Wednesday, March 7, 2012
(February 1946, U.S.)
Once upon a time my wife and I were watching an episode of HBO's SEX AND THE CITY. A group of Manhattan socialites were sitting at a dinner table and one of them asks the others which classic movie star they would have fucked (or "slept with" for those of you with cleaner ears). Naturally, I asked my wife the same question and she agreed with Cynthia Nixon's character when she said Sean Connery. I didn't hesitate to say that my pick was Rita Hayworth in GILDA. To put it mildly, she smoulders as the ultimate femme fatale with skin and sexuality in this film noir, or at least as much as she could get away with in the 1940s. The scene where she sings and dances in a black strapless dress can only be best described as a fantastic clothed strip tease!
This is a film of lush black and white photography and beautiful costume design. It's continually narrated by Johnny Farrell (played by Glenn Ford), a small-time American gambler newly arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina who seeks to make his own luck in life. He's almost inexplicably picked up off the street by Ballin Mundson (played by George Macready), the owner of a high class casino and set to work as the man who "runs the joint". The two men agree that women and gambling don't mix, so for a short time it's just the two of them and the "joint" that feeds their lives. Not so fast, though. Woman DOES enter their lives and her name is Gilda! She's practically bought and paid for by Ballin to be his wife and as it turns out, she has a past with Johnny when they were both living in the United States, though we're never entirely sure what happened to split them up. What we are sure of is that they both absolutely hate and despise each other, so much so that they both also can't deny how much they want each other.
Now let's take a moment to explore that interesting blend of emotions because it's hate that features so predominantly in this story. Gilda and Johnny continuously admit how much they hate each other, yet the passion between them is too obvious to ignore. At first thought, that may seem unreasonably impossible. And yet I can recall being in high school and despising some of the most beautiful spoiled-brat girls that occupied its corridors. So what did that mean? You guessed it - it means I only wanted to fuck them even more! Is that just a guy thing??
As with most film noir, the cloud of cliche hangs heavily over its structure. The love triangle almost always inevitably leads to jealousy, hatred, suicide and the climactic murder of the bad guy. In GILDA, though, the violent climax is somewhat sugar coated when Gilda and Johnny finally decide to stop kidding themselves and confess to each other their unconditional love and longing to be with each other. In other words, the Hollywood "happily ever after" cliche is alive and well here. That's just fine because when you've spent nearly two hours watching a man and woman go completely out of their way to hurt each other, you feel compelled to wish for one of two things; that they'll either kill each other or love each other in the end. Love wins!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Gilda: "You do hate me, don't you, Johnny?"
Johnny Farrell: "I don't think you have any idea of how much!"
Gilda: "Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven't you noticed? Very exciting. I hate you too, Johnny. I hate you so much I think I'm going to die from it...darling!"