Classic Movie Hub (CMH)

Angel Face

February 19, 2020 <m>(Wednesday)
Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University
Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60625 (US)

Event Details

It begins, like so many film noirs of its era, with a chance meeting: racing enthusiast-cum-ambulance driver Frank (Robert Mitchum) momentarily encounters a haunted young woman (Jean Simmons) after her stepmother is found in a gas-filled bedroom, none of them capable of envisioning the death trip this rendezvous will send all three careening through over the subsequent 80 minutes. Nearly a decade after Otto Preminger distinguished himself as one of the premier stylists of the American crime cinema with his breakout feature Laura, Angel Face saw the director pushing the genre ever further, employing a camera style as winding and unpredictable as the film's script, and dredging performances out of his leads that more than hinted at the unimaginable wells of pain and trauma beneath their controlled exteriors. Angel Face would moreover distinguish itself from countless other films about hapless working stiffs drawn into lawless worlds via unhealthy passions by treating its standard-issue noir trappings as mostly iconographic, the quickest route to a particularly elemental, drifting fatalism that could make room for countless piano sonatas and a detour into courtroom drama that would serve as a dry run for Preminger's later landmark Anatomy of a Murder. Rising above it all is Simmons's variably terrifying and heartrending femme fatale turn, transforming a role that reads on the page like a portrait of avarice (her casting was purportedly at the behest of RKO owner Howard Hughes, who sought to humiliate the actress for spurning his advances) into an arresting study of appetites tragically, pathologically unbound. (CW)

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