Where the sea and the city meet, they corrupt each other. Around docks, the ocean’s margins are scummy with oil and floating garbage; the water corrodes hulls, encrusts pilings, and slimes steps. Ports cater to men who come in and out with the tide, offering them prostitutes, dives, and cheap hotels. Yet the waterfront, with its brawling sailors and squabbling gulls, also reeks of poetry. The air is saturated with moisture and melancholy; a farewell mood infiltrates everything like the salt air.
This environment is a natural breeding ground for film noir. “It’s funny how water, or rather its margins, always attracts you when you’re at a loss, don’t know what to do or where to go,” Cornell Woolrich writes in The Black Path of Fear. It also attracts those looking to dispose of a body (The Reckless Moment, Where the Sidewalk Ends), live outside the law (Pickup on South Street, Night and the City), flee the country (99 River Street), or just scrabble for an honest living in a dirty world (Edge of the City). In noir, even the beach is a place of angst, not relaxation (Woman on the Beach, Female on the Beach), and beach houses are not getaways but places where everything ends, badly (Criss Cross, Mildred Pierce, Kiss Me Deadly).
Don’t Fence Her In: On Women of the West
A string of important midcentury westerns, including Johnny Guitar and Rancho Notorious, elevated women from their traditionally marginal role in the genre to more potent and central positions.
Blood and Guts in High School
John Fawcett’s 2001 cult classic Ginger Snaps—a highlight of the Criterion Channel’s High School Horror collection—uses the werewolf trope to explore the psychosexual anxieties of female adolescence.
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