Nowadays, discussing the presence or absence of "chemistry" between stars has become a critical commonplace. The movie's disturbing and incomprehensibly labyrinthine story of murder and betrayal now looks like a fable by David Lynch, but Hawks his own storytelling force and potent and distinctive presence. According to Mitchum's biographer, Lee Server, it was Cain who expunged Kathie of any traces of lovability.
Adapting James M Cain's novella about a straight-arrow insurance salesman tempted into murder by a duplicitous housewife, genre-hopping director Billy Wilder recruited Raymond Chandler as co-writer. At least that's the prevailing wisdom at his funeral. According to Mitchum's biographer, Lee Server, it was Cain who expunged Kathie of any traces of lovability. Noir's visual style, which had its roots in German expressionism, was forged here, though Wilder insisted that he was going for a "newsreel" effect.
The noir fused pulp detective fiction with the enigmatic form of German expressionism and The Big Sleep is an almost surrealist refinement of the noir genre. Moreover, the overtone of honeymoon is a wicked setup for threats of rape.
It may not be any surprise that when Jeff catches up with the fugitive femme fatale, there is a crackle of attraction between them. We see and experience everything from his point of view, with Polanski composing every frame, dictating each camera movement.
Noir's visual style, which had its roots in German expressionism, was forged here, though Wilder insisted that he was going for a "newsreel" effect. But the sharpened splinters of dialogue also bear the mark of Cain — James M Cain, that is, the legendary author of noir landmarks The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, who performed vital but uncredited rewrites.
Perhaps that explains why his film is such a melting pot of influences, drawing not only on Hitchcock but also the Master of Suspense's overseas admirers, including Henri-Georges Clouzot and his Les Diaboliques. Ray's first masterpiece, and a pinnacle of poetic noir. Except that when Martins arrives, Lime turns out to be dead.
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The director was in his mids at the time and clearly using the crime-thriller genre something he never returned to as a testing ground and not a strict template. The key to the picture's genius is undoubtedly the mutually nourishing collaboration between Greene and the director Carol Reed.
Although its elements point towards nailbiting tension, this isn't so much what Lift to the Scaffold is about; it draws more on the blanket fatalism of film noir rather than the savage irony so often associated with the genre. The movie ends equally unforgettably with the line, "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown!
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