Dark Passage ★★★½

Bogart and Bacall are too lovely a couple for film noir, and so is the good heart of Delmer Daves, so this ends up spinning into the ultimate rejection of noir and the blissful embrace of hope—ending right out of Shawshank Redemption, though this one justifies it. Begins with a 20 minute sequence of entirely first person camera (pre-Lady in the Lake), and smartly doesn't reveal why until the facial surgery (a common movie trope of the 40s) is about to happen, thus finally nullifying the need to continue the experimentation. The film then traces a line as Bogart hopes to redeem himself and his life, but constantly finds he's on the short stick of life, a series of bad luck spots (damn that Agnes Moorhead!) always leaving his eyes somewhere between furious rage and hopeless depression. Not even the sunshine streets of San Francisco can make things better—it's a jungle of hills and valleys, where you always stick out to those watching from places you can't even see.

This was one of the first big studio films to go on location shooting—not for "realism" purposes but as an alternative to the various labor strikes among unions at the time and the new Arriflex 35mm camera designed during the war. The shooting was apparently total hell as I learned from a production studies panel on SCMS last year by Joshua Gelich [paper not online], but Daves manages to integrate the city quite wondrously into the thriller; the moment Bogart jumps onto a moving trolley to avoid police suspicion uses the limited purview of the handheld camera in a scene out of Hitchcock.

But this is a love story, and one that takes love as a subject of great importance. Bacall shows up to Bogart in the first act almost like an angel out of Heaven, and no matter how much worse he makes things, she remains a convicted woman in his belief of being good. The motivation provided for her might be a little dumb, but it pays off wonderfully as the two don't even need to embrace at the end, simply cross toward each other with a look—always a key symbol in the Daves film—which is enough to redeem the man.

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