Film Noir 2023
Screening Dates
  • August 11, 2023 8:30
  • August 14, 2023 6:30
  • August 27, 2023 8:50
Gloria Grahame Centenary

Grahame [is] Human Desires most self-possessed figure, the one who best understands how the world of the film works … Most women are unhappy,’ Grahame tells Ford during their affair. They just pretend they aren’t.’”

Duncan Gray, MUBI Notebook

Fritz Lang’s follow-up to The Big Heat reunites stars Gloria Grahame and Glenn Ford in a noir tale full of pessimism and dread, adapted from Emile Zola’s La Bête humaine (also the source for Jean Renoir’s 1938 film). The railyards are the only home for Korean War vet Jeff Warren (Ford). Despite returning with the spoils of war, he plays innocent, fending off the advances of young family friend Ellen (Kathleen Case) and posing as a hero next to the despairing Vicki (Grahame), a woman blackmailed and abused by her jealous husband Carl (Broderick Crawford). One might expect the apocalyptic violence from The Big Heat, but Lang and cinematographer Burnett Guffey (In a Lonely Place), trapping these doomed, unsatisfied characters with the omnipresent sound of train whistle blasts and their reminder of single-track destinations, give us something more disquieting: human solitude in an ironclad world” (Borde and Chaumeton, A Panorama of American Noir).

What we remember in Renoir are the faces of Gabin, Simon, and Ledoux. What we remember in Lang are the geometrical patterns of trains, tracks, and fateful camera angles. If Renoir is humanism, Lang is determinism. If Renoir is concerned with the plight of his characters, Lang is obsessed with the structure of the trap.”

Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema

“[Lang’s] later efforts such as Human Desire are singular for their refusal to win over the audience or to create sympathy for any of the characters … [He] turns every camera set-up into an exercise in relentless geometrics, like a Mondrian under a light dusting of coal soot.”

Geoffrey O’Brien, New York Review of Books