Failures of Marriage in Sea of Love (The Love of Men, the Respect of Women)
This link between the woman's unacknowledged capacity for experience and the failure of her marriage suggests for me that the films of this genre can function as comments on the genre that Stanley Cavell has called the melodrama of the unknown woman.8 Stella Dallas, Gaslight, and Now, Voyager, among others, depict women's claim to existence apart from marriage, and their arrival at a state of self-understanding from which they cannot tell men about their own existence.9 To be sure, the murderous violence of the "unmarried woman" genre is one sign that these genres will not match up exactly. But the genres differ mainly in their diagnoses of the male exclusion of women. Whereas the melodramas locate exclusion in a masculine privacy that women may not enter, the films I have chosen to talk about identify a male practice aimed more aggressively
robbed the bank to pay for his lover's sex-change surgery, as if to create a woman who can be the true object of his desire. The woman-to-be of Dog Day Afternoon works as the offstage but necessary motor of its plot, much as Helen, a placeholder for her husband's desires and Frank's, motivates both the narrative of Sea of Love and its male spectator's interest, so that on all counts the pattern of desire can pretend to be aiming at its appropriate target.