Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Double Indemnity

"How could I have known that murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle?"

Keeping with the theme of Noirvember, last week I watched one of the best old school film noirs out there: Double Indemnity. The film was released in 1944, and was directed by Billy Wilder and co-written by crime novelist extraordinaire, Raymond Chandler.

The film stars Frank MacMurray as Walter Neff, an insurance salesman, and Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson, a housewife who seduces Walter and convinces him to help her kill her rich husband after they've tricked him into buying insurance with a double indemnity clause. "Double indemnity" an actual insurance term that states that the company will pay double the amount in the contract if the person dies by accidental means. Phyllis' plot is to kill off her husband, collect twice the money, and run away with Walter. Or so we think. As the story unfolds we learn that Phyllis is not the oppressed, victimized housewife she claims to be. Instead she the picture of the classic "femme fatale"; beautiful, but a cold manipulator with what seems like sociopathic tendencies. After the deed is done, Walter uncovers Phyllis' secrets and is left to deal with the repercussions of committing murder and getting involved with a dangerous woman.

Not only is the story engaging and the acting spot-on, but the cinematography is another amazing aspect of this film. Every shot is so meaningful and carefully composed, and the lighting is fantastic. Los Angeles serves as the perfect setting as well; picturesque and slightly sinister at the same time, like the classic myth of the "Hollywood dream." I really enjoyed this film, and I understand how it is still regarded as the quintessential film noir.

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