Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: A Whiff of Sulphur...

From: Mark R. Harris (
Date: 06 Dec 2007

I think we have probably reached the point of diminishing returns, since I don't agree with your premises, wording, definitions, or conclusions, and you don't with mine. Our points of view are sufficiently aired at this point.


On 12/5/07, JIM DOHERTY <> wrote:
> Mark,
> Re your response below:
> > 1) "Trash" is such a values-laden verb in this
> context that it forces the
> > conclusion you wish to reach. Therefore, I don't
> accept your verb.
> Of course it's a value-laden term. Why shouldn't it
> be? Your not accepting doesn't make it any less
> appropriate. In fact, your rejection of it seems to
> be based on the fact that it's inarguably what Altman
> was doing, and if you admit that, you've lost the
> argument.
> > 2) As noted earlier, I disagree that Altman was
> being "disrespectful," but
> > even if he was, so what? Chandler is not sacrosanct.
> I never said he was sacrosanct. I said, and still
> say, that if he didn't respect Chandler, why make the
> movie? Why buy the film rights to in order to make a
> film that shows nothing but contempt for the source
> material?
> As for whether or not Altman was being disrespectful,
> you're the one who had to twist and turn to make
> Altman's film a mark of signal respect. I'm just
> taking his film, and his comments about his intent, at
> face value.
> > 3) Whether or not you can understand how Chandler
> fans can appreciate
> > Altman's effort, obviously many do. This puts you in
> a position of cognitive
> > dissonance, surely, but the fact remains the same.
> If you mean to suggest
> > that those particular Chandler fans are not true
> Chandler fans, that's a
> > lame attempt to solve the dissonance.
> I'm not suggesting anything other than my inability to
> understand some Chandler fans' admiration for
> something that's so clearly contemptuous of Chandler's
> work.
> > 4) There were those at the time when West Side Story
> first appeared who felt
> > that it was indeed sacrilegious to Shakespeare, that
> placing the "star
> > cross'd lovers" in a contemporary, urban, ethnic
> context was quite
> > disrespectful.
> The custom of doing Shakespeare in modern dress, or
> reusing the plots of Shakespearean plays in new ways
> was already well-established by the time WSS came
> along.
> The reception of both the stage production and the
> film, critically and popularly, would seem to indicate
> that those in the "sacriligious" camp were in the
> minority.
> That doesn't seem to be as true of Altman's THE LONG
> GOODBYE. To the degree that the people who go to
> movies based on Chandler novels are Chandler fans,
> then THE LONG GOODBYE's financial and critical failure
> (and it was a flop in both respects when first
> released), contrasted with the financial and critical
> success of, say, FAREWELL, MY LOVELY two years later,
> suggests that there were far more Chandler fans who
> disliked TLG, than Shakespeare fans who disliked WSS.
> > 5) I don't understand why "parody" would be exempt
> from your strictures
> > while what Altman attempted is not.
> Because "parody" is, first of all, supposed to be
> disrespectful, second of all, is usually
> affectionate, and third of all, is doing it for the
> sake of comedy.
> Altman was making a film directly based on the book,
> which would indicate to the average filmgoer that it
> was going to be a straightforward adaptation
> (something Altman IS capable of; see NIGHTMARE IN
> CHICAGO, his TV-movie version of William P. McGivern's
> short story "Killer on the Turnpike," or THE CAINE
> MUTINY COURT-MARTIAL, another TV-movie adapted from
> Herman Wouk's novel and stage play). And he wasn't
> doing it for laughs, but to make a serious statement
> about the kind of story Chandler told.
> > 6) I also don't understand why actors' performances
> being identifiably the
> > same character matters one way or another. Acting is
> interpretation. Some
> > performances of the same characters or same texts
> will be similar, others
> > will not be.
> But if the actor is true to the character as written,
> something of the creator's view of that character will
> come through, no matter how individualistic the
> interpretation. Hence Powell, Bogart, Heflin, Mohr,
> Garner, Mitchum, Boothe, Caan, and, yes, even the two
> Montgomerys, are all recognizable, at some level, as
> Chandler's character, while Gould is not. Why?
> Because Powell, Bogart, et al, within their own
> individual interpretations, are trying to convey
> Chandler's image of the character, and Gould,
> following the directions of his director, is doing
> just the opposite.
> > 7) I don't think my reasoning is particularly
> "tortured." Surely you've
> > heard of paradox?
> Yeah, but Altman is no G.K. Chesterton. And if
> disrespecting a great novel is sign of ultimate
> respect, then, using he same tortured logic, trashing
> (hate to use such a values-laden term, but I don't
> have Thesaurus handy) an honest man's reputation for
> integrity is a sign of ultimate respect for that
> integrity.
> Surely YOU'VE heard of Occam's Razor. Altman's stated
> intention was to make a film that's contrary to
> Chandler's vision of the story and protagonist, and
> the resulting film was, in fact, a version that's
> contrary to Chandler's vision of the story and
> protagonist. So, as I said, I'll just take it at face
> value, and leave the apologists to look for some kind
> of paradoxical "compliment" to Chandler.
> > 8) For the record and as a Tolkien fan, I intensely
> dislike what Peter
> > Jackson made of The Lord of the Rings -- it doesn't
> correspond with my view
> > of the novel at all, and I believe that it trades
> Tolkien's British charm
> > for a modern CGI-monster/horror movie tone that is
> wildly unidiomatic. But
> > that doesn't mean that I think that Jackson was
> deliberately trying to
> > "trash" Tolkien, or that he committed a heinously
> unforgivable aesthetic
> > sin. He's a talented director; I admire Heavenly
> Creatures enormously. I
> > just don't like his take in this instance. But I'm
> not losing sleep over it
> > the way you seem to be over Altman.
> Well, most Tolkien fans, from what I understand,
> disagreed with you. I've never been able to get
> through the trilogy (I've tried a few times, but I
> just get bogged down in the song lyrics), so I can't
> speak from my own experience.
> It is my sense, though, that Jackson was TRYING to be
> true to Tolkien, and nothing you say suggests that he
> wasn't. In fact, you flatly state that, in your
> opinion, being untrue or disrespectful was NOT his
> intent.
> Altman, by sharp contrast, was deliberately trying to
> be, and succeeding at being, untrue to Chandler's
> novel and to his vision of his character.
> And thanks for your concern about my nocturnal rest,
> but Altman's movie has never lost me a night's sleep.
> However, for some reason, my rejection of it seems to
> have disturbed the slumber of several people here at
> R/A.
> __________________________________________________________
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Mark R. Harris
2122 W. Russet Court #8
Appleton WI 54914
(920) 470-9855

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