Fallen Angel Otto Preminger

Memories of film noir have become so debased that it's become impossible to see their inverted compassion. Neo-noirs like Sin City have so revelled in sexed-up hopelessness that they refuse to see the social implications of the movement's set pieces. Take Fallen Angel. You could say it's about a tough-talking drifter (Dana Andrews) who falls for a swell-looking dame (waitress Linda Darnell) and then attempts to romance a sheltered rich girl (Alice Faye) out of her money. But you'd be more accurate in saying it's about a bunch of unhappy people trying to get their piece of satisfaction whatever way they can. Even though Andrews does terrible things (and Darnell goes along with them), the motive is more boredom and frustration than malice and sadism. And once a murder throws the narrative out of whack, our protagonist finds more in the arms of the cloistered good girl who's looking for a way out. They're not bad people, exactly, they're just looking for the wrong things in the wrong places, and the film, against stereotype, tries to find something resembling redemption. To that end, Otto Preminger directs with fluid grace, refusing to jar us and revealing the sadness behind the tough poses. Andrew Sarris once remarked that his noirs were "moodily fluid studies in perverse psychology rather than crackling suspense movies," and this film shows sensitivity in dealing with such mental instability. One is gripped by sadness instead of fear and sympathy instead of horror, making the experience more interesting than mere genre theatrics ever allow for. Extras include a commentary by expert Eddie Muller and Dana Andrews' daughter Susan, which is lively and full of facts, and a still gallery. (Fox)