Before discussing Gilda, let’s look into the genre of film noirs. Historically the classic film noirs were shot from the early 1940s to 1958 (The Maltese Falcon by John Huston 1941 – Touch of Evil by Orson Welles 1958) and by definition these films dealt with the dark underworld of the American society, crime, betrayal and desire.
In all film noirs, the man is usually detached from the rest of society, while the woman is bizarre, eccentric, but powerful and by default a smoker. She is devious, a femme fatal that captures her victims. She is an obstacle to the man’s desires and ambitions and his success depends on whether he can overcome her scheming.
A characteristic of these films is the claustrophobic environment: the interior scenes are shot in narrow spaces, to emphasize the entrapment that the hero is experiencing. There are bizarre edited scenes (sharp shadows and lights affect the faces and the objects, making them more pompous and compelling) and constant changes from close ups to distant shots. And of course, depth of field, with scenes full of objects, making the viewer unable to chose where to focus: on the objects, the characters or the dialogue - a characteristic that came from Citizen Kane (1941). The outside scenes are shot at night, with rainy weather.
It might seem strange but I had never seen Gilda, at least the entire film. I have had it in my film collection for years but it so happened that I had never watched it. I was really looking forward to finally watching it, as it held a special place in my heart. My late grandmother had actually seen Gilda when it was first screened! It might not seem something to you, but for me, hearing that my quiet grandma, was such a cinema lover and her telling me after so many years about Gilda, it made me think that passion for cinema must have been running in the family for generations.
Gilda is a legendary film, quoted and used in various films: from The Shawshank Redemption to Notting Hill. It is a fine example of a film noir and of the power of a leading lady, as Rita Hayworth, who is undoubtedly the reason that the film is so iconic.
It is funny watching a 1946 film noir and trying to detach yourself from the way you think of cinema in 2014… It is hard not to consider such a film corny or plain, but thinking of the era (right after the second world war), the way society was at the time and the “place” of a woman in the world, you can understand better the characters and the way the environment is portrayed. Given those parameters, we may say that the film was even provocative, especially with such scenes as the iconic clothed striptease…
So, that was week and film #1. Starting with a film noir and an iconic leading lady, next week I have scheduled something more… heavy, political and Russian.
Next week’s film: Battleship Potemkin