like pulpy noir a lot. Probably more than I like Tang and peppermint
schnaps. For a while, all I read was Raymond Chandler and James
M. Cain. Well, besides Art Chick tracts, that is. Cain and Chandler
are pretty fucking great, and I'd give the nod to Chandler as
my favorite. There are others that can be pretty good, like Dashiell
Hammett's The Maltese Falcon and some Jim Thompson stuff.
And then there is a lot of really bad stuff. Either too fancy,
or tryin gtoo hard to be noir, or being too religiously faithful
to some perceived noir code that doesn't really exist.
point is this: noir is like a fat dude dressed up as a woman.
Done by the right guy, it's hot. Done by the wrong guy, it's an
awkward, embarrassing moment of desperation. Some tubby men just
naturally have it. Some writers do too. Some fat guys wish they
did, but never will. Same with writers. The harder they try, the
more labored and pathetic their attempts are. For cross-dressers:
if you can't successfully tuck your balls in, plump up your manboobies
into shapely approximations of breasts and endure a bikini wax,
forget it. For writers, well, I don't know the equivalent, but
I'm pretty sure it's not ball tucking. Well, hell, I don't know
that for sure, so...here...I'll write the rest of this with my
nuts stuffed between my legs. Let's see if it makes a difference.
understand the allure of noir. It'd be pretty damn cool to sound
as tough and stylish as Chandler. He's the sort of guy I'd want
to have a drink or ten with, except with a barstool separating
us in case he starts swinging. But, like dressing as a woman,
sheer desire does not make you good at it.
History of Violence, a pulp noir adapted from a very long
comic book, is littered with the sort of lousy dialog found in
bad ripoffs. It owes a lot to the pulp art of Raymond Pettibone.
Some may call it homage to cull bits and pieces from what's come
before. But if that were homage, Frankenstein's monster would
have been an homage instead of a fucking freak. It's got the one-dimensional
villains and a good guy with a secret, troubled past. It's got
macho posturing and a conflicted hero who must use the violence
he's tried to overcome to fight his enemies. It also has plot
logic nearly as goofy as the dead man off the pier in the Big
Sleep. Yet, it's not a bad movie. It's well made, understated
in every sense other than spoken words, and the theme under the
bad noir is interesting.
Mortensen is Tom Stall, a diner owner in a ridiculously bucolic
small Indiana town. He seems to have what Hollywood grassfuckers
think is the perfect life: a happy middle-class house, a wife
who likes to sixty-nine (yes, that's right), two loving kids and
a beat up pickup truck. Everything is hunky dory until two nomad
killers try to rob the diner and Mortensen shoots them both. He
becomes a national hero with his picture splashed across the news
news attracts bad guys from Pennsylvania, who want to speak to
Tom, and tell anyone who will listen that he is not this quiet
family man. They say he's a stone-cold killer for the mob from
way back. Mortensen denies it, but these villains, led by Ed Harris
act pretty certain. And cartoonishly evil.
and his sidekicks drive around town in a big black Chrysler, menacingly
peeking out windows, slowly rolling by the family house and kidnapping
children. Eventually, Mortensen must come clean, admit to his
past and resolve it with the violence he claims to abhor but that
he quickly adapts to. A History of Violence gets plenty
bloody in the second half, but director David Cronenberg mostly
keeps it from being gratuitous. That is, as opposed to the shot
of Maria Bello flashing her pubes under an open bathrobe. That's
the good kind of gratuitous.
return to violence is almost inevitable. As much as he tries to
avoid it, it's in his DNA. I think Cronenberg is trying to say
it's a part of all our DNA because of the times we live in. That's
a bullshit theory, and one easily embraced by saps and old people
who like to bitch about how much better things a) were back then
b) are in Europe c) are without guns. I live in just as violent
world as Cronenberg (probably more because he's a Canadian, and
they're pussies), but I truly do abhor violence. Whenever I sense
an impending beating at the hands of drunk teens at the Dairy
Queen, I prove it by hiding in the dumpster. Anyway, I don't agree
with the "world-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket" premise that
our society is so violent it begets more violence, but at least
it's subversively proposed.
far the strongest part of A History of Violence is how
restrained Cronenberg is in telling a story made from recycled
bits of other noir stories. He knows the story isn't particularly
clever and he doesn't make it flashy. He only employs it to make
his point. The problem, though, is that despite a strong point
made eloquently, the characters are uninteresting; like a good-hearted
small-town sheriff, a bad guy with a freaky eye, and William Hurt
in a cameo of powerfully concentrated scene-chewing. Seriously,
that guy's performance is like one of those astronaut meals where
you get a whole ten-pound ham in a caplet. He's gotten fat, too.
But I doubt he'd make a pretty girl..
Fingers for A History of Violence. Holy shit, do my
Want to tell Filthy Something?