Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Woman in the Window. A

It's true that The Woman in the Window is built around a series of worst case scenarios in order to give the movie its great suspense. Yet it's crafted to perfection, allowing us to accept some slight improbabilities in exchange for the amount of satisfaction the story provides. As in Scarlet Street, Edward G. Robinson plays an average, somewhat lonely fellow, a teacher who seems to long for a life of excitement, yet cannot escape the life he has built for himself because he's married with kids. His only real escape is a portrait of a beautiful woman in a gallery window, a woman he gazes at each night, to show us his longing for a different life. In an instant, he happens upon the actual woman in the painting, goes to her apartment for a drink, and then coincidentally kills her angry boyfriend in self-defense. Rather than allowing the police to handle it and trying to get off on self-defense (a psychology professor, he opens the film teaching about that very matter, which makes us wonder why he doesn't use it to dispatch his guilt), he and the woman plot to sneak the body to his car and leave it in the woods. Nobody would ever know he was responsible. Ah, but then come those scenarios. It happens to start raining that night, so he leaves heavy footprints in the woods. He happens to cut himself on a fence, leaving a trace of blood for the police. And he happens to get into poison ivy, and you can imagine how that plays out. Yet this movie is perfectly crafted, a Fritz Lang classic, full of noir aspects representing the best of the genre. It also has a hint of Hitchcock with the Robinson character guilty to no one but the viewer. I saw this movie one day and Scarlet Street the next. These movies demand to be seen together, not just because they're similar in tone and style, and not just because they have the same casts and director, but because they're both really, really awesome and really show why Lang is the master of noir.

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