Sunday, February 1, 2009

Reflections en noir

Maybe it's that I've been corresponding with an writer of "noir" crime novels or maybe it's thinking of the view from my friend David's workshop window on Sunset. The kind of window that Phillip Marlowe wood peer out of, cigarette smoke between he and the views. If there was color it was undersaturated. Muted and moody. What Marlowe would see was a hell of a lot different than what David sees.

Los Angeles is as much a character in hardboiled fiction as the bad guys... and Marlowe.

But then there is that French Twist on noir. Alphaville. Eddie Constantine spewing grim gibberish or, more aptly Euro-Existentialism.

From the back of a cab...

Driver: Which way? Through the North Zone, or the South?

Johnson: What’s the difference?

Driver: There’s snow in the North...

...and sun in the South

Johnson: Anyway, it’s my Journey to the End of the Night

It was my first night in Alphaville...

...but it seemed to me that centuries had passed

Earlier, Johnson (Eddie Constantine) asks if Dick Tracy is dead. What about Guy LeClair?

Guy LeClair is Flash Gordon in France. And Alphaville, directed by Jean Luc-Godard is both a film of its time and a work of art for the ages. In what other work of art does an intergallactic private eye quote Franz Fanon? If you said The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, you'd be close. Actually, Nick Belaine, in Bukowski's classic "Pulp" is on the trail of CĂ©line-- closer, and replete with the level, if not the style, of humor in Alphaville. The humor in Alphaville is multilayered-- at once both slapstick absurd and dark, dark, dark. I suppose before I wax on further, I should see it again. A few years ago, I rented Putney Swope. I hadn't seen it since it first came out. It doesn't hold up, but perhaps now that we have an African-American president, it may resonate a bit more.

But I digress...


Davaudian said...

Hey, you picked on my "film noir" and ran with it. Alphaville, which I haven't seen, and all things noir seem to play to us boomers just as the comics played to the depression era folks. Black and white get's past the superficial somehow. Just like watching Tarzan. Very heady stuff. I do love the Marlowe/Bogey/ slant on life. The Putney Swope movie must have been the #1 influence for Mel to do Blazing Saddles where I get about 80% of my lines here. I don't know if you pick up on it all, most blogs don't, but if I'm not playing devil's advocate or Grouchoing, then I'm doing Mel. Putney doesn't hold up because of the voice dub, but Mel, just kicks ass on a black president...oh yeah. The Greatest Jew in my opinion....and, there's Albert (Brooks)....Ha, cracks me up too. Modern Problems was just on...what a dolt.

barryshap said...

I'm not sure of Putney Swope's influence on Mel Brooks. Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Sielnt Movie... even the marginal Spaceballs, all set it out mock the movies, from the classic westerns, to horror movies and Star Wars. You know Robert Downey Sr. directed Putney Swope (and dubbed some of the dialogue). As to the greatest Jew... well, Mel is certainly right up there, with Dr. Ehrlich and the magic bullet, oh and Einstein. And maybe, Sammy Davis Jr. Oh, and Lenny Bruce. Uh, Mark Knopfler. And Paul Krugman. Yeah, Albert Brooks, too.

Noir... I'll get back to it.

Davaudian said...

Mel Brooks did a cameo in Putney Swope. I think Mel influenced Downey. Check the credits. I'm sure they smoked a ton of reefer and came up with it all together. I loved Spaceballs, High Anxiety, et al....classic Mel Brooks. You do know that Richard Pryor was to play the black sheriff after his writing contributions, but his unstable life and career made them choose Cleavon Little.....nope, Mel is the greatest Jew of all.