Out of the Past (Tourneur, 1947)

Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947)

Out of the Past is a well-filmed movie with a weak screenplay. The film follows small-town resident Jeff Bailey as he is forced to revisit his shady past. The idea of the premise is fine, and has been successfully done, but in Out of the Past, we don’t see enough of small-town Bailey to really understand the inner turmoil he must be feeling throughout the film. His small-town life is very much just a plot tool and doesn’t enhance his characterization in the way Tourneur probably hoped it would. Also, one semi-small thing that bugged me – as we see his past through flashback, the style of narration used doesn’t fit the situation. Supposedly, he is telling his story to his new girl, but the narration includes details common for a noir narration, but that make no sense to include in a chat with girl. (Does she really care what the weather was like on any given night?)

The film does feature some great cinematography. Shadows, cigarette smoke, and linear foregrounds (gates, trees) are all used frequently and look fantastic in the black and white world the characters live in. A lot of this is typical of noir, but it’s all done so well. At the risk of sounding redundant, there are also shifting loyalties and a ‘trust no one’ element of the film that is very typical of a film noir. Very little here strays from the common elements of film noir, though I suppose that’s not all bad. It makes for a very entertaining watch, and with it being technically impressive, I couldn’t help but find it worth seeing.  7.25/10

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