Saturday, June 4, 2016

Dinner and a show

* Most of us aren't going to go swimming anywhere near where sharks do the same. Part of that is our fear of being killed and eaten, which is understandable but not really reasonable: they're not really going to attack a human in ordinary circumstances. A better reason is that we simply don't go out to those depths, that far from land. If you see a shark, the chief danger to you is drowning. So it's ncie to be able to feast your eyes via photography and the intertubes, in case you never get to in person. They're some stunning creatures.

* I did watch Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye last night, as I've been meaning to lately. And one thing I hadn't known before was that Leigh Brackett had written the script. Making this her second Raymond Chandler/Philip Marlowe adaptation, since she'd scripted the Bogey Bacall Big Sleep back in '45. Not a bad record.

Just coming into his own as a director, Altman takes on a different kind of material with pretty rewarding results. Elliott Gould must have seemed like an unlikely gumshoe, best known as he was - and remains - as a kvetching comic actor. But Marlowe is a human scale character, and Gould nails him. Also cast against type is Laugh-In's Henry Gibson as a creepy rehab doctor.

Maybe the most interesting aspect is the way noir claustrophobia is turned inside out, imbuing a sense of agoraphobia. Marlowe isn't confined to dark alleys, he's out in the open air of sunny Southern California. For that very reason he seems vulnerable to attack from any direction. The restless camera sometimes seems about to flee in terror.


susan said...

Steven Spielberg definitely has a lot to answer for - if the movie had been about humans it would have been considered hate propaganda. Then again, since it's mostly carelessness and stupidity that's killed so many sharks we can only hope that people are generally getting smarter about their natural place in the world.

We watched the Altman version of The Long Goodbye a few years ago; I distinctly remembered him trying to fool his cat in the opening scene by putting cheap food into the fancy can. I don't know if you'd be interested in reading Roger Ebert's thoughts about the film but I'll add a link just in case - I thought his idea that Gould represented a 'Rip van Marlowe' character who had been transferred to 1973 LA from Chandler's 1953 city. It makes a lot of sense.

I read the Philip Marlowe novels again just last winter and liked this one best. The Long Goodbye isn't just a mystery novel, it's a great piece of literature about friendship, love and betrayal. Chandler is the ultimate dialogue writer and he has a truly impressive grasp of human behaviour.

Ben said...

Peter Benchley, who wrote the book, later expressed regret that some people had taken it and the movie as an excuse to go out shark hunting, I guess in a get-'em-before-they-get-you kind of action. I haven't read the book, although I've seen most of the movie. In his and Spielberg's defense, they seemed pretty clear on telling a story about extreme circumstances, not something you should generalize from. In any case, Australia's actions to protect the Great Barrier Reefs do provide some hope vis-a-vis our place in the world.

The scenes with the cat is great. The cat doesn't last long in the movie but qualifies as a one scene wonder. This also gets Marlow talking to himself, which does quite well in place of the perhaps-expected voice over. Ebert was a great writer on movies, as he proves again in this review. Not every time, maybe, but there was a lot more to his thinking than you might guess from just the TV shows. (Although he and Gene obviously enjoyed each other's company.)

It's been a long time since I read Chandler. I may start again soon. I do remember some sharp descriptions of Southern California.