Not rated, but there's the most punching that you will ever see in a fight. The sheer amount of punches per minute would power a small vehicle. There's some death. There's a lot of lying and theft. I don't know if that's one of your triggers, but the movie does offer ample amounts of lying and theft. There's a lot of bullets at one point as well. Like, the amount of bullets is probably dwarfed by the number of punches thrown in that one scene, but it's still a lot of bullets. That's more of a commentary on the punches thrown. Still, not rated.
DIRECTOR: Jacques Tourneur
Do you understand how much time I wasted trying to find a better image than the one above? I'm obsessed with getting the proper aspect ratio for my images, but everything that shows great images of the leads of this movie is behind a firewall. Yeah, I'm bummed out too. Anyway, I write and I write, but it still takes a long time to catch up to where I'm supposed to be. My to-do list is very impressive. The problem with watching a lot of film noir is that the movies occasionally tend to blend together. At least this movie's title has something to do with the plot, so I can't complain that much about this one. UPDATE: I just went home and got a picture from when I wasn't behind a firewall. INNOVATION!
There's something completely depressing about this movie. Jacques Tourneur may be one of the most cynical directors that I've ever seen based on this film alone. The French obsession with the bleakness of humanity in the film noir is never more apparent than in Out of the Past. Many of the things that I have watched often have a doomed relationship. One member of the relationship is doomed by fate to lose everything and it is usually because of one bad choice. I don't think I've ever seen a movie where the entire relationship, from moment one to moment ten, is based on a lie. It's usually a relationship that starts with good / bad intentions and it flips at one point in the narrative. But Jane Greer's Kathie is just a depressing femme fatale. It's odd that I like this movie so much because I now hate myself as a person after having seen this movie.
Kathie, as a character, is really problematic. The femme fatale, I suppose, now confuses me. On one point, she isn't the housewife or the wilting flower. She's this self-actualized character who goes after what she wants and stops at nothing. In a post-WWII era, that makes a ton of sense. I like the fact that there are characters who don't necessarily have to follow the formula of simply being a foil for the male protagonist. But there are femme fatales that are straight up hateworthy. They are written to be hated. In the grand scale of progressiveness, is this really the message that we want out there? I know. It's 1947. I have to be forgiving of the era. But I'm just seeing movie after movie of characters who find their value at the expense of others. With Gilda, she is redeemed and actually considered heroic by the end of the film. But it is only done at the expense of lies and misdirection. But Kathie in Out of the Past is the antithesis of Gilda. There is no turn in her character. Her character, from moment one, is lying for her own satisfaction. Gilda does something evil to achieve a good result. She pretends to be a heartless monster to wake up Johnny. Hugely problematic, but the story works in its own way. Kathie, however, pretends to be an angel when really she's manipulating the story from moment one.
It's hard to be sympathetic towards Kathie. We talk about the femme fatale a lot in class and how it is in reaction to men being afraid of women in the workplace. That's a gross and inappropriate summation of a much larger concept, but it'll do as a placeholder for the sake of what I'm writing. There are moments where we consider these characters sympathetic. Often, these women are under the thumb of the patriarchy and their evil ways are the only way to gain a kind of control. From that perspective, Kathie can also be lumped into this pool of women who manipulate men for the sake of independence and advancement. It's just that the way that Kathie portrayed forces us to fall in love with her as well. It's the perfect example of male hypocrisy though. Jeff starts off his interaction with Kathie with a lie. He pretends that he is just there out of coincidence, but forms a bond with her. We quickly forgive Jeff, at least we're meant to, because he goes from being a crummy guy to an honest guy who is willing to put it all on the line. But Kathie makes us fall in love with her. She seems like she is the victim from moment one. While Jeff confesses his true nature to Kathie, Kathie doubles down on the lie. She stresses that she is the victim in this situation.
But as much as the whole movie is about Kathie's lies and manipulation, is she really completely lying? Whit, who orchestrates many of the events, is a straight-up criminal. If the movie is about honesty, I suppose that Whit actually might be the most honest character in the entire film. He never denies his personality. He is possibly the most free character in the entire movie because he not only exercises a life of honesty, but relishes in the freedom that it gives him. But he is a monster. Honesty can't be mistaken for virtue. Sure, Kathie is pretty despicable because of her lack of honesty, but it is almost a by-product of being surrounded by vice and sin. Her entire background that we can confirm as true is defined by her relationship with Whit. She steals his money as a means to be free. Yes, she lies about it because that is her primary character trait. But she does so to free herself from Whit's control. She must continue lying because she realizes that she is closer to being caught than she had initially planned. This duplicity is problematic, but it kind of makes a bit of sense. She has a bit of "the girl who cried wolf" with this reasoning as well. She is constantly repeating that she is just trying to get away from Whit and this is mostly true.
But this also makes her return to Whit all the more disgusting to the viewer. Kathie fits in the world of the gangster pretty well because she does all that she can to get ahead. But Kathie is juxtaposed to Jeff, who would probably rank as chaotic good. He's a scoundrel to begin with. But we watch his redemption arc throughout the movie which is being stymied by Kathie, whom we take as a moral lighthouse. When Kathie reveals the reality of her allegiance, that's what makes us really hate her. It's a sponsor giving a recovering alcoholic a drink. Because she is placed in that place of trust, it feels not only like a betrayal to Jeff, who has sacrificed everything for his redemption story, but to us who urged him to trust Kathie. Perhaps we can pepper that with a lot of the fragile male ego, but Kathie comes across as more deserving of hate than many of the other femme fatales that we have studied in the class.
Out of the Past is a movie that is great because it gets me mad. I don't like always feeling comfortable with expectations. There are moments where the straying away from the formula can enrage me because important expectations aren't met. But in the case of Out of the Past, the movie simply throws an interesting curveball where I didn't see one coming. Perhaps the entire film noir movement was an attempt to make me not trust women. That's pretty abhorrent. But I also know that there is some amazing storytelling here and I completely dig it.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.