Where the sea and the city meet, they corrupt each other. Around docks, the ocean’s margins are scummy with oil and floating garbage; the water corrodes hulls, encrusts pilings, and slimes steps. Ports cater to men who come in and out with the tide, offering them prostitutes, dives, and cheap hotels. Yet the waterfront, with its brawling sailors and squabbling gulls, also reeks of poetry. The air is saturated with moisture and melancholy; a farewell mood infiltrates everything like the salt air.
This environment is a natural breeding ground for film noir. “It’s funny how water, or rather its margins, always attracts you when you’re at a loss, don’t know what to do or where to go,” Cornell Woolrich writes in The Black Path of Fear. It also attracts those looking to dispose of a body (The Reckless Moment, Where the Sidewalk Ends), live outside the law (Pickup on South Street, Night and the City), flee the country (99 River Street), or just scrabble for an honest living in a dirty world (Edge of the City). In noir, even the beach is a place of angst, not relaxation (Woman on the Beach, Female on the Beach), and beach houses are not getaways but places where everything ends, badly (Criss Cross, Mildred Pierce, Kiss Me Deadly).
The Silences of the Silent Era
A string of recent programs, including the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, have illuminated important actors and filmmakers whose success challenges the impression that early cinema was exclusively the preserve of white men.
“It Might Be You” Brings Tootsie’s Queer Potential to the Surface
In the context of Sydney Pollack’s gender-crossing comedy, the mellow love theme sung by Stephen Bishop suggests that the plenitude of romantic possibility has the power to break down social boundaries.
Fatal Attraction: Women on the Serial-Killer Movies That Thrill Them
Six writers confront their fascination with films about murderers, including the true-crime shocker Angst, the quasi-documentary Landscape Suicide, and the erotic thriller In the Cut.
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