Cinema: burning femme fatales and making love to witches

This Wednesday on our screens, Nicole Kidman embodies a variation white trash of the femme fatale in paperboy, by Lee Daniels. A very good opportunity to look into this recurring figure in cinema, in which some see the expression of the dirtiest misogyny. They didn’t understand anything! Demonstration.

It will have escaped no one that woman is an intrinsically vile and perverse race, entirely dedicated to causing the loss of her inverted double, a fragile, sensitive and reasonable being who strives despite this to make the Earth a paradise. . To be born a man is the promise of always being the plaything of a horde of soft-eyed creatures, slaves to their impious breasts and the wolf trap contained in their thighs. But the Lord, in His infinite leniency, provided the man with muscles and crowbars, and the woman with high heels and tight dresses which considerably complicate her escape. Because as the illustrious anarchist thinker Proudhon wrote: “If man has received the superiority of force, it is also to exercise its rights”. Thus, with the endorsement of the Grand Taulier, enlightened societies have been working since the dawn of time to restrain the ardor of their feminine component, by killing devils at birth or by chaining them to their demonic condition for the rest of their lives. their days. This is why the world is a livable place, despite the daily torments of millions of helpless males in the face of so much instinctive cruelty.

But to better understand and before tackling the subject that interests us today, it is necessary to do a little history. Approximately 6,000 years ago, after Adam had given the animals a proper name for each animal – you can imagine the mess if not – God removed from the first man under general anesthesia a rib, which He covered with flesh to create the woman ( that’s where He is strong, logically she should look like a ham). God saw that she was good and He was pleased. He took it badly! This was without taking into account the villainy proper to a pair of X chromosomes, and Eve was not long in dragging her spouse down with her, after she had bitten into the fruit of knowledge, on the venomous advice of the serpent, and forced Adam to do the same – which almost choked on it. Banished from Eden for centuries upon centuries, the two lovers gave birth to the human race, and Eve transmitted to her daughters the taste for vice and grub. We could then make a vertiginous ellipse at the 2001: A Space Odyssey to arrive at our days, since nothing has changed in the meantime, and honest men are always chased out of June orchards with gunshots when their sweetheart falls in love with a vineyard peach, without worrying about a moment of the insult to property rights…

As you will have understood, the figure of the femme fatale was born from the satanic essence of women, and finds its origin in mythology and the arts long before being represented in the cinema. Distant ancestor of Eve, Lilith is the founding myth of the demonic woman. Creature of the night and protected by Lucifer, she is the mother of all the succubi, these demons who take on the appearance of sublime women dedicated to seducing men to better torment them. Primitive symbol of the ambivalence of male desire, which loves women as much as it wishes their destruction for lack of being able to possess them, the succubus will know many variations through the ages, such as the Homeric siren or the vampire – to which the bloody Countess Elisabeth Bathory is no stranger.

Love to death

It is therefore necessary to distinguish the femme fatale from a woman with “fatal” beauty, confusion that is no longer rare to encounter in the pages of specialized magazines or on the Web. No, Marilyn Monroe is not a femme fatale, however magnificent and magnetic she is in the incredible The Misfits of John Huston, any more than Nicole Kidman is in Eyes Wide Shut, however paralyzingly beautiful it may be in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece. The femme fatale is the one who bursts into the hero’s life and drives him madly in love out of self-interest or play, irremediably changing his destiny until an often tragic end. An emblematic figure of film noir in the same way as the private detective (we think back with shivers to the Bacall/Bogart duo), she is obviously not the fruit of a hatred of women common to filmmakers, but she gives body to the ‘obsession. And the obsession with cinema is really crucial. The greatest filmmakers – like all great artists – are tormented by obsessions that they translate to the screen by exploring themes that reoccur in their films, using cinematographic language. The archetype plays a capital role in this visual grammar, and the femme fatale, child of Eros and Thanatos, is the embodiment of the tragic destiny that awaits the one who sacrifices everything to his desiring and sexual drive – his reason or his life. .

The first big screen appearance of a femme fatale takes place long before the advent of film noir – which would not see the light of day until the end of the Second World War – with theDawn, by Friedrich W. Murnau in 1927. The woman of the city resembles Lilith and the vampire, which the enchanting image of Murnau will not contradict, and pushes the unfortunate fisherman to the murder of his wife – to which he fortunately cannot be resolved. Three years later, it was Marlene Dietrich who once again sketched the outlines of what would become an archetype in theblue angelby Joseph von Sternberg… But it was therefore in the second half of the 1940s that the figure of the femme fatale would definitely take shape with the explosion of film noir and the sum of masterpieces Double Indemnity by Billy Wilder; Detourby Edgar G. Ulmer; The Killers and Criss-Cross (more lyrical than its predecessor) by Robert Siodmak, or even The Lady from Shanghai, by Orson Welles, which makes Rita Hayworth the essential icon of the femme fatale, hiding her poisoned soul under the trappings of an innocent lamb – blond and no longer dark in the Ava Gardner way. The model was naturally exported, particularly to France from the 1950s, with the diabolical by Henri-Georges Clouzot in 1955 and This is the time of the assassins by Julien Duvivier the following year, both black diamonds of French cinema. We will also note the subtle use of this archetype by Jean-Luc Godard in his first film Breathless, through the character of the American embodied by the sublime Jean Seberg, which echoes the fantastic character of the femme fatale when, in the final shot, she turns towards the camera and reproduces the gestures of the deceased Belmondo, emphasizing his vampirism . And that is really disgusting.

From the 1970s to the present, the femme fatale has remained a popular character model that filmmakers have enjoyed playing with, like De Palma or Verhoeven (the latter being more convincing in Black Book than in the very “cult” Basic Instinct), and we can see quite interesting recent examples, such as Eva Green in Casino Royale. With Jackie Brown, Quentin Tarantino gives us a personal and laudatory vision of the femme fatale through the sumptuous Pam Grier who, if she uses her charms to achieve her ends and seduces the character of Robert Forster, never shows cruelty towards him. As for Woody Allen, he blurs the tracks in the immense Match Point, magnifying Scarlett Johansson (whom no one films so well), who in spite of herself concentrates the obsessions of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, the perfect Dostoyevskian antihero. Nola Rice is marked with the seal of fate, but luck is not on her side and she will pay for her status as an electrifying object of desire.

vertigo of love

But the most beautiful of all is Kim Novak. The dual role she plays in Vertigoby Alfred Hitchcock – recently voted the greatest film of all time by the BFI, thus dethroning Citizen Kane – will forever haunt moviegoers everywhere. Supported by dizzying visual experiments and by the bewitching music of Bernard Herrmann, Madeleine/Judy represents the paroxysm of the woman-double, haunting and fantasized, leading James Stewart into a vertiginous disintegration of his mental universe. We lack superlatives about the film and we can only encourage the reader to discover or see this absolute masterpiece of the 7e art.

Cinema: burning femme fatales and making love to witches