This is a sheer delight. I’ve rarely seen a film more vital, and yet more ultimately concerned with failure. The spit and vinegar of the dialog is a special treat.

There’s something so fascinating about the fatalism of film noir. It has to do with the world view it presents, that of a choice between bad and worse, with nothing in-between.

The high point in the lives of these characters is almost the moment we first meet them, with everything that happens after a fall deeper into disaster. It’s the notion that one stray move, unknowingly made, can lead to endless tragedy.

This film is just such a story. It’s the tale of a man who just wants to be with the woman he loves, a woman who has moved across the country to try her luck at Los Angeles stardom.

He hitchhikes his way after her, but unfortunately ends up in the wrong car on the wrong night. Disaster ensues, and in the wake of the disaster everything he does leads further and further into misery and inevitable destruction.

For a story like that, it’s not really as bleak a movie as you might imagine. That’s part of the charm. There’s a hopeless glamor in the unstoppable nature of our hero’s downfall.

He’s doomed, it’s obvious, but we never really feel sad about it. Instead we’re almost simultaneously rooting for him, while curiously watching to see just how the universe is going to screw him.

I really like unreliable narrator storytelling. We’re so conditioned to see the lens of the movie as a perfect witness to what’s happening. When we do get false memories, it’s usually made very clear to us that’s what we’re experiencing. To see an entire film like this, which in retrospect has no firm center, is wonderful.

A bit like Rashoman, only far less explicit about what it’s doing. The film appears to be entirely forthcoming, but any examination reveals that we have absolutely no reason to believe our narrator in his story.

The entire thing is taking place from a recollection for one thing, and there are details included that he absolutely could not have known. It’s a brilliant way to tell a story.

united states, 1945, 1.37:1, english