Saturday 30 June 2012

Back to the Wall (Le Dos au Mur) [1958]

Though made in French, Back to the Wall qualifies as a classic noir on account of earnestly adhering to its quintessential iconographies, be it the doom-laden storyline, the grim and fatalistic tone, the moody B/W cinematography, the themes of lust, jealousy, betrayal and crime, or the darkly ironic climax. Jeanne Moreau, who was one of the two leads in Elevatorto the Gallows, the fascinating post-noir by Malle, released one year prior to this film, reprised the role of a bored housewife married to a rich middle-aged man and embroiled in an extra-marital affair with a young guy. However, unlike in that movie where the husband gets bumped off in the classic first scene, it is the lover in a very dead state that it starts with. Once the protagonist, who turns out to be the husband, has disposed the corpse in the tension-filled opening sequence, the film shifts to a long flashback. The focus here is therefore on the husband who, upon becoming accidentally aware of his wife’s infidelity, plans to take revenge on her. However, what starts as a simple blackmailing scheme just to scare her, gets progressively murkier, and before long, things spiral beyond the point of no return – thus once again the world of film noirs resolutely standing by the adage that there’s no such thing as a perfect crime. Gerard Oury was good as the jilted, straight-faced husband trying to get even, as was Moreau as his incredibly beautiful wife caught in an odd situation. Music, which was used sparingly, laced the proceedings with a gloomy and tense feel in this engaging adaptation of a Frederic Dard novel.

Director: Edouard Molinaro
Genre: Thriller/Crime Thriller/Psychological Thriller/Film Noir
Language: French
Country: France

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