Criss Cross

Criss Cross is a 1949 film noir directed by the great Robert Siodmak. Set in postwar L.A. it has that German look that caught on in Hollywood after the cream of European talent found a haven from Nazism there. Those expratiate artists injected a mood of pessimism and dread into American film, using stark black and white contrasts and Expressionist lighting. It suited the new genre of crime movies in the 1940s that we now call film noir. Siodmak’s cinematographer was another expat, Franz Planer, and Criss Cross is unequalled for its ravishing velvety shadows and sparkling highlights.

These three shots from the last scene of Criss Cross show the Manichean undertone of the story in which a good man (Burt Lancaster) encounters a bad man (Dan Duryea) over the affections of a good/bad woman (Yvonne de Carlo). All film noir, in fact almost all Hollywood film, is in some way a debate about good and evil, innocence and guilt, and redemption. It’s a very Judaeo-Christian thing.

Note the Jesus-like expression on Lancaster’s face; the satanic expression in Duryea’s eyes, and the Pieta pose of the lovers he’s just murdered.

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