The bad news is that I have four things due tomorrow in the AM; the good news is that each is 78% completed. The bad news is that each is 78% completed. It’s that last bit of buffing-and-polishing that grinds the brain. Good thing all I have to do here is annotate some screen grabs. The real long biatching comes tomorrow. But it’ll be merry!
A grand day; wrote in the sunshine. Picked up (G)Nat from afternoon classes and went to Lunds to get shaved meat – she traded lunch the other day and is now sold on Turkey as the mid-day mainstay, so we sampled many varieties before settling on one infused with Ov’n Roasted Flavor™. Lunds had a sale – buy one pound, get another pound free. This is like Tiffany’s having a two-for sale on diamond anklets. They’re feeling the hot breath of the competition in a down market, and I don’t think it will do them any good – no one goes there for sales. People go to Lunds, as noted before, to have their class identity subtly reinforced. There’s an Aldi’s next door, and I used to think Lunds put it there to boost their own sales: aren’t you glad you’re not shopping there? Where you have to pay for carts? Where there’s not a recognizable brand in the entire store? I mean, Hant’s Ketchup? Irving Raddenbecker’s Popcorn? Come here and feel at home; let our markups and well-greased cart-wheels and the understated, expensive, tasteful footwear of the other shoppers let you know you are among friends.
I love Lunds, but my subconscious mental abacus has moved the cost of shopping there over to the GAS TANK portion of the weekly fiscal experience. Even if I get a free pound of turkey. Especially if I get a free pound. A buck off turkey is fine; a free pound makes me suspicious.
I bought a book, which I hadn’t planned to do, but having finished the book on the Great Depression (which produced a desire to learn less about FDR and more about Wilkie) I needed something for the 7:15 - 7:55 PM outdoor reading period. Picked up “Stalin’s Ghost,” by Martin Cruz Smith – an Arkady Renko story. I’ve been reading those since the early 80s, back when Renko was a Man of Principle working for the Sovs, and we Russophiles ate up “Gorky Park.” If Hitler had won WW2, people would have read books about good Nazis in the 70s, I think; after Hitler died in ‘72 and the Third Reich passed into the hands of someone else – Raul Hitler, perhaps – there would have been a period in the 80s when historians reappraised the regime and found the positive elements, what with the roads and literacy and all. Right about now Germany would be going through a period of Hitler Kitsch. His picture on juice bottles and cellphone wallpaper.
Robert Harris wrote an excellent novel about a murder investigation in Hitler Germany in the 60s – an alternate future novel – and I remember one chilling offhand observation about a world in which the Nazis had prevailed: no one had heard anything much out of Africa for years.
Cruz Smith is good. The opening lines of the book hit me where I live: “It was two in the morning, an hour that was both early and late. Two a.m. was a world to itself.” I know two AM very well; we’re old friends. One AM is for amateurs; three AM is the stoop of hell. If there’s any time in which you can imagine discovering a short flight of stairs that go down to a red door that leads to all the bad things you dreamed about, it’s three AM. But two AM is the deep breath, the place between then and next. It’s the new midnight.
Anyway. Put the book in the cart next to the turkey and the Frosty Paws and the juice. Went home; (G)Nat read her book while I plowed through boxes – the Karma Restoration Project is now 53% complete – then it was the late-day smear of nap / supper / dog-walk leading to 7 PM: wife and child go to the park, and I start the second shift. Started the four pieces. Which I must now finish, because I want to watch “Mad Men” and don’t want to be up past two. Sleeping at two is one thing; after that, the shadows grow cold.
This week’s Noir is a merry little number with an odd, amateurish title:
I suppose it was amateurish; the director, Allen Baron, hadn’t done a movie before. He was an artist – drew comic books, among other things – and decided to write and direct a movie. Got this guy named “Peter Falk” to appear in it, but he had to back out – so the writer-director played the lead. An all-in-one number, then. This shot should tell you if he had the chops:
Chops, he had them. The plot’s simple – hitman comes to New York to do a job, does the job, encounters a few problems along the way. It has a look inevitably described as “gritty,” and not just because of the film stock; like a lot of cheap movies of the era, it feels spare and poor and shabby with art poking in whenever possible, whenever the light was right or the location yielded unexpected potential. The writer/director was spare and grim as the hitman, but what made the film work were two things: a narration, spoken “Whistler” style, a comment on his life and thoughts rattled off in a wiseguy voice. Not an internal monlogue – it addressed the antihero as “you” throughout. Two: New York c. 1960.
Penn Station, RIP. You can’t go wrong with sets like those. The best sequences showed the killer stalking his target to aquaint himself with the victim’s habits, and this meant driving around New York shooting from a car. This scene made me wish for more –
It’s the long-lost Kress store on Fifth avenue, which was something to behold. But most of the shots were in Harlem – 125th and 7th avenue, according to the reverential featurette.
It must have been obvious they were shooting, because everyone looked at the camera:
This had the effect of giving the scenes a sad, unsettling power – the people on the street seem to be looking at us as if they know we have something hidden in our hearts. Which is a fair assumption, of course/
Frame by frame, it’s just fascinating, and ended up, like so many noirs, as an inadvertent urban documentary.
This caught my eye:
That’s one of the distinctive Lerner shops. There was one on 34th; there was one in Minneapolis. And elsewhere, to understate the case.
Let’s hop into the Googlemobile, and see what it looks like now. Well: still there.
A few years ago a German film crew came over to shoot a doc on the writer/director and visit the locations of the movie, putting him in the same places (more or less) he visited in the movie.
He looks like an old Robin Williams in that shot, but it's not a good one; in the doc he looks like Scorcese's rougher brother. But a nice guy. Now a painter living in Beverly Hills.
Pretty cool stuff. It’s a B-movie, and while the foreign press at the time hailed him as a new Orson Welles, it’s not quite Citizen Kane material. As a lesson in shooting a tale on a tiny budget, it’s instructive, and from the opening shot you know you’re in the hands of some smart people.
New Comic book cover. See you right now at buzz.mn, with the tragic tale of John Dillon!