Double Indemnity & Film Noir - David Belair
In Double Indemnity we see what is generally thought of as the birth of the film noir movie genre. Yes, I do believe it is a genre. According to Websters online dictionary, a genre is "a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content". Film noir meets this definition in every way. They have a particular style/form (dark and dreery urban setting, shadowing and music used to convey the moral transgressions of the main characters), and content (white middle class male who commits a morally objectionable act, likely aided in getting to this point by a scheming and conniving femme fetale, who in the end is caught by the morally conscientious do-gooder). I understand that it is a broad grouping of films, as suggested in the reading from James Naremore, but their are wide groupings of ideas and plot themes in all genre's of films, I don't know why this would preclude film noir from being its own genre. When I see a Hitchcock movie, or Double Indemnity, or LA Cofidential, I think film noir. Just as I think comedy when I see a Monte Python movie, or Slap Shot, or Best of Show.
In Double Indemnity we see some typical film noir trademarks. We see a dark and dreery urban setting, with shadows and music highlighting the moral transgressions of Mr. Neff and Phyllis. The murder is a night, they fake accident is at the end of the train in the shadows, Mr, Neff can't hear his footsteps as he is walking down the street (the sound of a dead man). We see the subservient portrayal of minorities, with the only blacks in the film being the attendent in the garage washing cars, the cleaning crew at the office, and baggage handlers on the train. These minorities are basically cleaning up after white America. We see the classic femme fetale, with the lonely and coniving housewife who wants her husband murdered. In classic femme fetale form Phyllis is sexually uninhibited (it is implied that she sleeps with Mr. Neff), and ruthlessly ambitious (she uses her seduction to get Mr. Neff to help her kill her husband), and manipulative (she tries to make her step-daughters boyfriend so jealous that he will kill her).
In the blog assignment their are questions relating to Phyllis' character. Phyllis uses her seduction and conniving ways to try and manipulate the men in the movie. She seduces Mr. Neff to help plot the murder of her husband. She manipulates her step-daughters boyfriend in hopes that he will kill the girl because it is believed she knows too much. She plays the helpless widow in the scene at the insurance office where she acts appalled when told her husband may have killed himself and that the insurance company would fight her on getting the insurance claim. In Double Indemnity, Phyllis definitely has a position of power over the men of the film. I don't however see how her actions reflect on women in general. She is a character is a negative characterization of people in general. Any man or woman could do these things, but I don't see how her actions would be a characterization of all women. I also don't see how her use of both truth and lies says anyhting about women. Again, anybody is able to mix both truth and lies in order to get an outcome to their liking. How would her actions have any reflection on other women? She was a typical femme fetale, she used seduction, guile, conniving and treachery to manipulate those around her. This doesn't have any bearing on anyone else in the movie or in the outside world.
Overall, I again thought the movie was good. It clearly shows the generational differences in our world. As in the other movies we have watched so far there are scenes that we laugh at now, but I imagine that when watched back in the 1940s the scene was not funny at all. In Double Indemnity the scene's we laugh at today were probably scandelous back in 1941. Its interesting to see how something so innocent today, was so ground breaking back in the day.