Scarlet Street (1945)

“Scarlet Street” (1945)



twisted perspective

I haven’t seen one single Lang American film that i do not consider to be, overall, a failure. I find it that it is relatively important to, once in a while, search for one of these films, watch it and try to understand what was the shift that makes them work so bad, at least today. After all Lang gave us Metropolis which is a prodigy of visual sets, not so much of narrative. But than he made M, which is a really good project, that starts something that he could have transported to the American noir.

He is also in the generation of Germanic directors who invented the basic lighting that would be integrated into noir. And I think the problem starts there. In his mental shift towards American movies and audiences, Lang decided to keep and reaffirm what he had always done best: visual staging. But he never understood the dynamics of the noir narrative, the fabric of the noir world. How the shadows, lights and hats only truly work when they structure (or are structured by) the narrative.

(spoilers) And there Was an interesting narrative here!, at least as far as these films go. Of course it is superficial (so is almost every film) but it had potential to be explored in a visual medium. It has the self-reference of the main character being an image maker (a painter). The common man dragged through temptation (the woman) to a world he doesn’t understand and to which he ultimately collapses. But the girl is also not in charge of her own game, because of love. And even the bad guy, who is supposed to supervise the whole thing looses absolutely control. So fate comes above everything. In the middle we have an interesting and well explored (in terms of script) diversion through the ever juicy theme of mixed identities: our surrogate on-screen gets his pictures signed under other name without consent. Finding this out he doesn’t react how we supposed, instead embraces and encourages this to go on. Ultimately he kills his own work, by killing the persona that assumed the identity of his work. So when he kills the girl, he’s sort of committing suicide. That makes it perfectly useless to actually show the suicide in a later sequence that drags the film more than it required (although this scene IS visually interesting on its own because of the use of light, there we have Lang!). I suppose some scared conservative producer would ask for this scene, in case people wouldn’t understand the previous one.

The problem is that Fritz doesn’t do pretty much anything with the material he’s got, in terms of visual adequacy. He gets his script, and than considers every set, every sequence, on its own, not as part of an integrated storytelling conspiracy, but simply as a workable scene on its own. It’s as if Fritz in front of the possibilities of the script was like every other man in front of Robinson’s paintings: unable to go beyond the crippled perspectives, unable to understand the core.

My opinion: 3/5

This comment on IMDb


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