Scarlet Street

557. SCARLET STREET (1945-USA). WITH edward g. robinson, joan Bennett, dan durye. Produced and directed by FRITZ LANG. This exciting, suspenseful melodrama proves that a film steeped in decadence, sordidness, sadomasochism, murder and guilt can still be a high artistic achievement. Perhaps Fritz Lang’s finest American movie, it is truly the definitive film noir the Hollywood genre Of “black films characterized by pessimism, cynicism and despair; by low key lighting, ominous shadows and d orienting camera angles; by wicked femmes fatales and vulnerable men tortured by paranoia, loneliness and anxiety. Edward G. Robinson is outstanding as a mild-mannered bank cashier and talented Sunday painter who falls for a deceptive streetwalker (Joan Bennett at her sexiest) and descends front utmost respectability to the depths Of depravity. He sets her up in a luxurious apartment, for which he has embezzle money from his company: when she sells his paintings under her own name and becomes celebrated as an artist, he’s actually happy for her! Eventually he realizes that she and her equally sleazy boyfriend are exploiting him, and his rage gives way to extreme violence. Lang suffuses the film with claustrophobic compositions, gloomy lighting, and an atmosphere literally dripping with doom. Toward the end, the painter is reduced to being a bum, while, ironically, his artworks command fortunes. As neon lights flash maddeningly outside his dingy hotel room, and ghostly voices torment him in endlessly echoing repetitions, the once-sedate, sensible man slips from self-pity to self-torture, and then into total insanity, memorable climax to an utterly uncompromising and enthralling portrait Of a nightmare world. 110 minutes. Drama