Monday, March 13, 2006

Film Noir

"When I think about the risks these male artists take, the image that comes to mind is a cliff. Each of them walks up to the very edge of the cliff and teeters there. If he doesn't risk falling, he hasn't gone far enough. Falling is at the root of the encounter between men and women, between the male artist and his female subject. I don't just mean the original Fall, although that too is there: in Dega's prelapsian eroticism, in Hitchcock's replaying of the Edenic possibilities(Vertigo, NxNW), in the title of Arthur Miller's play about Marilyn Monroe(After The Fall) and in the title of Preston Sturge's movie with Barbara Stanwyck(The Lady Eve). But I mean actual falling as well: the vertigo of Brodkey's story and Hitchcock's film, the pratfalls of Henry Fonda's Charles Pike, the monumental sheer drop in Niagara and North by Northwest, the impending crash of Jarrell's ball turret gunner and Beaton's RAF bomber, the plummeting tomato plant that introduces Marilyn Monroe to her downstairs neighbor in the Seven Year Itch, Fred McMurray's leap off the slow moving caboose in Double Indemnity, and the watery deaths-the fall into the sea-of Ham Peggotty and James Steerforth, the two men who loved the same woman in David Copperfeild. Falling in love becomes, in such cases, something more than a figure of speech."

Wendy Lesser

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