Out of The Past: Farewell, My Lovely (1975)

 

FML6 copyI have concluded that reading Raymond Chandler at an impressionable age has contributed the most to my further life choices, be it ‘literature’, movies, terse sentences and of course typing in the ‘courier new’ font.

Chandler started writing when the oil industry crashed and he had nothing much left to do, his creation reflects himself; being weary is his core competence.

If I could go back and play the irritating game invented for social engagement, ‘describe your creation in just one word’, Chandler would have said “tired”. If he was kind, he would add, “I’m tired. Enough!” As always breaking the rules.

So when there is a delay in our usual blog posts, it is probably because we are generally tired. Tired of ourselves, tired of the world, tired and yet careful not to add the growing empty mass that is film writing.  Readers must be thankful in that case.

We forgot to add one word to the above: growing boring empty mass that is film writing.

Boring.

 

 “You’re a very good-looking man to be in this kinda business”

Enter Robert Mitchum

Marlowe is supposed to be in his mid-thirties in the works, curiously but not unnatural the best portrayals of the private eye has come from very old ‘has-seen-it-all’ men.

Bogart was in his forties and Robert Mitchum almost touching sixty, it’s that kind of a role. It requires that kind of experience, it is the ‘hamlet’ of all detective roles, no I’m not joking. A sequel to the Big Sleep was called ‘Perchance to Dream’ which is from the famous of all famous soliloquies.

People and war have made our hero tired, and out of this tiredness comes sparkling wisdom.

Why does Marlowe still do it?

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For the much quoted “25 dollars a day plus expenses?”

Nah, Marlowe doesn’t snoop around for money, but he doesn’t evoke moral mightiness too, he certainly doesn’t identify with a cause or putting criminal behind bars. Thankfully he is not insufferable with his ‘genius’ and actually very funny, like a real person.

I guess he just likes looking at people and what they do.

Looking brings us to Robert Mitchum, in many ways the spiritual remnant of Bogart’s distant masculinity, but looking at Mitchum’s eyes we know that this present sadness had once seen sparkle, that alone makes me feel that Mitchum is truer as Marlowe.

Marlowe watches because he knows that deep down all the depravity there is some tenderness, that’s all he looks for in a client, not money, not name, not fame. And he will do anything to look at that tiny true part of yourself.

Evil doesn’t startle him as much as innocence and goodness

People first, plot go to hell

 

For Chandler, the plot was secondary, the characters weren’t, he would never describe anyone unfairly nor would he puncture them for the sake of plot.

An open opponent of this whole locked room plotting business made him see people as people and not as clues or alibi to get going to the next page.

Marlowe is the same wise-ass to the police as he is to the crooks. An ending in a Chandler story is not its logical conclusion or hurrah for its hero, but the acceptance of reality.

The thread of Farewell My Lovely the film is very simple and it follows the book closely, just out of jail thug Moose Malloy wants to get his girl back. Will Marlowe do it or not?

And the hits keep on coming

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Marlowe is always narrating his tale, when we meet him he is just out of a case, naturally tired; Mitchum looks like he just wants to go home but cannot when confronted by his innocent of a thug client.

Within moments Marlowe becomes the centre-piece of a worm caught in a web, and all he does is just give a sideward glance.

Very easy to be dismissed as non-acting, especially in the age that we live in (as in the golden age of non-acting); but I think tiredness is difficult to bring out as an emotion without being dramatic.

Mitchum gets hit on the head, shot at, danced with, seduced by, but all through the film but he plays it like a detective who knows the ending every single time, people will be people.

I don’t really care about the twist in the end

There is a twist in the end, but the film (naturally the novel) is not moving towards it a big reveal way, for fans of detective fiction and crime thrillers this could prove dampening.

Many things happen and so does a twist.

Detection truly could be one of the most boring jobs if not for the humongous amounts of exciting literature written about it.

<pause for reflection>

Maybe all jobs are boring or it is the nature of them to become boring. But somehow Marlowe and hence Mitchum(because of his ability to understand the character) seem to have cracked it.

This detective is a seeker of the intangible, something remote and indescribable as human kindness, that is his spiritual quest, something not even the thighs of a femme fatale or the muzzle of a gun could distract him from.

Hamlet of the detective class, indeed.

That’s an admirable state to be in and this is an admirable movie.

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Out of the past is our series on movies that are anything but current,new,fresh etc; we find the idea of film writing just for the sake of a movie release distressing and also it demeans the timelessness of film itself. Mad or what, we won’t be reviewing old films,just writing about them.

 

 

 

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La La Land

la-la-land-pic-2048x1152Having seen hundreds of films in which actors routinely break into song for no reason, the musical is a genre something I could slip right into, only that in La La Land there is always some reason for the music.

La La Land operates in multiple dualities, the real city and the virtual city, the earth and the stars, the famous and those without a face, the past and the present, and more importantly how dreams push reality and how ruthlessly dreams are pushed back by this reality.

Yes and all this is told through the lives of two.

Mia and Seb.

The film keeps religiously hinting at the co-existence of real and dream states, where even a phone ringtone brings you back to drab daily life and the sight of an old movie theatre could push the leads into the clouds.

Not falling into the trap of grandness, Damien Chazelle shows meditative concentration on his leads, shot in the ultimate film maker’s wet dream of a format: cinemascope, when the screen is filled with Emma Stone’s crystal green eyes or Ryan Gosling’s timely nod, even the best of nature’s landscape would concede defeat.

I wouldn’t want to limit La La Land as a love story of two struggling artists in a big city, but it does brilliantly work solely as a love story, beyond the romance, has there been any film that uses the yearning for the past and aspirations to come and yet stay contemporary? Questions are a plenty and these gently push the film along, without being conscious and feeling self important about handing these questions.

La La Land is a film that flushes out all emotions, moments to cry into crumpled hankies are interrupted with moments to beam with happiness at what La La Land throws at us, but not for a moment it looks constructed or organised.

La la land doesn’t want to be brilliant, but it cannot help itself from being so.

Great films aren’t necessarily great because they utilize the finest of techniques or technicians, it is great because of their ability to bring out emotions that other great films too invariably bring out, something like a Casablanca, something like a Sagara Sangamam.

Maybe it is a mixture of all that.

A complete film which takes all from Old Hollywood but yet comes out as its own, the flourishes of which will be enjoyed for years.

To all those quick to use the phrase “they dont make them like that any more”,

they just did.

 

PS : It is only providence that I got to see a film divided into parts namely winter, spring, summer , fall and winter again in a theatre called seasons.

THE ONE MOVIE NARENDRA MODI SHOULD BE WATCHING RIGHT NOW: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Movie Musings #2

The One movie that Narendra Modi/ Arvind Kejriwal/ Rahul Gandhi should watch. In fact entire parliament.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

“Triumph of Innocence”

Just like that, this movie begins with the death of a senator, no introductions no set up, no nothing. Even the main character Jefferson Smith is introduced without any fanfare, although this happens in a banquet. So Jefferson Smith, honest well meaning ranger is picked to be the stooge who would go to Washington and how he faces the big bad political world completes the story in gist.

James Stewart is terrific as Jefferson Smith, must have been the representative American face of the thirties (this movie came out in 1939), Terrific because it is really hard to tell when if an actor is innocent or faking it. For a film to be relevant eighty years after release is no mere statement, it is only possible if it is based on the most fundamental human feelings, like on how hard it is to be honest.

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Capra’s film can be compared in a way to Shankar’s Mudhalvan/Nayak, but the latter fails while trying to create a larger than life image for its hero, here Jefferson Smith remains the same old nature loving ranger even after accomplishing greater deeds and the tenets of American spirit: Liberty and Pride take precedence. These abstract things make more impact than a million songs or punch dialogues.

Repartee and evocative dialogue delivery, painting like faces that is even more enhanced by black and white, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a truly inspiring film that somehow makes you suspend cynical thoughts on governmental change for 120 odd minutes and support Jefferson Smith in his fight against the big bad world. Nail biting and how relevant even now!

(Also child labor)

The film is not without its minor irritations like the line, “despite being a woman”, but I guess it is reflective of the time. Capra’s films later fell into the view that they are too simplistic and practice hallway idealism and immersed in rhetoric, which is exactly why Narendra Modi should see this movie, maybe as requested in-flight entertainment, this is simply because of the fact that some things never change, like introducing a bill in the house still remains a tough job.

Also not fall prey to heavy handed industrialists who dictate how a country should be run, yes that would be a takeaway. But it is mainly about how important innocence is, and how powerful it can be at unlikely times.

Do watch it PM Modi, I’m sure it is worth your time. It is also about a guy who comes to the capital from a far flung city from a humble background, I’m sure you will relate to it; big time.

But like all good films, this also almost entirely belongs to the eyes of the heroine, Jean Arthur.

And it simply ends, just like that, no flourish and all. Nothing.
(Cry)

Also this could teach you how to hold the floor of the house and secure class participation scores.

True Classic. Level MAX.