Monday 16 February 2009
Out of the Past 
Film noir enthusiasts often agree that if one movie were to be selected to define the genre, it would have to be Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past. As a critic so succinctly put it, “With its doomed anti-hero, conniving villain, sardonic script, moody black-and-white photography, and icy femme fatale”, Out of the Past “is essential film noir.” World-weary former gumshoe, now running a gas store in a small town and settled in a stable relationship with a local girl, finds the hard way (in a manner quite akin to A History of Violence) that one can not really shake off one’s dark past, as he gets thrown into a web of deceit, double crosses and murder. Robert Mitchum, in one of his earlier starring roles, is quite magnificent as the tragic anti-hero; Kirk Douglas’ turn as an unctuous and creepy gangster is a terrific indicator of his volatile energy and a great precursor to his amazing performance in An Ace in the Hole. The pivot for the plot, though, is the beautiful Jane Greer, whose femme fatale in the garb of a damsel in distress takes the two guys for a ride and makes big-time suckers out of them. Though quite surprisingly for a film noir the narrative isn’t in the first person (except in the extremely well crafted flashback sequence), cynical and hard-edged dialogues, the taut and twisting storyline and an inexorably gloomy atmosphere, nonetheless, have made this brilliantly photographed classic a seminal and quintessential case study for this iconic genre.
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Genre: Film Noir/Crime Thriller/Psychological Thriller/Romance/Mystery