Thursday, January 28, 2016

Gilda (1946)

As much as I love Film Noir, like many of the classic genres, it also has a bit of an anti-woman streak. The term "Femme Fatale" was even invented to describe the seductive women who drive numerous Noir Protagonists to ruin. These Femmes are almost exclusively cardboard characters with nothing but greed and sex on the brain. They get to take the rap for all of man's troubles. Walter Neff of Double Indemnity certainly would have NEVER become a murderer if not for the manipulative Mrs. Dietrichson exploiting his libido. Everything is the woman's fault. They get to take the blame.

What makes Gilda so fascinating to me is how bluntly the film and the character actually call out that particularly misogynist convention. Numerous times throughout the movie we get to hear Gilda singing and humming about female scapegoating via the facetious song "Put the Blame on Mame". It's her de facto theme. She is tragically aware of how she is perceived. When we see her singing it alone with a guitar we can't help but sense how pinned down she is by this gender construct. Later on, we get to see her deliberately take command of that role and play it to her advantage.

In an era full of one-dimensional vamps, Gilda was at least allowed to have levels. Through the miracle of Rita Hayworth, we were given one of Film Noir's first real human women.

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