Friday, February 24, 2006

If It's Noir, It Doesn't Need to Make Sense

After he hit it big with Laura, Otto Preminger's next project as a director was Fallen Angel (1945). It used most of the same crew as Laura, including cinematographer Joseph La Shelle and composer David Raksin, as well as the same leading man, Dana Andrews. But unlike Laura, which was basically a high-society murder mystery with some film noir touches, Fallen Angel is pure noir in with a touch of murder mystery: Andrews plays a drifter who falls for a slutty waitress (Linda Darnell) and tries to get the money to keep her in style by marrying the local affluent spinster (Alice Faye). There's a greasy-spoon diner, a fake medium (John Carradine) who talks about "a strange vibration coming over me," a smoke-filled nightclub scene, and lots of shadows, cigarettes and hats.

The plot's twists and turns are basically incomprehensible, to the point that by the second half you can't really tell who's in love with which character or who murdered who and where and why. The confusion may be due to the post-production cutting: many of Alice Faye's scenes were apparently cut out in order to put more emphasis on Linda Darnell -- understandable, really, because Darnell is spectacularly sexy in the film and Faye is miscast. But even if the script doesn't always make a lot of sense, Preminger's camerawork is enough to keep the film watchable: whereas Laura had mostly static talking-head shots, Fallen Angel is the start of Preminger's love affair with the moving camera. He pulls off some truly spectacular crane and dolly shots, and complicated long takes that must have taken quite a bit of rehearsal. He also gives us -- albeit in shadow -- what is basically the first tongue-kiss in '40s cinema:

Image Hosted by

No comments: