Alright Wordpress, we meet again. At the keyboard. In my room. After drinking copious amounts of Theraflu…after watching the 4th episode in a row of Big Bang Theory. And despite it all, I’m going to talk about Double Indemnity as an effective comedy. Oh, yes, I know, I can talk all about the wonderful use of lighting, shadows, composition (etc), but, I don’t know, call me a pioneer -it is Columbus Day after all- but Double Indemnity is, dare I say, funny.
Let’s start with the non-intentional humor. I have seen few film noir films/videos, but the majority of what I have seen, is most often in the form of a parody. So naturally, rather than mentally preparing for a crime-thriller, I was, instead, waiting for the end of a very long Geiko commercial. In the film, the non-intentional humor is often funny because the scenario is either far too ridiculous or dramatic, stemming from the fact that we are watching it 70 years after the fact. For example, all of Mr. Neff’s narrations were way to dramatic. Personal favorite line: “I had a taste of her iced tea and didn’t want anymore.” Hahaha, I’m sure Shakespeare is rolling in his grave, but I’m loving every second of this. Ultimately, however, by the end of the film, I was more or less acclimated to the film’s “intenseness” and so the unintentionally funnier moments, became less random and more normalized. Eventually, I was actually able to focus on the storyline, rather than just Barbara Stanwyck’s wig. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yl3UMO-TkE
It’s an hour and a half into the movie and Natalie Portman has done her first dance as the white swan. At this point, as the audience, you are emotionally exhausted, nervous, and mainly just stressed the eff out. Right after she dances, she begins to move to her next waiting spot, further downstage, behind the curtains. As she does so, she walks past a dancer, who plays the evil twin brother, in full costume, and he nonchalantly nods his head and says ‘hey.’ This one word sent the entire audience into an uproar. And why? We were all so on edge, that this seemingly inappropriate line was timed at the most appropriate moment, because we weren’t expecting it and it allowed the audience to laugh, relax and expel some tension.
Now, while Black Swan and Double Indemnity are obviously two different movies, their comedic techniques stem from the same funny bone, if you will. The comedy, in both, provide light transitions to the more serious, nail biting parts of the plot. So rather than being stressed for the entire 110 minutes, the movies scatter moments of comedy in the appropriate places, in order to provide the audience with a much needed “breather.” So, for example, when Neff tries to get to the elevator, the music swells and he drops to the floor. Neff then breaks the tension by saying, “I guess someone moved the elevator a couple miles away.” Boom. Cue laugh. And why is it so funny? Because not only weren’t we expecting it, but also because our minds are that much more vulnerable and desperately wanting to get a break from the stress of the movie. So even though things aren’t going to work out for Neff, we are much less anxious now, because we ended on a laugh as opposed to sitting in a pool of our sweat and nerves.
So what have we learned today, WordPress? Make a movie that’s funny, which means make it also a psychological thriller, but also film it in black and white, and the main stars should either Natalie Portman or Barbara Stanwyck or both. I can smell the Oscar already. Bazinga.