Date: 22 Aug 2003


Re your comments below:
> Deconstruction does not mean the genre no longer has
> an audience. It's
> just a stage of evolution. Genres evolve or they
> die.

As far as Altman was concerned, it meant that it SHOULDN'T have an audience.

And it's not a question of whether or not genres evolve. It's a question of whether they maintain their audience. Genres maintain their audience or they die.
> And I'd claim at least two of the movies you name
> fall within the
> evolution of the genre -- Shaft and Chinatown. As a
> matter of fact,
> John Cawelti uses the latter to explore the notion
> in his article,
> Chinatown and Generic Transformation. Furthermore,
> while it may ave
> been the most extreme, Altman's Long Goodbye was not
> an anomaly in its
> approach. There were numerous other films that were
> questioning the
> genre, one of the best of which was Night Moves.

They weren't questioning the genre. They were telling straightforward genre stories. That the characters may have been more complex, or different from what had gone before, may or may not have been to their credit.
 But it wasn't those filmmakers' intentions to trash the genre by trashing one of its most revered practitioners.
> A good case could be made for Parker's engaging in
> generic
> transformation. Parker is well aware of the genre,
> but he is equally
> aware of the changes he has made to it, not the
> least of which are the
> split of the hero into Spenser and Hawk and the
> exploration of the hero
> in a monogamous relationship (yes, there were
> precedents, but he made it
> a new standard). Crime lit paralleled the film
> transformations.
> Hansen, Paretsky, Grafton, Lewin, Valin, Crumley,
> Pelecanos, Schutz,
> etc, were all questioning the nature and limits of
> the genre and in the
> process renewed it, making it vital to a whole new
> generation. None of
> these characters was Chandler's Marlowe; some were
> damn close to Gould's
> Marlowe.

They weren't questioning the genre. They were telling stories within the framework of the genre that reflected their own individual personalities. That's different from what Altman was doing in TLG.
> I'd also place Harry O in the field of generic
> transformation. How is
> Harry O any less a loser than Altman's Marlowe?

Harry O knows enough to charge more than $50 a day plus expenses for his services. Harry O is actually a good detective. Harry O has the respect and friendship of colleagues in official law enforcement. Harry O, being a disabled policeman who was crippled in the line of duty, is regarded as a hero by society.
 Harry O is attractive to members of the opposite sex.
 Harry O is a property owner. Harry O, being a retired policeman, has a pension that is sufficient to support him; as a consequence any PI income is gravy and he is free to pick and choose his cases. Harry O has enough intestinal fortitude to keep on keeping on despite his physical disability and the loss of a profession he loved.

That's off the top of my head.
> It's not enough that
> you don't like the
> film and are sorry you ever saw it. You think it
> never should have been
> made and that no one else should ever see it,
> either.

I've already said that I think what Altman did to TLG was ethically wrong. In fact, that, and not TLG's merits or lack of them, was what I originally weighed in on. It must follow that, if I think an act is wrong, I must think that it would be better if that act had not been committed.

Now if you disagree that a filmmaker has some ethical responsiblity to the source material he is adapting to the film medium, fine, we can discuss that. But thinking that an act that I believe was wrong shouldn't have been committed in the first place doesn't make me an intolerant curmudgeon.

> Don't you even
> allow for the possibility that some others might
> legitimately value
> things you don't, that as Jay McInnerny wrote,
> Taste, after all, is a
> matter of taste?

I allow for the possiblity that people may enjoy things I don't. You seem to object to my having strong opinions, and when I am unswayed from those opinions by your arguments, you pronounce me dogmatic.
 Your main problem here seems to be that I find no value in TLG, while you do.

I'm not dogmatic, but I AM emphatic. Why does that bother you? If you like TLG so damned much, why should it matter to you that I don't? And if I choose to say so, and say so emphatically, why should you care? If you're secure in your own opinons and likes and dislikes, why should you work so hard to change mine?

> Of course, you have always tended
> to be dogmatic in
> terms of definition.

What I've been, as I said, is emphatic. Unnuanced opinion really seems to bother you. Feel free to disagree, but don't get so upset if you fail to change my mind.

> Once a genre has gelled, that
> is what it must
> remain. You have always refused to recognize the
> possiblity of generic transformtion . . .

I've never said anything like that. The definition I've suggested for hard-boiled, that is "tough and colloquial," (and by the way, I wasn't the first to use that phrase on this list), is expansive enough to allow for a wide variety of characters, plots, settings, and approaches. What is there in "tough and colloquial" that fails to allow for "generic transformation."

> -- witness the film noir argument.
> What I call
> evolution, what Cawelti calls transformation, you
> pronounce "other,"
> something completely different because it no longer
> falls within the
> tunnel vision of your definition of genre.

What I said was that film noir wasn't a genre at all. It was a STYLE that was used to tell stories in a variety of crime sub-genres. Anything outside of that style IS "other." I never said that anything that was
"other" wasn't worthwhile (as you seem to be implying). But whether I'm right or wrong, what difference does it make? If you enjoy the films that you call "evolved noir," and Cawelti calls
"transformed noir," why should it matter to you that I call them "other?"
> So would Altman's film have been okay if he had
> changed the title and
> the characters' names? Are you offended by the
> messing with Chandler or
> the messing with the genre? Or both? Can you
> separate the two? I'd
> say not only can they be separate, but they must be.

I'm offended by both. I'm offended by his contempt for the genre, by his using Chandler as a vehicle to express that contempt, and by the fact that the final product, in any case, wasn't particularly entertaining anyway.

> Chandler was
> great, still is, but he was of his time. If someone
> like Pierre Menard
> tried to rewrite Chandler today, it would not read
> the same. Just as
> the mean streets change, so must the man or woman
> who walks down them.
> I, for one, prefer a genre that evolves and
> interacts with its own time
> to one that becomes marginalized as nothing more
> than nostalgia.

I've never said that crime fiction, of any sub-genre, shouldn't interact with its time. I've never said all crime fiction, whether hard-boiled or not, should retain a Depression-era world-view. I've never said that no one's written anything worthwhile since Chandler. I've never even IMPLIED any of that. And I'm at a loss to understand where you could have drawn that inference.

All I said, when this discussion began, regarding the question of how much artistic license a filmmaker has when adapting a prose work to film is that there was an ethical responsibility to be faithful to the source material. You yourself said that Altman wasn't.

If you disagree with that assertion, well and good. But my thinking that a filmmaker has a responsibilty to the source material he's adapting does not translate into an inability to abide any crime fiction produced in any medium since 1953.


__________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! SiteBuilder - Free, easy-to-use web site design software

# Plain ASCII text only, please.  Anything else won't show up.
# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
#  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 22 Aug 2003 EDT