Friday, 31 July 2015

Niagara (1953)

Marilyn Monroe is best known for light comedic roles such as The Seven Year Itch, which I reviewed previously.  She did however occasionally turn her hand to more dramatic roles, and Niagara is one such occasion.

Though filmed in lush colour - which captures the well-known falls in all their splendour - this is unmistakably a noir film.  Monroe fills the femme fatale role, playing the young, beautiful wife of an older, emotionally troubled husband.  Of course, at least part of his tumultuous mental state can be attributed to Marilyn herself, as her adherence to her marital vows is, shall we say, somewhat lacking.  He'd probably be even more troubled if he knew she and her lover were plotting to give him a fatal accident.

Stumbling into this deadly triangle is Polly Cutler, who has come to Niagara for a belated honeymoon with her husband.  Polly is the closest thing the film has to a point of view character: the movie was originally conceived around the role, but the focus shifted toward Monroe's character after she joined the film.  While this makes the film a very rare beast - not just a noir film built around a female character, but also a dramatic film where both leads are women - I do think it suffers a little for blurring things this way.  It's not just the audience who become spectators to events, but Polly herself, as she has little agency in the film.

That flaw aside, this is a sumptuously shot, visually rich movie which shows that - even if her acting skills were not yet fully developed - Monroe could be more than just a pretty face in light and fluffy comedies.

If you have an interest in noir films, this is worth your time.

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