One other thing you need to know. if you don’t already. Melville can be pretty rough on the dames in his pictures. At best, they’re just sexy furniture and occasional pawns in whatever racket his male characters are mixed up in. At worst, they end up like Therese in this movie.
You know I love me some cinematic bondage, but this ugly and deeply misogynistic scene was hard to stomach, even for me. If you have ever been the victim of domestic abuse, or just can’t tolerate violence against women on screen, you’ll want to skip this one.
Side note: I couldn’t shake the idea that this guy is the hardboiled Mr. Bean.
Moving right along, we’re headed back to Italy for STORY OF A LOVE AFFAIR.
A beautiful and bored young wife rekindles a steamy affair with an old flame after her rich older husband sends a private investigator to snoop into her past. If you just fell off the back of the hay truck and this is your first visit to Noir City, you might be surprised that she and her lover plot to kill the husband, but the rest of us know exactly how this goes.
Not that I’m complaining. I LOVE this kind of story and would happily sit through a hundred iterations in a dozen different languages.
Like the previous flick, the plot is less important than the look and feel. And while Melville brought violent, malignant misogyny to the party, this one is all about the benign, besotted version that just wants to worship a goddess on a pedestal.
And what a goddess! The director was having an affair with the nineteen year old star Lucia Bose, and it shows in every shot. This movie is all about her. Her glittering, sequined curves and her ferocious cheekbones. She is a predator, the perfect femme fatale and I was more than willing to follow her anywhere.
Another side note: I’m generally pretty happy with my less-than-fithy-rich lifestyle, but I would like to have the scratch to get a pricy private fashion show put on just for me so I can charge everything to the husband I plan to murder.
Speaking of femmes fatales, the third film of the night is DETOUR, a Noir City favorite as well as a personal one. I’ve seen it many times and am always happy to watch it again.
For the sake of brevity, I’m linking to my previous write up on this great film rather than cutting and pasting. So make with the click and hop in the wayback machine for a virtual visit to the olden days. You know, pre-pandemic times. Back when we could do things like go to the movies together and have big swanky parties where we got all dressed up in clothes that aren’t sweatpants and had fancy cocktails while talking about films.
I miss the hell out of my friends, but I’m glad you are all here on the interwebs to keep on talking about movies with me.
Stick with me, Faustketeers, because tomorrow is the big finale, OSSESSIONE!