Thursday, November 6, 2014

Black Angel (1946)

Black Angel (1946) Poster

**** out of 5

This is essential film noir.  Its plot is frequently far-fetched, but the characters are archetypal, and quintessentially noir, and the stylish visuals scream of the kind of cinematic innovations that are seen in the best noir films of the period -from that first fancy trick camera shot sweeping up the side of the apartment building into the chandelier-lit room where the soon-to-be victim of the central murder mystery is preparing for death, to the brilliantly executed scene in which the murder is discovered (love the way the mirror is employed to depict the discoverer's sense of disorientation!), to the feverish nightmare revelation of the killer.

June Vincent is the wife of the man convicted of the murder, and by initiating the investigation on her own, despite the fact that he had been unfaithful to her (with the victim), makes her unique in film noir as simultaneously taking on the archetypes of Detective and The Good Girl.  As the husband of the murdered woman, to whom Vincent turns for help in finding the real murderer, Dan Duryea is great in a role that could easily have been hokey as written; he just embraces the part, with all the hard-to-swallow literary irony of his relationship with June Vincent. Peter Lorre is sly and nuanced as the man they suspect of murder, and gives an especially well-layered performance.  This is a character with secrets, yes-  but not the ones initially hinted at, and he acts that part perfectly, not giving anything away to the audience until it's supposed to know about it.

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