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The unorthodox visions of "Not Necessarily Noir"

Dancing in the dark: Brainstorm (1965)

If Clint Eastwood's avenging cop in Siegel's Dirty Harry (1971) was a neo-noir lodestar, his directorial debut of that same year pushed in a different direction. In Play Misty for Me, an extreme amplification of the femme fatale into a castrating bitch (many fatal attractions followed) obscures his character's masculine code. As Dave, Eastwood appears every bit the New Hollywood playboy driving along the Pacific Coast Highway to his nighttime disc jockey gig. After the show he has a drink with his barkeep friend (Siegel, naturally) and soon looks to pick up a swell-looking babe down the bar (Jessica Walter). Back at her place Evelyn admits she's the one always calling in with a request for "Misty," and things only get stickier from there.

Dave grasps at Evelyn's movie-romance psychosis with the same hard stare reserved for bad dudes in the spaghetti westerns and crime movies, but here this front signals disbelief, frustration, and ineffectuality. Instead of trapping his onscreen persona in the frame, as in the classical noir, Eastwood pictures himself enjoying a false mastery of space. Dave strolls with a good girl in sylvan nature (shades of 1947's Out of the Past), but the unnervingly distant framings anticipate the knockout moment when Evelyn's hand strikes menacingly into the foreground of one of these shots. Play Misty for Me isn't necessarily noir, but Eastwood's cunning extension of the "deadly is the female" trope doesn't play nice with the audience's identification — and that's maybe the coolest killer of all.


Nov. 4-8, $5–$9.75

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St., SF

(415) 863-1087


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