Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Search for Cool, Hopeless Without Morals

Double Indemnity posed uncool more so than cool. There was no appealing, cool situation or character in the movie. It was a movie conveying the pessimistic, malevolent side of humanity. Society is attracted to film noire because it’s appalling and, in a way, intriguing that people have that capacity, that our neighbors, teachers, doctors, or insurance adjusters can be cold-blooded killers. That’s part of the allure of horror movies and murder mysteries, it’s shocking. Double Jeopardy has the same general story line, but we are able to identify with and sympathize for the characters. The characters in Double Indemnity have no apparent moral motivation, and we aren’t able to identify with their incentives or feelings. Why kill your husband because he is a screw up? Why not just divorce him? Why kill a complete stranger for a sleazy girl you just met?

This movie did well to answer the question posed a couple weeks ago: is cool good, evil, or morally ambiguous? I would say it definitely is not evil since this movie represents pure evil and is not cool. Morally ambiguous seems to be the coolest moral standing. It’s interesting to see each possibility that we have when faced with a difficult situation. When there is only one side or possible answer, we miss the human struggle. If everything were black or white, life would be easy; it’s not.

One cool component of the movie was the playful, flirtatious banter between Neff and Phyllis, but even this was thwarted by the knowledge that she had a husband and was freely flirting with a random salesman. Keyes was the coolest character in the movie; although, I don’t think he’s cool when compared to someone like a Bogart. He is the only voice of moral reason in the entire film and the only one we can empathize with. He is a sort of watch dog over everyone, but even his incentive is money and the chase, not justice.

Cool is something that we can’t have but want. We could have the lives of the characters in Double Indemnity, but nobody wants them. We don’t want to be ruthless and selfish. Those characteristics are not cool. Film Noire reflected the pessimism of society during the war, not cool. It confirmed the belief that people are corrupt and evil. This doesn’t make it cool to be corrupt and evil, but it allowed some to point and say, look at the human capacity for cruelty.

1 comment:

  1. You hit on something really interesting with the idea of moral ambiguity. Keep digging for cool here and you will hit something.