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Memorably described by the Atlanta authorities on its original 1945 release as "licentious, profane, obscure and contrary to the good order of the community", Scarlet Street is an unswervingly fatalistic film noir, which serves as a companion piece to Fritz Lang's earlier Woman In The Window.
A remake of Jean Renoir's La Chienne, Scarlet Street charts the tragic decline of a mild-mannered bank clerk/Sunday painter Chris Cross (Robinson). Nagged by his shrewish wife, Cross becomes infatuated with a beautiful young `actress' Kitty (Bennett). He pretends to her that he's a successful artist and, having stolen money from his employer, sets her up in a Greenwich Village apartment. But Kitty's boyfriend, the unscrupulous Johnny (Duryea), hatches a scheme to exploit Cross's romantic obsession...
Although the film explores its director's abiding theme (the inevitability of fate and destiny), it's also a stylised work which is preoccupied with notions of artifice, role-playing and fantasy in human relationships. (Interestingly, a strain of camp, ironic humour permeates the narrative.)
Scarlet Street has some superb performances from an almost child-like Robinson and an alluring Bennett, masterful expressionistic cinematography from Milton Krasner and a truly haunting ending. For, as one character observes, "the real judge, jury and executioner lie within ourselves".
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