Film Noir 2023
Screening Dates
  • August 12, 2023 8:40
  • August 18, 2023 6:30

Angel Face [is] to Preminger what The Big Heat is to Lang and Woman on the Beach to Renoir: the most conclusive proof of the talent, or the genius, of a director.”

Jacques Rivette, Cahiers du cinéma

A high-water mark for stripped-back noir, Angel Face was a return to studio control for director Otto Preminger after the censorship scandal of his independently produced The Moon Is Blue. Handed a bad script by producer Howard Hughes (unpromisingly titled The Murder”), Preminger oversaw early-hours revisions each day of production to render a blistering final statement on the genre he helped inaugurate with Laura. From the first notes of a piano playing, the Premingerian poles of fascination and detachment are in place. Frank (Robert Mitchum) is the driver—of race cars, then tanks, and now ambulances. He meets Diane (Jean Simmons), the piano player who asks too many questions (“a very bad habit of mine”) and always gets her way. While coded as a femme fatale, she’s just as scarred by the war as Frank, and just as likely to change her mind—and by that token, transform the film. The rhythm of vehicles, violence, and quiet domestic sets wouldn’t get picked up again in American cinema until David Lynch arrived.

Please note: Angel Face screens from a digital scan of a circulation print, which features some audio distortion around the 18 minute mark.

One of the forgotten masterworks of film noir … A disturbingly cool, rational investigation of the terrors of sexuality.”

Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader