I've been racking up some serious time at the Belcourt Noir Fest 3 this month! It's been a joy watching films from my favorite genre in the theater. GILDA kicked off the series -- scorching the screen and leaving me wanting more.
In noir, the femme fatale and the good girl are the two most common female tropes -- the femme fatale beautiful and deadly, a black widow that can't be trusted, and the good girl who is wholly devoted to the leading man but often doesn't get the guy.
However, GILDA takes these character types and fuses them into Rita Hayworth.
Hayworth absolutely smolders in the film. From the iconic hair flip to the spicy quips to the jaw-dropping musical performances, one assumes she's out to seduce and destroy.
But she's not. Her purported dalliances and the trouble she causes are revenge for her broken heart -- one fractured by Johnny Farrell, the leading man. She plays games to make him jealous but doesn't get the desired effect. And when she finally gets her guy, everything backfires.
She also lives in fear of her husband, Ballin -- a man whose power resides in criminality, which leaves him cold and impotent. Hate gets him more excited than Gilda's sultry mien. He orchestrates the tension between Gilda and Johnny and draws a perverse enjoyment from it.
At first, Gilda appears to be an unreliable character, but she's a twist on the classic trope. Her real deception is that she's a good girl looking for love. But when she finds it, it's suspect, a sort-of happy ending tinged with doom.