Friday, June 29, 2018

On Dangerous Ground: Film Noir Poetry- Detour, Double Indemnity

“Ontology! I’m just
  telling you a story
  about this projector, that’s all.”

                     Edward Dorn, Gunslinger, Book II

Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945) 

Sleazy motel insinuations, 
a fatal encounter with a 
telephone, a solo pianist 
solo in Reno. We say, defeat 
is never more than a heart-
break away. We say, why 
congratulate someone for 
hitting the road once-too-often. 
We say, what does the term 
hand oneself in actually mean? 
We say, desert hitch-hiking is 
an arbiter of fate. Extended 
thumb, identity theft, arguably 
murder, blackmail, tempered 
by the inevitable droit de con-
ducteurWe say, Savage is 
as savage does: hard as a 
painted nail scraping zealot's 
cross, blond as putrifying water 
dribbling down an innocent 
man's throat. Or we might say, 
pick-up outside gas station 
will pave the future and placate 
the devil. Or, on Poverty Row, 
everything goes for as little as 
the imagination allows. Or may-
be, that's what existing outside 
the hash machine is about. Why 
post-Black Cat, Ulmer was never 
forgiven for scarpering to New 
York with the boss-man’s property. 
Big Apple tatters, Yiddish B-
features, returning, oy gevalt
never far from farblunget. We say, 
those were lean years, vestiges, 
proliferating, in dream-time, radical, 
and, in truth, cheaper by the dozen.

Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
Innuendos amok. The politics bleed
Chandler, sharecropping the role of 
studio hack. His murder manual so
eloquently stated by Neff. How could 
I have known that murder sometimes 
smells like honeysuckle. A geographically 
scented post-mortem in which everything 
is sweet, corrupt, and empty. A bit like 
L.A. itselfBlame it on Wilder's secretary 
who went to the loo with that book. Or 
Cain settling for ten thousand less than 
what had been offered ten years earlier. 
Landing in Chandler's lap by default. 
Who thought the novel disgusting. Proust 
in greasy overalls. But what's not to like
in that description? His career having 
almost run its course, abandoned scruples 
all who exit here. Wilder always claimed 
there was bit of Hitler in Chandler. He
should know.Was it apocrypha, or a joke, 
Sarris's claim that Wilder, after arriving 
in Hollywood, wrote to his mother, still 
working in her Viennese cake shop: "Ma, 
I'm doing great here in America, but I've 
changed my name. I'm now called Thornton." 
Barely a decade later his mother, step-father
and grandfather would die in concentration 
camps. Barbara's blond wig? That was 
Wilder's idea, the perfect disguise, modern 
times, the first of many attempts to beat the 
system, with automobiles the perfect vehicle 
for so many conscience-ridden soliloquies    

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