Saturday, October 9, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Woman On The Beach

The Woman On The Beach
directed by Jean Renoir
This is a relatively short film noir although it feels a little longer than its seventy odd minutes. It lacks most of the violence associated with the genre. 
It's a quiet film that is nevertheless unsettling and occasionally even weird. I suppose you could say that most of the missing physical violence is replaced by emotional pain. The story is just as foggy as the cinematography. This movie is all about mood. 
I didn't think there was quite enough action to move the story forward. But on the other hand The Woman On The Beach is a decent look at how people's internal struggles, desires, and goals play out in their relationships and their larger lives.
Scott (Robert Ryan) is a taciturn war veteran and current Coast Guard officer. Although people didn't use the exact term at the time that this film was made, Scott suffers from PTSD. During the war a ship that Scott was on was torpedoed and sunk. Scott nearly drowned. He now has recurring nightmares and even waking dreams about drowning and being pulled down to the bottom of the ocean. 
There's always a strange blonde woman in these dreams but Scott can't tell if she's luring him into danger or trying to save him. Perhaps not so coincidentally Scott's girlfriend and supposed fiancee Eve (Nan Leslie) is blonde and looks like the woman in his dreams. Usually that would be a good thing, right. 

In this case Scott's not so sure. Scott wants to marry Eve because it would be the right thing to do, not because he's head over heels in love with her. 
Scott tries to hide his indecision to avoid hurting Eve but Eve is no one's dummy.
Part of Scott's job involves, well, patrolling the coast. On one such trip he runs into a woman Peggy (Joan Bennett), who seems to share his anxieties and fears about life, love, shipwrecks and the ocean. Not only that but Peggy looks and moves like she knows what goes where and why. Before too long Scott is timing his patrols to make sure he encounters Peggy. 
But there's a problem. You see Peggy is married to Tod (Charles Bickford). Tod is a blind former painter who is dependent upon his wife. Tod is also an arrogant man who thinks that no other man, and certainly not Scott, could steal Peggy from him. 
So there is perhaps a love triangle afoot, if love is really what's in play. Scott doesn't know a lot, as Tod is quick to remind him and Peggy every chance he gets. Scott thinks Tod is hiding something.
All in all I thought this movie lacked a little intensity but it's a good film for Robert Ryan fans or for people curious about noir but who really dislike violence. Fun fact: Bennett's grandfather was Lewis Morrison, a Black-Jewish Jamaican immigrant who apparently tried to fight for the Confederacy but later wound up fighting for the Union. Morrison's primary fame however was as a Shakespearean stage actor.
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