The Black Angel (1946)

I found the book and the lecture to be much more fulfilling than the film. It was nice to read a book with a female protagonist with a much different personality type than former male roles. She was allowed to develop as a person throughout the book and as she mentions early on, something to the effect of -“they wont be giving me the same man, and he wont be receiving the same woman”. It’s a good but brief statement on what events gone awry can do to a persons nerves, heart and personality. It’s not only as if shes predicting the pain of the ordeal will effect them both greatly (under the assumption he will be released), but also that given the situation, she expects to discover things about her self and her limits, never imagined before. Desperate times call for desperate measures logic. I don’t think the film completely erases all signs of her initiative, strengths and darkness. I watched the film first and thought before the lecture or book of the great change I saw in her from beginning to end. She even became more beautiful as the film went on, as though it wasn’t only the clothing she wore but the lighting they chose to portray her in and her resurrected interest in something other than domesticity. She did although seem fairly helpless at times, but the book isn’t completely innocent of those implications either as in her first trip home after her husbands conviction. “I guess I’ll have to start getting used to going places alone”. It didn’t sound as if she only missing a husband but also an escort to the grocery store (for example), something not common then or now… She just was a house wife raised in a society with low expectations of women in the book and film. But in the book she was definitely allowed to show a little more independence and emotional depth. Its a shame what shoving a movie into 2 hours can do to a story.

The fear of rejection, displacement and skewed identity elements in the story really stood out for me as well with Marty. His character reminded me of films like Leaving Las Vegas and Bar Fly at times. His loss of memory seemed to be more than just alcohol influenced but also influenced by a flurry of self pity and denial. I still and always will find it hard to believe that someone can be so out of control when drinking that they do things without conscious decision. If you can walk, you can make decisions, even if you wont remember them tomorrow, so I don’t feel sorry for him, but I don’t hate him either. He wasn’t the kind of ‘character gone bad’ or ‘turns out bad’ I would expect in some other films. He’s likable to the end and because of this the ‘accident’ seems forgivable, on some sick level.

I also appreciated some of the visual effects and devices. I was awed by the use of the miniature (animated?) building that was scaled at the beginning. It was exciting, unexpected ,a little cheesy and definitely different than many old films I watch. Although unexpected, it didn’t effect the film negatively and I spent the entire film hoping for more use of out of place shots. It was like starting with a cartoon and jumping into a serious film, yet it worked.

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