Scarlet Street (Fritz Lang, 1945)
Fritz Lang had an unique life, he escaped Germany when the Nazi party took the power. He was the greatest filmmaker at that time and his life is sprinkled with many twists. However, some historians prouved that he invented or romantized many elements of his tremendous life. Somehow, this does not make him a worst or a better filmmaker. It's even his ability has a great storyteller that's reflected from those mythomanic inventions.
In the first years that Lang lived in America he struggled a lot to be able to do a project in Hollywood. His strong personnality on the set was blocking him and his reputation as a great director did not followed him on this side of the Atlantic. Fritz Lang had to wait to get the chance of directing Fury in 1936. After this film he worked constantly and directed at least a film per year.
We will stop our sight on his very personnal 1945 offer; Scarlet Street. The major themes of Fritz Lang's oeuvre are present in this masterpiece of Film Noir.
The story: A cashier, Christoper Cross (Edward G. Robinson) is married to a manipulative repressive woman, Adele. To escape from his miserable life Chris met a seductive young woman or read here the femme fatale, Katherine March (Joan Bennett) and tells her that he is a painter like Cézanne. But Kitty (Katherine) is only interested in Chris's money especially with the intervention of her boyfriend Johnny. The boyfriend decides to sell Chris's paintings and deceive the art critics by signing them with Kitty's name on it to take advantage. When Chis discovers that he was fooled by Katherine and she doesn't love him and that she is Johnny's lover he murders her and Johnny gets accused of the midemeanor.
The plot is build so tight and every element is so important that it is a real masterpiece only for the story. There are many interesting moments the fade from Johnny to a painted snake represents the temptation of miserliness that Johnny always ask to Katherine. Later we see Chris taking money from the safe of his job, and he puts it into an enveloppe at the same time his boss asks him to withdraw some money, while he waits the boss put his hand on the enveloppe and taps his fingers on it; it creates a great suspens.
The major theme that we can find from Lang's oeuvre, is the assassination of a loved woman. Many historians proved that Fritz Lang with the concourse of his mistress would have killed his first wife Lisa Rosenthal. He haven't been accused of this murder, this is a case closed as a suicide.
I must add that of the many films of the 1930's and the 1940's I been watching recently they all have a Christmas time ending! I am asking myself: Why that much interest around Christmassy endings?
Scarlet Street is withoout a doubt a great film from one of the greatest director of all time. Even with its depressing ending and the raw non-restored copy I watch I think it is a must see!
A review by Michaël Parent