RARA-AVIS: Inanity Fare

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 07 Feb 2007

Vince wrote:

> Vanity Fair has put together a video feature called "Killers Kill,
> Dead Men Die," based on the Annie Liebovitz photography for the
> magazine's upcoming Hollywood issue. It's a film noir pastiche
> complete with hardboiled voiceover featuring contemporary stars --
> Bruce Willis, Aaron Eckhart, Naomi Watts, plenty more -- in period
> drag doing the "down these mean streets" thing. It's a bit cheesy,
> sure. But it should provide new fodder for the who-should-play-
> Marlowe sweepstakes.http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/
> video/2007/killerskill_video200703

"A bit cheesy"? More like processed cheese food. And a lot of it.

My Mac will reek of Kraft slices for days.

That's the thing about the recent spate of "noir" films. They're all shallow style and slick self-conscious fetishism, and show little real understanding of what made the originals -- and the great novels they were based on -- tick. Or even what made them "noir."

We rare birds may quibble here at great length about the precise DNA and nature of noir, but for most of Hollywood it's simply about fedoras and bad lighting. They don't know and they don't particularly care.

But it wasn't the hats or the clothes or the cinematography or even the lame jazzbo musical backgrounds -- it was the dark, driven characters and the bitter, twisted stories at the heart and soul of them that really mattered. Annie Liebovitz' grown-ups-playing-dress- up schtick worked swell in the over-the-top circus world of rock'n'roll when she was working ROLLING STONE; now it's just a party trick for hire with little soul and even less humour. The VANITY PRESS clip is a costume party for the terminally smug.

Sure, occasionally a modern stab at noir still clicks (BRICK, parts of HOLLYWOODLAND) but even then there's a self-consciousness about it that drags it all down.

The word "noir" has been rendered almost meaningless, an toothless, devalued adjective to most of the public; used to shill everything from mediocre movies to coffee to lingerie to, well, cheese.

So, yeah, they'll trot out a new Marlowe and I'll be the first in line, but I'd almost rather they didn't treat it as a period piece. If all they're going to do is trot out all the same old tired props again and ignore the heart of darkness, what's the point? I'd rather drive a truck.

Marlowe deserves better; Chandler deserves better.

Kevin Burton Smith Now playing: The Thrilling Detective Web Site Holiday Issue. With new fiction from Bludis, Swierczynski, Rogers, Koweski, Siverling and Zackel Plus THE 2006 CHEAP THRILL AWARDS http://www.thrillingdetective.com

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