“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Roses Are Red, Dahlias Are Blue

“If my books had been any worse, I should not have been invited to Hollywood, and if they had been any better, I should not have come.” So spaketh Ray Chandler (right), who wasn’t overly enamoured, to put it mildly, by his experience of working as a screenwriter in La-La Land. Still, the movies are crackers, and the Irish Film Institute in Dublin is hosting a mini-festival of Chandler-related flicks in September, which kicks off with Farewell, My Lovely (1944) on September 5 and includes The Big Sleep, The Blue Dahlia, Marlowe, Farewell, My Lovely (1975), The Long Goodbye and Double Indemnity.
  My favourite, I have to say (usually while ducking rotten fruit and eggs of a similar disposition), is The Long Goodbye, probably because if I was a private eye, I’d be closer in spirit to Elliott Gould’s Marlowe than Bogart’s, or even Dick Powell’s. But hey, imagine if Mitchum had played Marlowe thirty years earlier …
  Speaking of Sleepy Bob, I watched Out of the Past the other night, yet again – it’s almost 20 years since I wrote a college essay on Out of the Past as the quintessential, and damn near perfect, film noir. Maybe there’s more important noirs, tauter and darker noirs, more noir-ish noirs – but Out of the Past is noir in a nutshell, right down to its US title. Build My Gallows High is too melodramatic, regardless of what the novel was called.
  Anyway, here’s a quick take on The Long Goodbye’s transition from novel to movie:
“The realist in murder,” wrote Raymond Chandler (right) in 1950, “writes of a world in which gangsters can rule nations and almost rule cities . . . It is not a very fragrant world, but it is the world you live in, and certain writers with tough minds and a cool spirit of detachment can make very interesting and even amusing patterns out of it. It is not funny that a man should be killed, but it is sometimes funny that he should be killed for so little, and that his death should be the coin of what we call civilization.” Originally a man of action in taut, streamlined plots in novels such as The Big Sleep (1939) and Farewell, My Lovely (1940), The Long Goodbye (1953) finds PI Philip Marlowe ruminating at length on the relevance of his attitude and philosophy. Plot had never been Chandler’s strength but in The Long Goodbye the plot becomes a rambling, shambolic paean to the tattered grandeur of a man out of time, whose idiosyncratic sense of morality has outlived its usefulness and relevance …
  For the rest, clickety-click here

3 comments:

Donna said...

OUT OF THE PAST is also one of my favourite noirs too. I love it - it has everything, including one of the best femme fatales in Jane Greer.

Declan Burke said...

Jane Greer is terrific, Donna - although it's a pity about that name, Kathie Moffit. Not very glam for a femme fatale. Mind you, it's a hell of a lot sexier than Mumsie McGonigle ...

Cheers, Dec

seana said...

I saw that movie at the San Francisco film festival, probably in '73 or '74. I was a kid, so had nothing to compare it to, and I don't remember much about the plot, but I do vividly remember the mood and look of it. Not being a Chandler fan or even an Altman fan--really, not being much of anything--I simply watched it, and liked what little I understood.

I like Altman, though don't love him. It's good to see people who can break through a convention, whatever the ultimate assessment of them is--if there even is such a thing.