Double Indemnity | Spring 2018
March 23, 2018
The Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room
Lenfest Center for the Arts
615 W. 129 St.,
New York, NY 10027
March 23 2018 7:30pm
1944 / 110 min / b/w
Dir. Billy Wilder / Scr. Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler
Cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson
Paris release: July 31, 1946
Adapted from: Double Indemnity (1943) by James M. Cain
35mm print courtesy of Universal Pictures
This screening was part of The Inaugural Dr. Saul and Dorothy Kit Film Noir Festival
The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of: Paris 1946 and American Film Noir
Programmed by Rob King, Film and Media Studies
"'Her kiss makes him kill.' Thus, in the middle of a bloodstain, do the posters sum up the argument of Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity. The formula would also suit Murder, My Sweet, by Edward Dmytryk, and it applies too to The Postman Always Rings Twice, which is currently a great success in the United States. One can understand why the Hays Office had for years banned the cinematic adaptation of the two James M. Cain novels from which Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice derive. What is less understandable, from the point of view of this virtuous censorship, is that this prohibition has now been lifted, for it is hard to imagine how one could go further in pessimism and contempt for humanity.
No doubt the conventions of the detective story play their part: one must have a corpse, after all, and murder will always be immoral. Still, with a sympathetic detective and a good proportion of innocents, trust in human nature could still be rewarded. In Double Indemnity, however, as in Murder, My Sweet, all the characters are more or less ignoble. Even though a pure young girl shows up in each to leave hope for the next generation, the female characters in these films are particularly terrible. [...]
There was once talk of a French school of film noir, but Port of Shadows or Hôtel du nord at least had some hints of resistance: love passed there as the mirage of a better world; an implicit social claim opened the door to hope; and, if the characters were desperate, they nonetheless aroused our pity or sympathy. Nothing of the sort here: these characters are deranged monsters and criminals that nothing excuses and whose actions imply that the only source for the fatality of evil is in themselves."
– Jean-Pierre Chartier, “The Americans Also Make Films Noirs,” La Revue du cinema, November 1946
About the Dr. Saul and Dorothy Kit Film Noir Festival
Paris 1946. The war is over and American films are once again in Parisian theaters. The French immediately notice a shift in the sensibility of Hollywood’s crime films. They call it noir.
This festival—the first in a ten-year series devoted to the legacy of film noir—returns us to that pivotal moment in film history some seven decades ago. For its inaugural year, the Kit Film Noir Festival will present eight of the films that screened in France that season and inspired the label film noir. Most films will be shown in 35mm.
This festival was funded by a generous gift from alumnus Gordon Kit (Columbia College ’76), in honor of his parents.
For more information, contact [email protected]