Re: RARA-AVIS: lack of respect?

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 13 Feb 2007


You make some great points here.

That said, I still think that movie sucked.



  ----- Original Message -----
  Sent: Sunday, February 11, 2007 9:27 PM
  Subject: RARA-AVIS: lack of respect?

  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).



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