OF CRIME AND PASSION
Tuesday night, I started the script for Love the Way You Love volume 3, and after several weeks of only intermittently touching my own work, it felt really good. Those characters are like a comfortable pair of pants, and we understand just how we fit one another. It's certainly lightened my mood. Sunday and Monday were particularly bad days where I was ready to kill if someone dared to say the wrong thing to me. I feel like I am now back on track.
I daresay there is a little pressure to perform on this script, though, as the first two are so very good. I was reminded of how good in going over them to gear up for what had to come next.
My morning ritual for some time has been to get up and spend about an hour on the exercise bike. I use each session sometimes to catch up on the previous night's television, and I have watched all of my concert DVDs multiple times. A good disc can make the time fly by. The last couple of mornings, I haven't had any TV so I turned to this cheap-ass film noir collection I picked up last year. Previously, I had only watched the underwhelming print of the excellent Detour (1945) and the worth-the-price-of-admission transfer of Ida Lupino's classic The Hitch-Hiker (1953). I still had seven of the nine movies to go.
Wednesday I chose The Stranger (1946). I plan to spend as much time this weekend with the new The Complete Mr. Arkadin from Criterion, and I'd like to pack a little bit more Orson Welles around it. It's been years since I saw The Stranger, and I remember being lukewarm on it. Not so this time. I loved it. For all the virtuoso filmmaking, Welles held back when it came to characters. Both he and Edward G. Robinson give superb performances that take place largely under the surface. Both men are constantly thinking, their gears turning just like the ones in the big clock at the center of town that seems to be the hub for all of Welles' evil. The difference between the two men is that Robinson's detective merely needs to be told the time, whereas Welles' on-the-run Nazi needs a big explosion, a gotterdammering. Both get what they are after. The final confrontation in the clock tower rivals Welles' famous house-of-mirrors scene at the end of Lady from Shanghai for its impressionistic editing, the odd angles and dark shadows bringing forth the chaos and anxiety in a sick man's mind.
Today I watched a film that was entirely new to me, Quicksand (1950), starring Mickey Rooney and directed by Irvin Pichel (perhaps best known for The Most Dangerous Game). Rooney plays Dan Brady, an average schlub, a Navy vet who is now a mechanic. His main weakness is for the ladies, and like so many of us, he's a cad to the nice ones and only chases after the tarts. When he earns a date with the blonde bombshell at his local watering hole, he suddenly realizes he's in a bind: he's got no money to take her out. He borrows $20 from the cash register at work, and in order to replace it before he gets caught, he's forced to think of more drastic measures to get more cash. Each attempt to cover up the previous scheme leads him into a nastier one, until he is in that proverbial quicksand of the title. The movie rests entirely on Rooney's shoulders, and he's surprisingly up to the task. It's easy now to forget how natural he was onscreen, given how much he became a regular butt to jokes. You don’t ever think of him as Mickey Rooney or Andy Hardy or any of the other things he is known for: he is Dan Brady. He occupies the physical space of this character, jumping believably from foolish bravado to shame-faced comeuppance. Peter Lorre also has a role as one of the thorns in Rooney's side, but it's hard to tell whether the actor or the character has given up on life, the way he sleepwalks through it.
Sometimes the print for The Stranger was a little hazy, but it was generally clear, as was the sound. I've seen more expensive versions of this film hawked around (it's in the public domain), and the samples I've seen of those DVDs haven't been any better. Quicksand was actually nearly pristine, without many pops, cuts, or hisses at all. I'm thinking they pulled it from some kind of print for TV, as there were moments where the fades seemed pretty heavy, like we were going to a commercial.
In any case, this set is certainly value for the money. Even if the other five films are crap, you'd still have four welcome additions to any film noir collection.
Currently Reading: Love in the Time of Cholera by Garbriel Garcia Marquez, a gift from Jennifer de Guzman. Strangely, it opens by evoking a smell much in the same way as my comic script You Have Killed Me. Quel coincidence!
Current Soundtrack: Ocean Colour Scene, A Hyperactive Workout for the Flying Squad
Current Mood: refreshed
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich