Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity ★★★★★

Billy Wilder only set out to be a cynical bastard of a director. He ended up accidentally inventing film noir.

Wilder's "Double Indemnity" didn’t just lay the aesthetic basis for its entire genre; all shadowy streets and long-legged dames in mansions. It set the tone for an entire era of Hollywood. And that tone was as bitter as old coffee grounds, and dark as the Nazi-led Germany that Wilder fled for Hollywood. 

Wilder was a director who claimed to his last days that his ‘style’ was simply to put the camera somewhere and just start filming. That’s sure some lucky camera placement. 

Watching “Indemnity,” it becomes less a question of what Wilder did invent in noir, and more what he didn't. Even Wilder’s screenplay; narrated with vindictive jadedness by Fred MacMurray, made the voiceover format a near-necessity of the genre. 

And in a film with a pair of lead actors and a set of visuals that could spin some truly misanthropic threads all on their own, it’s that narration that cements “Indemnity” as a stone cold and unclockable classic. 

MacMurray’s insurance salesman makes his dictaphone diatribe into a confession, a last will and testament, and a personal memoir all rolled into one. Listening to him rail off his words of contemptuous malice as a sort of life ethos - drenched in pessimism - ties “Indemnity” into a perfectly-constructed classic of blood and bile.

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