This 1956 masterpiece by Jacques Tourneur, best known for the stylish horror films Cat People and Curse of the Demon, begins as Jim Vanning (Aldo Ray) meets Marie Gardiner (Anne Bancroft), who’s soon helping him evade the private investigator and two thugs chasing him. His explanation of why he can’t go to the police marks him as the typical film noir outsider. The story unfolds gradually, as Vanning’s flight is intercut with the investigator’s pursuit and with a series of flashbacks that reveal how he became wanted for murder; the intercutting develops each story in a parallel space or time, movingly articulating the theme of a character trapped by his history. Tourneur links scenes by cutting between footsteps or looks at a clock in different locales, and his images have a smooth, almost liquid quality. He eschews the high-contrast lighting of most noirs in favor of a moody, brooding poeticism in which shadows come because it’s nightfall. His delicate lyricism, which takes the natural world as the norm, is linked to the observational skills Vanning has developed–“I know where every shadow falls,” he says–but it also contrasts with the plot’s paranoia as the shadow world of noir meets the streets of LA or the Wyoming wilderness. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Thursday, July 17, 7:30, 312-443-3737. –Fred Camper
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.