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Iconic Cinematic Seductresses In Film Noir

BY SIDDHARTHA MUKHERJEE

Film noir displays evil, ambiguity, pessimism and paranoia. The plot includes scenes of crime, corruption, murder and predominantly a mysterious femme fatale. Such films, can be categorized as a neo-noir film, as it includes these conventions of the film noir genre, primarily the daring and devious anti-heroine. From a technical viewpoint, Basic Instinct used the common techniques in noir films and inspired many. We’re talking about ruthless women who leave smirking, gullible men broken-hearted in their wake at best. Such films include:

Suzanne Stone-Maretto
To Die For (1995)

Gus Van Sant’s tragic-comic tale centres on Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman) a fame obsessed housewife who seduces three teenagers to get rid of her husband. Kidman deliciously matches her stunning looks with a nasty wit that we can’t help fall prey to. She’s not motivated by greed, revenge or desperation, but by ambition.

Lynn Bracken
L.A. Confidential (1997)

This role marked the highpoint in Basinger’s career, winning her an Oscar in 1997. Kim Basinger is the sultry femme fatale Lynn Bracken, a prostitute made to look like the famous actress Veronica Lake. This sexy, sensual, dangerous and silent woman acts as a tool for blackmailing important people because she deliberately lets frivolous photos of her and her customers be taken.

Dorothy Vallens
Blue Velvet (1986)

Vallens is a singer, ‘The Lady in Blue’, whose rendition of the song Blue Velvet comprises her entire repertoire. Isabella Rossellini delivers a marvelous performance as Vallens. The point of juxtaposing the shocking and the mundane is not, as might be expected, to lampoon the masochist Dorothy for her hypocrisy; she promises to probe the evil just below the surface of a town and its inhabitants, but ultimately delivers a seductive hodgepodge of voyeurism and moralism.

Mal Cobb
Inception (2010)

Cobb is plagued with guilty visions of his late wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), invading his synapseworld and threatening to become more real than either Cobb’s trickster dreams or his waking life. Marion Cotillard is ravishingly scintillating and does her best to squeeze dimensionality to the deceased sub-conscious projection; she’s sad, psychotic, lovely and she is heartbreaking as the real emotional backbone.

Laure Ash / Lily Watts
Femme Fatale (2002)

The thief Laurie Ash (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) steals the expensive diamond jewel called ‘Eye of the Serpent’ in an audacious heist during an exhibition in Cannes 2001 Festival. Laura is completely unscrupulous and she’s trouble and temptation personified. Her superiority and intelligence make her fearsome. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is sizzling as the film’s eponymous femme fatale.

Xenia Onatopp
GoldenEye (1995)

A master assassin, a foxy former KGB agent with a taste for high-stakes thrills, and aircraft pilot, Xenia is an associate of Alec Trevelyan in the 1995 movie Goldeneye. Played by Famke Janssen, this seductress is one of the most iconic villains that James Bond has ever encountered. Also a sadomasochist, Xenia suffocates her enemies to death while having sexual intercourse just to feed her satisfaction, and sometimes she tranquilly smokes big cigars and knocks off her victims with her ‘killer thighs.’ In one scene, she challenges Bond’s legendary Aston Martin DB5 to a wild road race outside Monte Carlo with her red Ferrari; while in another she snatches a top-secret helicopter from under the noses of the French navy.

Marquise de Merteuil
DANGEROUS LIAISONS (1988)

At the center of the film are the Marquise de Merteuil, a Parisian socialite whose days are spent concocting elaborate erotic intrigues, and, poised before her vanity table, she seems majestically corrupt, and Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich), her rich, aristocratic former lover, who now devote themselves to the pursuit of sexual liaisons, not necessarily for pleasure but for the power they confer on the one who is loved but does not love. Glenn Close delivers the performance of her career by being tight-lipped and self-contained, bubbling momentarily into a rage only when provoked and the Marquise’s compulsive destructiveness makes her a character with true classical grandeur.

One of the most popular techniques of the film noir genre, that is evident within the movie, is the use of low-key lighting and shadows. The purpose of this technique is to leave an unsettling impression thus creating a mood of alienation and loneliness while the seductress tempts, in the most manipulative manner, and keeps some of our favorite leading men under pressure in many classic scenarios.

Honourable mentions

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