Whistle Stop

I was worried there for a while.

See, film noir is my reliable genre. Whenever I pop one into the DVD player I know that I might not love it, that it might not be particularly well-written or well-acted, that they might be some cheesy effects, but I can be sure that I'll at the very least enjoy watching it. I have a hard time articulating what makes the grim, cynical world of noir films so comforting to me, but it is.

You can imagine that tonight, I watched "Whistle Stop" with growing dismay. It started promisingly enough, with a mysterious Ava Gardner decending of an ominously whistling train. But almost everything that followed disappointed. The main character wasn't snarky or disillusioned or even truly tortured: not only was he much too old for the type he played, but he was just a wimpy, spineless drunk, and not the good kind. The Femme Fatale looked classy and acted fatale-y at first, but she soon turned out to be a sheep in wolf's clothing. The only one even remotely capable of interesting me was the sleazy nightclub owner played by Tom Conway.

I responded in the only natural way: I tried to find reasons to disqualify the film as a noir. There weren't enough shady metaphors, for one, there was no noir dialogue. The femme fatale ended up being a woman who stood by her man unconditionally. There was no deception, no double-crossings; there were plans of murder, yes, but they were diffused and then almost forgotten.

I needn't have bothered, because one thing gives it away entirely, and makes the point like all the above arguments can't: this film has a happy ending. And so this evening has for me too: my first film of the night might have been a disappointment (I'm about to watch the next one, my second Godard, "A bout de souffle"), but I don't have to discard my comfort genre just yet.

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