What are Mohanlal's most underrated films

Film salon

The backgrounds

The film noir was a reaction to the political and social changes after the Second World War. The social fabric and gender roles were about to change. The family, which represented the basis of a fulfilling life and the solution to all problems both in American society and subsequently in the classic Hollywood films of the 30s and 40s, no longer existed in its classic form. Before the USA entered the war and also during it, the family was the model and motivation in the fight for the “big cause”. However, from 1945 onwards, all the one-sided depictions of the American way of life were overtaken by the reality of the war and its aftermath. Many men came back from the war traumatized or not at all. The women who stayed at home had to take over the men's jobs and look after their children on their own. This gave rise to a new level of independence for women, which some of the returnees found it difficult to deal with. Before the war, women defined themselves through their roles as housewives and mothers. This was not only their role in the family but also in society. This deconstruction of the family and the new “female roles” are reflected in the characters of Film Noir. Hollywood tried in some cases after the war to lead women and men back into their old roles. The family and the classic gender roles were still presented as the basis for a fulfilled and happy life. But both the filmmaker and the audience wanted a more critical look. The film noir brought this new look.

However, the family, and the resulting gender roles, is not the only system that is in disintegration in Film Noir. Virtually all institutions that are designed to offer people protection are less and less able to fulfill this task. The police are riddled with corruption and crime, the closest friends turn out to be "false friends" and it seems that nobody can be trusted any more. This gloomy atmosphere of constant paranoia and distrust of everything and everyone is certainly also a reflection of the fear of communism in the USA in the 1950s. The film noir not only dissolves the representation of the American way of life in Hollywood cinema, it also dissolves the clear separation of good and bad. It shows detectives who are not afraid to use gangster methods in their investigations, and women who also go over corpses for their independence. Everyone has a good and a bad side and has to adapt to the rough elbow technique of the big city if he or she is to survive.

The independent woman before film noir

There were independent and rebellious women in film even before the advent of film noir. In the Femmes fatales of the 1940s, for example, one can see clear parallels to the male seductive and manipulative roles of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. Actresses like Rosalind Russell, Barbara Stanwyck and Katherine Hepburn embodied the cynical and tough business women who did not want to be tied to a man. But the development of the characters is always the same. The femmes fatales recognize their soft core and turn to family life or restore the dubious happiness that they think they have destroyed, usually shortly before they die. The self-confident business women are "cured" of their cynicism and their desire for independence by finding their great love and also decide to live as housewives and mothers. The drive for independence is always portrayed as the wrong path for a woman. The woman who takes her place in the family is rewarded in the rest of the story, while the woman who advocates independence or questions the usual gender roles is punished. This view of proper coexistence is anchored not only in the characters, but also in the dramaturgy.

The family in film noir

Often criticism has been leveled that the film noir also conveys the image of the family as the ultimate good, only in an even more drastic way. Women who intrigue and use sexual stimuli to seduce men in turn end up dying or going to jail. Those men who allow themselves to be charmed are punished just as harshly. They mostly end up in paranoia and loneliness. On the other hand, the family and those women and men who choose them are rewarded. It's kind of like the juxtaposition of paradise and earth. Those who choose the right path and resist seduction can live in a peaceful and honest world. But those who do not resist seduction or who become seducers themselves are condemned to live in that immoral and violent chaos of the big city that we know all too well from Film Noir. So it shows a change in society, as I explained in the previous section “The Background”, which, according to the critics of Film Noir, is by no means portrayed positively, but as an agreement on the right path. It is also noticeable that the characters in Film Noir are neither purely good nor purely bad and often cross the threshold to crime, but for women, especially the femmes fatales, there is never an intermediate way to part with their husband, the way out is always his murder. So you are pushed into the corner of evil much more than the other characters. As a result, her punishment is more severe than that of the seduced man. The woman ends up prisoner or dead, while the man is left with the lot of disappointment and loneliness. Although at this point the question arises whether it is a more severe punishment to rest in peace than to live in solitude. However, there are also films in which the hero finds his way into marriage and a happy life with the seductress at the end, such as in “Murder, My Sweet” (1944) and “Gilda” (1946). However, here too, the only way to find happiness is through marriage, and the once independent woman is now tied to a man.

But there is also a more nuanced view of film noir and the role of family and women in it. The film noir can be seen as a subliminal, first criticism of the ultimate family. First the man breaks out of the marriage in search of independence and / or another type of woman and the femme fatale is also a woman who no longer wants to be forced into dependence on a man. This outbreak is obviously taking place because obviously the institution of marriage and the family does not offer the satisfaction for all people that they desire. Thus, the film noir scratches the ideal facade of the family. As soon as the man or woman ventures out of the safe environment, they are injured and also criminalized, which could also be understood as a criticism of the fact that there was no alternative to marriage recognized by society. There was only marriage or the lottery life, it seems, but of course independence does not make a breakaway happy as long as he is treated as an outsider of society. In a world in which everyone carries both good and bad within themselves, there can no longer be just one or the other in other areas. The roles of women in Film Noir therefore have the function of portraying or promoting this questioning of previous forms of family and marriage.

Most critics divide the female roles in Film Noir into the femme fatale and the “good” woman. But John and Stephanie Blaser add a third type in their essay: the “marrying type”. As already mentioned, I would like to orient myself to this division, now to introduce these three female roles and underline them with film examples.

The femme fatale

This type of figure offers the most dramatic change in the image of women that film noir brought with it and also the personified criticism of the previous situation. She sees marriage as a prison and the husband as a partner who neither physically nor psychologically satisfies her. On the other hand, she uses her intelligence and attractiveness to get what she wants in order to remain independent. As already mentioned, very rarely does the love of the hero prevail over their freedom. In most films she is willing to walk over dead bodies as well as to death instead of being “bent” and disregarding her principles. Despite her tragic end, she leaves the viewer with the image of a strong woman who is free to the last breath.

The murder of the husband is the ticket to freedom for the femme fatale, and it frees herself from the bondage of marriage. Through her seductive skills, she manages to become the superior in the woman-man relationship. While she succumbs to the men who are fascinated and attracted by her independence on the one hand, but on the other hand they try to force her into a classic connection. But she always remains objective and ends the affair before she runs the risk of being locked up again. She enters into a relationship in which she determines the rules and in which she is not treated, as in the previous marriage, like an object that is indispensable for the man of the world, but also nothing more than an expensive painting that you proudly present to your friends, but with which you do not establish an emotional connection. Just like one of the men in a scene in the film "I Wake Up Screaming" from 1941 says in relation to women: "" Well, you've got to have them around - they're standard equipment. "

Marriage is the institution that makes this treatment of women as an object possible in the first place. For the femme fatale, marriage is like a cage that creates an atmosphere of boredom and aversion, lacking the passionate affection that should exist between lovers. Instead, the femme fatale feels like an annoying thing that the man only needs when he has to present himself in front of others, but that he likes to ignore when it is of no use to him. This oppressive feeling is supported in an almost sadistic way by the fact that many of the husbands literally enjoy bringing their wives together with other, younger men, only to remind them once more of what they cannot have. The wife and her lover realize that they cannot get rid of their husband in the "normal" way, or that he can never have the wife he loves. The husband delights in his position of power. It is also noticeable that the husbands are usually a lot older than their wives. The image of the wife as a trophy is strengthened, as is the initial physical attraction to a young, beautiful woman who, however, is never accompanied by deep inner affection and at some point also disappears. As seen in the film "The Lady from Shanghai" from 1946 in which Rita Hayworth is married to a physically impaired and sadistic man who drives her into an affair only to wear her and her lover down afterwards. At this point it should also be noted that the husbands, as in the film just mentioned, have physical handicaps that make it clear aHaHksncycnm, y that marriage, also in terms of sexual fulfillment and the agility of the young wife, is for the woman can be unsatisfactory. This interpretation is also supported by the fact that the marriages in Film Noir are almost all childless, which in turn contradicts the classic form of the family.

Of course, the gloomy design of the environment in Film Noir also contributes to the oppressive atmosphere of the marriage. The houses in which the couples live are gloomy and adorned with heavy curtains and pictures. The empty eyes of the captured wild animals, which adorn the walls as trophies, match those of the young wife, who is also another piece of jewelery and who literally gasps for air in this suffocating environment. The viewer can directly empathize with the situation in which the femme fatale finds herself, being trapped in her own four walls. Here we have another motif that I already touched on in the background, namely that all the rooms that should offer people protection, or places where they could be themselves and feel secure, no longer serve their purpose . Instead of a home that you enjoy returning to and a partner with whom you can share your worries, fears and all other intimate feelings, in Film Noir we find a cold and repulsive space in which the characters feel more trapped than liberated . It shows a couple who live next to each other or even against each other and always have to fear in a paranoid way that they will reveal something about themselves to the other. We always find symbols for this paranoia and the inner turmoil of the characters. Mirror; Screens and stairs that divide the rooms and apparently also the people; Entrance halls so big you can hear your own voice echoing through it; Statues that seem to be watching you everywhere and half-darkened windows that let you see shadows flying around. All of this adds to the atmosphere that at some point makes the house of the married couple resemble a “mausoleum”, as Dick Powell once said of one of the houses in the role of Philipp Marlowe.

The complete opposite of this depressing image is the portrayal of the femme fatale herself. With her appearance, her way of speaking, her whole demeanor and through the skillful use of the camera, she embodies social and sexual independence. She is remembered by the viewer through her combative and self-confident demeanor, even if her story ends with her death or the change to a more traditional role. She defies the destructive influences of her environment, which tries to push her back to the usual place. But she seems to be far too solid in herself to return to the shackles of marriage, because through her demeanor and the success that results from it, she also defines herself and finds more and more strength in her independence.

The femme fatale represents a danger for the concept of the family as well as for men who are dissatisfied with this concept, since they determine their own sexuality and live it out outside of marriage. She sleeps with men for fun and / or to control them and not in the traditional family sense of having children. With her seductive demeanor, she casts a spell over both the hero and the audience, and this cannot be broken even by her tragic end. All of this is supported by the camera view, which often reproduces the subjective, voyeuristic gaze of the hero who, for example, lets the gaze wander over her whole body. Due to its connection with the hero's gaze, the camera has exactly the same obsession for the femme fatale as the hero himself and in this way anchors the image of this strong woman in the minds of the audience. Often, photos and portraits of the late femme fatale also contribute to the fact that she still casts a spell on men even after her death. Her power to control men goes beyond her passing, death casts no shadow on the image of a fascinating woman she has created. Even if the femme fatale, in rare cases, ultimately decides to be a housewife and mother, her controversial character remains in the mind of the viewer. But in most of the film noir the femme fatale stands by her principles, prevails against attempts by men to force her into the role of a wife or to treat her like a thing or a little girl.

The good woman

It depicts the woman in her classic role and is thus in contrast to the femme fatale. The good woman offers the hero an opportunity to break away from the seductive femme fatale and lead a regular family life. In the end, however, she can only lose this fight, as she is not an opponent for the strong femme fatale and seems to be an unattainable illusion for the hero with his eccentric morals.

The good woman is presented in a completely different way visually, she appears in classic Hollywood lighting and in a clean, homely environment that is a strong contrast to the dirty, dark rooms in which the hero and the femme fatale move. Due to her classically reserved, caring and submissive nature, she plays the healing guardian angel for the hero, but cannot win his affection as a man, as she has little to oppose the passionate, spirited femme fatale.The good woman is usually an extremely loyal partner, but she is not up to the criminal chaos in which the hero moves and is in danger of breaking, as for example the character of Ann in the film "Out of the Past", which, despite initial sacrifice, finally threatens to break due to the fact that the man she loves is involved in a crime and feels something for another woman. In the end, she is lied to so that she can break loose and not perish in reality. Often lies determine the coexistence, since the truth cannot be expected of the good woman, since she is much more fragile than the femme fatale. The good woman looks like a character without rough edges and without secrets. In the world in which she finds herself, she appears to be rather boring and not well equipped for the daily struggle for life. In addition, it seems that classic family life has to be built on lies, as this idyll cannot be preserved as soon as it is confronted with dirty reality. So the family offers no refuge for the hero because it is built on a very fragile foundation. Subsequently, this idyll is no alternative to a life with a femme fatale, who also pulls the hero into ruin, but has just learned to survive in this morally depraved world.

Marriage has largely no place in film noir, and when it does occur, it has a negative connotation. Even the good men are either unhappy or unhappily married. Marriage is not a plausible solution for the hero either. The femme fatale does not allow herself to be forced into a connection, she also plunges the hero further and further into the abyss and must therefore be destroyed. In terms of her moral concepts, the good woman is too far removed from the world in which the hero moves.

A wife

From the late 1940s, a new woman appeared on the scene of Film Noir: the wife. It calls on the hero to fulfill his role as the founder and breadwinner of a family, which has been determined by society, that role which the hero has always found restrictive. In the late phase of film noir, the notions of friend and foe shift. It is no longer other men or the femme fatale who are seen as opponents of the hero who must be destroyed, but the wife. The former enemies do not pose a threat in that they are eliminated as potential spouses. Urging responsibility to society is now seen as the worst-case scenario, as a result of which the woman who exerts this pressure must be destroyed. But parallel to this new type of woman, the hero changes too. He is no longer a semi-criminal detective, but a clean employee like for example in "D.O.A." and "The Big Heat". For these heroes, marriage is no longer a distant illusion, but rather a reality that is far too close.

The wife reflects the classic Hollywood image of a housewife and mother. She does not become dangerous to the man in the sense that the femme fatale was. She is much more of a danger because she has resigned herself to her role in society, plays it perfectly and cannot understand her husband's rebellion. It seems that while giving up her youthful dreams of freedom she approaches it with a slight sarcasm, she is still seriously satisfied with her classic life. It also gives the impression that the hero is often unable to pinpoint the reason for his fear and dissatisfaction, while the wife is well aware that she and her lifestyle are the reason. But even though she realizes this, she doesn't understand her husband's fear. The wife has no problem with integrating herself into the social fabric as a small part of the crowd and meets the question of the meaning of life either with sarcasm or with the answer that the family is the only meaning and other wishes must be put aside.

It seems that the prospect of marriage and family prevents the hero from considering his wife as a wife and lover too. For example, in the movie "D.O.A." the hero only discovers how much he loves his fiancée when he realizes that he can no longer marry her before he dies because he has been poisoned. The prospective husbands run away from marriage but do not admit to themselves that they are doing so. Only when they are far enough away from marriage, both physically and psychologically, can they idealize marriage again and fix it as a pipe dream. So, apparently, marriage can only be seen flawless when it is far from you.

The topic of friendship among men also comes up in this context. For example in the film "Dead Reckoning", in which the hero decides in the end to put the woman he loves on the electric chair because she is involved in the murder of his best friend. He explains to her that he loves his boyfriend more than she does and that it is therefore a clear decision. The hero now more often finds the familiarity and the refuge he is looking for in an intimate friendship with another man and prefers this friendship to any other interpersonal relationship. So the hero also uses the nickname his best friend had for the woman. He only names her with her own nickname at two points in the story: when he is of the opinion that she has nothing to do with the death of her boyfriend and when she dies and he shows her his love. Here we have another example on the previous topic: That he is only able to show her his love when there is no longer the possibility of marriage because she dies.

Summary: the evolution of women's roles

As we have seen, the roles of women change over the years or their functions change within the stories. In the beginning there is the good woman as an alternative to the femme fatale, but could not fulfill this role, as it cannot survive in the hero's world due to its fragility. In the late phase of film noir, the wife replaces the femme fatale as an enemy or destructive counterpart. The femme fatale, on the other hand, who at the beginning was the figure who seduces the hero and pulls him further and further into the abyss, now becomes the only alternative to a wife, as she lives out the freedom that the hero would like to have and as a potential spouse. In her characterization, the wife is a mixture of the “good woman” and the “femme fatale”. Although she is in the classic female role, she is nowhere near as idealized and angelic as the good woman. She reacts to the question of meaning with sarcasm and with her lack of understanding of her husband's desire for independence, she pulls him into the abyss, just as the femme fatale did at the beginning.

Header: Rita Hayworth "The Lady from Shanghai" © http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-EFhSMFvI8MY/Uy-ldXKULdI/AAAAAAAAAKY/qkktt9FiA5U/s1600/LFS_BR_7.png