RARA-AVIS: lack of respect?

From: DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net
Date: 12 Feb 2007

Robert Altman:

"The research material we used primarily was Raymond Chandler Speaking, a series of letters, and I made everybody that worked on the picture read that thoroughly. I took the two main characters, both Philip Marlowe and Roger Wade, and I took character traits of Chandler and I applied them to both, and I made one the voice and the other the conscience. His plots are so complicated and so full of holes that the way he plugged the holes was to further complicate them. But he used this thread to hang about sixty thumbnail essays on, so the real interest in Raymond Chandler, to me, were those essays. We tightened the plot up; I dropped half the characters probably; then I used that line to hang a bunch of film essays on. They weren't actually lifted from Raymond Chandler so much as they were projections of him, because if Raymond Chandler were alive in 1972 he wouldn't see things the way he did in 1950 because he would himself have been that much older. I've kept the story in 1952, but set it in 1972. The goodbye is people going, not in separate directions, but going in the same direction at a different pace."

This hardly sounds like a lack of respect for Chandler, quite the opposite. Would someone who hated Chandler make everyone read a book of his letters? And he shows some insight into Chandler. Holes in his plots? Remember the problem with Joe Chill's murder in The Big Sleep? Plugging holes with further complications? Remember Chandler's line about sending in a guy with a gun whenever things started to lag?

Seems to me Altman was trying to honor the spirit of Chandler, even if he felt he had to streamline the book to do so.

As for that loser comment that pisses Jim off so much. Chandler is a loser, at least according to society's materialistic standards. A few lines after those Jim likes to quote, Chandler says of Marlowe, "He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He will take no man's money dishonestly and no man's insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him." So he hits someone who calls him a "cheapie." Sounds a bit defensive to me, like someone who's been called a loser a few times too many and is afraid it's true.

And in Raymond Chandler Speaking, the book Marlowe's interpreter used as a source, Marlowe's creator said, "If being in revolt against a corrupt society consitutes being immature, then Philip Marlowe is extremely immature. If seeing dirt where there is dirt constitutes an inadequate social adjustment, then Philip Marlowe has inadequate social adjustment. Of course Marlowe is a failure and he knows it. He's a failure because he hasn't any money. A man who without any physical handicaps cannot make a decent living is always a failure and usually a moral failure. But a lot of very good men have been failures because their particular talents did not suit their time and place."

How is Chandler's calling Marlowe a failure any different from Altman calling him loser, especially when they're both referring to society's perspective, not their own? This is where Altman's career long fascination and sympathy for society's losers and outsiders that Terrill pointed out comes in. Like Chandler, Altman was interested in how and why a loser/failure's particular talents do not suit his time and place.

So it's easy to disagree with how Altman chose to highlight Marlowe's alienation, but to say he did not respect Marlowe's creator is a major stretch. Seems to me Altman studied Chandler very closely and tried to project his concerns two decades into the future by showing Marlowe even more out of place (and far more worn down for his effort to stay a winner in his own eyes).


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 12 Feb 2007 EST