Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Soon, soon.

Passed a truck yesterday marked "animal-grade molasses."

This isn't the time to try to explain my father's younger (by 20 years) brother, but the strangest moment of my family's Easter Sunday came when I realized he was playing Dylan's "I Want You" on our piano as I was hiding out in my old room, stuffed with ham and chocolate (not the room), reading Barry Malzberg. (Earlier, I had attempted a stride "Peter Cottontail" earlier, and of course "Easter Parade," before moving on to various non-seasonal songs from the various fakebooks I grew up with, e.g. "Waterloo" and "Save The Bones for Henry Jones.")

Changing seats in the Egyptian last Saturday, after a lengthy Q & A with screenwriter Stanley Rubin (wrote the first draft of Sternberg/Ray's Macao, which I skipped b/c I forgot Gloria Graeme was in it), caught the tail end of a morbidly obese man's attempt to engage Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman in conversation. "Nice to see you, Irma," he called as they left, before correcting and cursing himself. I was seated by then, and he lamented to me that he wasn't going to get back from the bathroom before the next feature, that being:

Decoy (1947) -- buried and starpowerless Warner Bros. B-grade nastiness, with a pleasingly excessive central performance by Brit actress Jean Gillie (laughs in a cop's face on her deathbed, moments after she asked to be kissed before she passes to the next world), and an SF-noir premise involving the resurrection (and subsequent re-murder) of an executed thug, for the sake of a map to his loot.

I have to say, over the course of this year's noirfest, I was confirmed in my preference for the cheapos, even when they're not much cinematographically, to over lusher numbers like Fallen Angel, which is no Laura, and may have the only David Raskin music I've ever disliked. The sort of movie where even plain blank office walls have a sfumato look. The 'twist' (it's the cop!) is visible miles away, but the performance isn't nearly as unsettling as Regis Toomey's at essentially the same plot-vertex in the much more obviously contrived I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes, which I also found vastly more entertaining.

This isn't to say I'm blind to the visual pleasures of the Anthony Mann-John Alton machine -- Raw Deal is sort of interesting for making Claire Trevor the real emotional focus (it's possible that her voiceovers were a late addition to move it towards "woman's picture"), but more so for imagery. There's one shot with Trevor, veiled, in profile plus a clock like a moon that's the equal of Shanghai Express. As for T-Men, yes, there's the kind of action-direction that Farber championed (less unequivocally later), but I saw it again for the Dragnet quality of the semi-doc narration. Most redundant voiceover in history: "The agents hoped their plan would work." And someone-must-have-known dialogue:

(Actual government official, near top of film): "These are the six fingers of the Treasury Department."

(Undercover T-man, to fellow agents): "Have you ever spent a week in a Turkish bath looking for a man?"

It should become clear in the next 24 hours whether my EMP talk will actually make a discernable point, or merely string together some (I think undeniably interesting) factoids that aren't generally known. Hey, Jerry Lieber telling a story about Marlene Dietrich is better than nothing.

I do expect to be back in this space more often in the weeks to come, though likely not daily; what my committee members expect of me before signing off is fairly cut-and-dried, and quite reasonable. Real work, but not nail-biting madness. (I've done about 2/3 of my chair's revisions already.) Was hoping, as of January, to have filed before going to Seattle; no go, I'm still 2 or 3 weeks out, still close enough to drink to it w/ people I may not see again for months, right?

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