Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Femme Fatales

For this weeks installment of Noir Wednesday I am going to talk about a topic close to my evil little heart, nasty, twisted women. The kind that, spit in your eye, toss drinks in your face, look great in an evening gown and generally don't get any rubbish on said dress as they are pulling your heart out of your chest.

Talk to any Noir fan and they have a Femme Fatale (FF) favorite. My number one favorite is Jane Greer in Out of the Past, but I have a fuzzy little place in my heart for Kathleen Turner in Body Heat, and Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven. What is fantastic about a FF is that most of the time you don't even know they are going to double cross you until the knife is in your back. Their dewey eyes and lovely faces hide a cruel heart bent on wealth or power or for most FF, both.

Lots of films trumpet Femme Fatales, but no genre outside of Noir seems to know what to do with them. Many films shy away from showing a truly strong woman, especially if she is a particularly nasty piece of work. In Film Noir, Femme Fatales are the equal of the male character. Without a man to destroy, say Alain Silver and James Ursini, there is no femme fatale. Femme Fatales trade on their sexuality, they use a feigned, but sometimes genuine vulnerability to lure the male character into doing their bidding. This generally ends badly for the man, either causing his death, forcing him into a life on the run or time in prison. Sometimes though a Femme Fatale can be brought to heel if the main character is clever enough like in The Maltese Falcon or by force, usually resulting in the death of the FF or both characters. Damn its easy to love single minded women.

Next week we will discuss men in Film Noir.

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