Friday, January 04, 2019

On Dangerous Ground: The Lady From Shanghai (1947) The Long Goodbye (1973)

The Lady From Shanghai (Orson Welles, 1947)

After the rescue, the inevitable: flirtation,
employment, sweet talk on hubby's yacht.
Eyes irresistibly twinklingIn the real 
world, Cohn green lights the project only 
after assuming Welles’s fifty grand debt.
As usual, it's all power to the capitalist class.
But, then, Cohn is said to have created Rita, 
husband number one pimping her while
still a teenager. Of course, in Hollywood
everyone is owned by someone. Undeterred
in dreamland, Michael's brogue historically
screams murder. Ne touchez pasGrisby,
wonders if he'd be willing to do so again?
Riffing on the cause du jourMichael 
simply says,  I'd kill another Franco spy. 
After which Grisby repliesWould you kill 
me if I gave you the chance? Should he, 
given Rita, even deliberate? Would you?  
Contemplating a life in Patsyville, Michael
remains philosophical, reminding Grisby 
that Everybody is somebody's fool. As for
the mirrors, they only go to show that any
reflection is merely a state of mind, another
image of itself or something else. Splicing
the film to pieces, Cohn obsesses over 
Rita's hair, demands more close-ups and, 
of course, Gilda-like song. What else 
might intercedealbeit disfigurement, and 
a world in which everything cracks, breaks
or is already broken. As Rita's doppleganger 
says, You need more than luck in Shanghai.

The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman, 1973)

It’s okay with me, things are what they are,
even when they’re not. A surfeit of shrugs, 
wisecracks, topless hippies, alienated
wealth, crooks, quacks, or steroid-enhanced
thugs. It's the me-culture minus the stench
of fuck-you geckonomics. Marlowe, no
longer a lapsed petit-bourgeois oil lackey,
but a cat-loving, chain-smoking mumbler, 
supermarket insomniac, secular Jew, singing
Mammy in blackface to the cops. Purists
have never had time for such revisionism,
while the impure amongst us can't decide
whether to laugh or cry. A blank slate,
Marlowe’s knightly virtues, naturally at
odds with a culture that could care less.
Not down these mean streets but across 
road-raged freeways. Stylish bungalows
replaced by vertical brutalisms, glassed-in
beach front properties like centres for the
murderously insane.  Walking down that
tree-lined avenue, harmonica-in-cheek,
it's Hooray for Hollywood with an Astaire
shuffle. Such is the corruption, and cynicism, 
gumshoeing into the distance, tarnished, ad
infinitum, beyond the before and ever after.