Re: RARA-AVIS: Recent viewings

Date: 11 Aug 2006

Karin wrote:

"I've seen a few films noir in recent months.
"First, Dassin's Du rififi chez les hommes (Rififi, 1955), based on Auguste Le Breton's novel of the same name. I really enjoyed it, but due to circumstances I missed the last half hour or so. I'll have to get it out again."

Yes, you must. You might also want to check out Melville's Le Cercle Rouge. Actually, everything I've seen by Melville (definitely including the recent US release of his film about the Resistance, blanking on the name right now) is well worth seeing. The French sure did make great caper films.

"According to imbd, a remake with Al Pacino is in the offing. (Do we really need it?)"

I'd answer, no. Makes me think of The Good Thief, the recent remake of Bob Le Flambeur. Actually, I kind of enjoyed that, if just for its perversity in being a caper film that focuses on the diversion instead of the caper itself.

"Next, Monicelli's Tutti i soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street, 1958). It's got classic film noir features, but it's a comedy inspired by Rififi."

This reminds me of Westlake's Jimmy the Kid, which alternated chapters of a kidnapping by Richard Stark's Parker (never bought it that he would involve himself in a kidnapping, the human factor adding an unpredictability that Parker tends to avoid) with the Dortmunder Gang totally screwing up while trying to imitate the pro.

"Last, Tavernier's Coup de Torchon (Clean Slate, 1981), based on Jim Thompson's Pop. 1280, which I really must read one of these days."

Yes, you must. I think this was Thompson's best.

"It's as if a switch is flicked: softspoken, mild-mannered pushover to softspoken, mild-mannered vigilante killer. In fact, I had a little trouble buying his change."

Maybe it's because I had read the book, but I didn't see it as that big a change. I kind of assumed he had never really been as mild-mannered as he appeared, and as everyone assumed, that the movie begins with how the character presents himself to the world and slowly shifts to what he does when no one is looking. I felt he had probably been doing various subversions for a long time, getting bigger and bigger, more and more open in his rebellion. So instead of a change, I saw a passing of a threshold, as he crossed over to murder. And then things starting being harder and harder to hide.

"In the archives, Rene Ribic praised Kubrick's The Killing, based on a novel by Lionel White called Clean Slate, adapted for the screen with the help of Jim Thompson. Seems kind of circular. Was White's Clean Slate inspired by Pop. 1280?"

Clean Slate is a caper novel about robbing a race track. All of these characters are career criminals. It really has nothing in common with Pop. 1280. Good book and good movie, though.

Speaking of Thompson's novel, a sign outside the town in James Sallis's Cripple Creek states, "Pop, 1280." I kept waiting for the sheriff to turn into a whacko.


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