Monday, June 10, 2019

On Dangerous Ground: Phantom Lady (1944), Point Blank (1967)

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

                   Edward Dorn, Gunslinger, Book II

Phantom Lady (Robert Siodmak, 1944)

Oh, Phantom Hat, worn on the 

wrong side of a disturbed mind.
Even poor Henderson, cops
lingering in his apartment, wife
strangled, recalls a hat no one
will corroborate, reduced to:  
"Maybe I only imagined that
woman."  Hats like nobody's
business, blatant, yet universal,
real, if fanciful, with a credit of
its own. Chapeau-noir worn at 
a non-existent angle by Jack, his
psychopathic pal. A euphemism
for bonkers? If not those who 
bonk? Like Kansas, the secretary 
not the state, more than a match 
for Cliff, the drummer not the
precipice, who, having absconded 
with Jack's money, paradiddles 
himself into a frenzy. More 
perturbing is that fucking cop, 
Burgess, who, like a spit-roasted
Republican switches sides with  
the flimsiest of alibis. Perhaps it's 
the heat, back when courtroom 
settings had not yet been turned 
into  series of air-conditioned 
nightmares. No sweat, but saturated 
shadows and oblique confrontations. 
None so unsettling as Burgess's reply 
to Jack's suggestion- self-flattery, of 
course- that the killer might well be 
genius. "No," says Burgess, "he's 
paranoic. It's not how a man looks, 
but how his mind works. Some day 
we'll have the sense to train the mind 
like we train the body." To which one 
might reply, if the hat fits, why in the 
world would anyone want to wear it. 

Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967)

If it really does all take place in his mind, had he, 
or the film, not been shot on AlcatrazOr turned 
to pulp by a literate projector (invented by E. 
Dorn, circa 1970). "A dream, a dream." In a land 
of sleep-walkers, where only the exhausted will 
be culpable and insomniacs reign supreme. Every-one else, irrelevant or speed-balling down the interstate. Riding shot-gun alongside bevy of
eroticised women, their eyeballs drawing circles, 
drugged, then examined for flaws. A tin ear for 
Walker's footsteps echoing through LAXplanes 
whining like badly educated mosquitoes. A woman's voice: “Can’t sleep, haven’t slept, keep taking 
pills, dreaming about you, how good it must be 
being dead.” What about that under-achieving 
nightclub waitress: "Walker, are you still alive?" Or Angie, switching on every produit blancecstatic 
under the sign of commodity fetishism, advising 
Walker, “Why don’t you just lie down and die.” No, not until he wreaks havoc on the corporate world: 
gangsters, outsourcers, accountants, and a car sales-
man. With glass partitioning the cruel from the 
sadistic, the kind from the  catatonic, and Walker 
from a freight train of thought. Through glass half-
empty, elliptical as a  Borgesian tango. Chasing 
shadow fading to all points blank, the money 
just yards away, untouched, a torch song turned 
to ashes, swept out in the mourning, this ghost of 
a chance, inherited hardboiled America forever.