31 March 2010

Out Of The Past

One from the Film Noir pantheon, featuring the quintessential Robert Mitchum experience. Mitchum plays, in trademark fashion, a character supremely underwhelmed by everything and everybody around him—with one fatal exception: attractively adorned pussy. Mitchum’s character throws his life away, and without much anguish, because he realizes he’s not tossing out much of value, anyway. He’s aware of his imperfection, he’s aware he’s a loser. In the end, all that seems truly important to him is to maintain the illusion he can lose by doing it his way.

Out of the Past features a trio of old school hotties: Rhonda Fleming, Virginia Huston and Jane Greer. Greer’s character is one of the most amoral femmes fatales in screen history. Her allure, remarkably, is due more to her sociopathy than her fleshly charms. Her nearly demonic deviousness prompts Mitchum’s character to utter the classic line:

You’re like a leaf that the wind blows from one gutter to another.

But her appeal is so powerful, Mitchum’s character is more than willing to follow her gutter-to-gutter. Greer’s character neatly summarizes their relationship:

You're no good, and neither am I. That's why we deserve each other.

Virginia Huston plays the ‘good girl,’ about the only character not totally enslaved to carnality. There’s really no place for her in the dark world of Out of the Past, and in the end, she must believe a lie in order for her to make the compromise necessary to keep on going.

Made over half-a-century ago, Out of the Past is an icon of post-Christian America, a land of the double-minded, for whom one thing is just as good as the next, and for whom moral distinctions are not worth troubling over. Timeless.