Re: RARA-AVIS: Kiss Me Deadly

From: William Ahearn (
Date: 08 Dec 2007

--- wrote:
> since my definition of noir is a philosophical one
> rather than a stylistic
> one, similar to Jack Bludis' "screwed", your
> description of both films places
> them solidly into that big, black abyss
I also do not subscribe to the stylistic fetish of noir (I consider, for example, Pretty Poison and Last Tango In Paris to be film noirs), and would place The Long Goodbye and Kiss Me, Deadly outside of classic noir. But, who cares? The fact that they're films worth seeing over and over again puts them is a special place that leaves definition of genre as a secondary consideration. That is what good film making is about and why I like these particular films so much. Splitting definition hairs in this particular case is fun in that to delve into the content of these films is to explore the genre in a different way and to see it rattled and shaken and tossed out in a creative way is far more rewarding than to say that it has A, B, and C and is ergo D. Out Of The Past is a perfect example of American noir. The Killers is another. Yet -- while both are excellent films -- neither really becomes more than exercises in genre. And again, I really like both films. But The Long Goodbye, Kiss me, Deadly, Chinatown, Breathless, Le Samurai, The Conversation, and others are more than exercises. They are almost jazz instead of standards. And that is something that Dash Hammett and Raymond Chandler understood or at least I see and hear that in their work. There is a reason we remember the John Huston version of The Maltese Falcon and not the two predecessors and that's because Huston "got" the real gist of the book. It's not about sex or who killed Archer or even if there is a falcon crafted by some long dead crusaders. It's about dreams and greed and need. And that's why The Long Goodbye and Kiss Me, Deadly are special. Altman nailed what Chandler meant. What Chandler couldn't say explicitly. Frankly I'm surprised since Altman is such an erratic director. Kiss Me, Deadly is brilliant in spite of itself and that's an achievement all its own. As I see noir, they're not in that definition but in some post noir time where the boundaries are still seen in the rear view mirror while crossing some other frontier.

I don't want to be comforted by genre. I want to be dazzled and surprised. And the films that I mentioned here do just that.


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