Tuesday, January 03, 2006
"It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window." - Raymond Chandler
Returning to the noir theme since I have been wrapped up in watching the Sin City dvd extras and the reading one of the original noir guys, Franz K. I ran across this film festival ad on the TCM Channel website. I miss San Francisco and I love the genre of noir and the combination of both was too enticing not to look into. I enjoy a lot of genre fiction and dislike how some of it is relegated to the role of second class citizen of fiction as if it can not arise above a certain 'B' grade status. Granted the genres have to take some of the blame for the shlock that populates it but good writing is good writing nonetheless. The film festival points out a few things to me. This town needs a decent Art House theatre in addition to the existing foreign, independent and the occasional classic film that plays at the Bijou on campus. I don't even like calling it the Bijou because it is just a room with bad sound and a large projection screen at the student union.
Raymond Chandler is just simply a great writer despite that he said if his books were any better or any worse he would have never been invited to Hollywood. My favorite film conversion of Phillip Marlowe is Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall which was reshot to much improvement to highlight the obvious sexual tension between them. The best book with Marlowe is probably The Long Goodbye which has been filmed at least three times, once with Elliot Gould in an Altman film that was 'interesting' in the non-pejorative sense. Okay, there is no such thing but it was fun to watch. If I recall the current governor of California had a slight mumbling role as some mob muscle. Los Angeles is usually the noir scene that comes to mind probably because of Chandler's Marlowe as well James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential quartet, and Walter Mosley's East Rawlins even though one of the best noir characters, Sam Spade, had his office in San Francisco (shared briefly with the unfortunate Lew Archer) in The Maltese Falcon. That is the only Sam Spade novel that Dashiell Hammett wrote however. The hybrid science fiction noir coincided wonderfully in Phillip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep but even in the film version of Blade Runner they moved the setting from San Fran to L.A. I never understood why. San Francisco is perfectly insular for a noir setting. More recent takes on this blend include Jonathan Lethem's Gun, With Occasional Music and Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs series starting with Altered Carbon. I would have liked to go see the film festival and see some of the rare films scheduled on a decent screen. Nothing better than, to borrow the words of Chandler, when the plot flags to bring in a guy with a gun. Even if he lifted it from Chekov.