Out of the Past (1947)

Directed by Jacques Tourneur

Jeff Bailey seems to be a mundane gas station owner in remote Bridgeport, California. He is dating local girl Ann Miller and lives a quiet life. But Jeff has a secret past, and when a mysterious stranger arrives in town, Jeff is forced to return to the dark world he had tried to escape.

A noir transposed from the usual polluted city environment to the open Californian countryside, yet remains as morally fuggy as the asphalt jungle it whence came from. I really loved the dialogue here, but it was followed through by a relatively rich symbolic language as well: the cigarettes and their attendant smoke (a befogged immorality that they themselves generate or otherwise give off, perhaps?). And the inscrutable deaf-dumb boy is worthy of an essay in itself - does he lie to Ann at the end? If so, is she now starting her life on something she will always suspect is based on something wrong, something rotten hidden deep down? Just like America, you might say?