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.

8 comments:

scruffylooking said...

Oh, the San Francisco theaters - The Roxie, the Castro and the urine soaked Strand theater.
Did you live there when the Strand was still around?

I hear they're making a movie out of Black Dahlia. Have you heard any of the buzz on that?

Dexter said...

I remember the Lumiere as we affectionately called it 'art fag' theatre. They built a brand new multi-plex close to us on Geary. Small one on California where i saw Down By Law but can't recall the name. Castro yes i think that was one that had a smoking section. amd the Red Vic with the b&B on haight....drawing a blank on rest...being underage we went to a lot of movies.

Red State Librarian said...

I loved The Strand! Great inexpensive double features almost every night. Caught the Geary bus and cut through the wild 'n wooly Tenderloin to get there. Smoking section in the balcony. Too bad it's now closed. Read all about it's ignoble demise at the link below.

http://cinematreasures.org/theater/5741/

scruffylooking said...

Yeah, there was sometimes more drama in the seats of The Strand than on the screen. I lived in The Mission so I went to The Roxie a lot.

Dexter said...

If the Strand was the smoking balcony I must have gone but i can not remember to see what. I must do something to removed the pedantic arch from the tone of postings. they dont sound quite right when rereading them.

Grams said...

I remember seeing a very profane movie at our local theater here in Niantic when Gertrude and I got up to walk out there were two fat bufoons laughing so hard I asked the usher to get a mop. It's getting so a senior can't see a movie in a theater anymore.

Dexter said...

grams: shall we go back to Niantic when Clerks 2 comes out? I'll pass.

Anonymous said...

Hey, we may not have the best venue, but at the Bijou it's about the programming, and we care a great deal about the films we show. The Bijou has a rich tradition at the University of Iowa, and we hope it will continue for many years to come. The theater will also be moving into a new (and nicer) theater space about a year from now when the first phase of the IMU renovation is complete. So maybe then you'll appreciate it. The Bijou will also show three restored classics on the next calendar alone -- Masculine Feminine, The Passenger, and Elevator to the Gallows. Just $4 admission for the classics. Only $5 for new releases. A pretty damn good deal.