My favourite film ever, ever
The girl who wasn’t your problem to fix (Rain, 1932).
There are rainclouds building over the island, and the heat is replaced with a thick stream of thunder. The claustrophobia of soliders posted together is intensified by the shelter they take from nature. Amid the dull masculine boredom, a garishly bright prostitute lights up the storm with her raucous laughter. Overly made up, uneducated, and explicitly sexual, Sadie invites a curiousity and distaste that will ultimately destroy her.
This is a classic fallen-man tale. The man who turns his eyes from God to a wicked woman and suffers for it. The harlot dies repentant and peace is restored. Except that isn’t what happens. Sadie lives. Sadie doesn’t repent for her sins. The villain is the man who plasters her with his own guilt and makes her the cause of all his inner turmoil. The villain is the man who makes her a symbol of sin, not the woman herself.
When was this made again? 1932. Wow.
I love Sadie. She’s unlikeable, angry, common, distasteful, flirtatious and unapologetic. It isn’t a sexualised performance of a prostitute. It is just a portrait of woman who happens to be prostitute. The last thing I’d call Sadie is sexy. Hated by the missionaries on the island, she simply doesn’t care. She does what she does. There is a brilliant scene where she turns up the music and dances in her room after the preacher who demanded he fixed her tries to rape her. There is a complete disillusion with male authority and ownership. It is glorious to watch. She’s not a delicate victim, she’s a woman who realises she doesn’t need to be controlled, that men aren’t better than her, closer to God or above cruelty and lust.
Men who try to save her can’t. Because, ultimately, she doesn’t need saving. She needs to be left alone. She’s okay. She’s independent. She isn’t weak or in need of a husband. She gets on a boat at the end, probably going to continue what she’s always done. There is no final realisation of the need for a male authority, desire to give into guilt, or escape from hell into the clutches of a preacher. She just does Sadie.
It’s brilliant. It is the most feminist film I’ve ever seen. It is complex, difficult and uncomfortable.
Think film noir minus a femme fatale.