Monday, July 01, 2013

Phantom Lady

1944, US, directed by Robert Siodmak

Unusually redemptive in tone for a noir, Phantom Lady has some gorgeously atmospheric passages as well as an extraordinary moment of jazz drumming as sexual frenzy -- though the implication of the scene is that the drummer can't keep up with the vixen after whom he lusts. The storyline is pretty absurd, relying on an exceptional bit of opportunism grafted on top of a stroke of luck, but for the first hour or so Siodmak makes it work very effectively: the wave of guilt creeping up on an old bartender, Tell-Tale Heart style, really gets under the skin, as does Elisha Cook Jr's aforementioned drumming, while there is some exceptional set work on an elevated train platform and in the rain-soaked streets of New York. Indeed, there's a real sense of sweaty summer place -- the city as a friendless nightmare where a man might be condemned for want of an honest word from a stranger.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States