Friday, April 6, 2012

Chat: The Postman Always Rings Twice

Natalie:  How would you kill your too old for you husband after an attractive drifter shows up?
Tracy:  Hah! Well, if the old "slips in the bathtub trick" doesn't work, I say go right for the "drunk driving off a cliff"! How could either one possibly go wrong?
Natalie:  HA!! Right. Those are exactly the first two murder plots that come to my mind.
Tracy:  I don't know what I expected from this film, but I was surprised at how sort of campy it was. Frank was sort of rapey at the beginning, you have Lana Turner wearing only black and white and you have the doofy incompetent cop ("dead as a doornail") and the slick attorneys. But on the other hand, it reminded me of that movie with Liz Taylor and the other dude who ended up on death row . . . blanking on the name.
Natalie:  That's exactly how I felt. I didn't expect the sort of melodramatic aspect like the dramatic embrace that tells the audience those two just must be in love--because there are no other indications really of their pretty immediate truly madly deeply love. It's the sort of thing that's made fun of now--hold on someone at door
Natalie:  IT WAS!
Tracy:  I don't have to ask how many times he/she rang!
Natalie:  Ha! Only once sadly
Tracy:  On a related note, while watching. I kept thinking "have I missed why this movie is titled what it is?"
But yeah, I think melodrama is the perfect word. Everything was just TOO MUCH. Not just that the marriage is bad, but that she's going to have to move to Northern Canada to care for her paralyzed sister-in-law, who's going to live FOREVER.
Natalie:  Exactly. And yet we don't actually see much of that. Yes, her husband is a drunk but we're not seeing him being mean to her. The only minor conflict we see is that she wants to work at the diner and he'd rather she not. Ok, fine, it may be a loveless marriage but, really?, murder by hair-brained plot is what comes to mind to get away from the entirely benign husband? And, back to before the postman actually rang but only once--it's A Place in the Sun (the Liz Taylor movie). I wasn't reminded of it while watching but there is a definite connection. At least with that one I SAW why he loved her and you can see the relationship build.
Tracy:  Yeah--it wanted to get to where A Place in the Sun got, but didn't earn it. And I couldn't decide if Lana Turner was meant to be a femme fatale or not. She seemed ambitious and manipulative and willing to marry the benign husband and play Frank in order to get what she wanted, but then she seemed genuinely in love with him too. And then of course she had to be pregnant, too. If I was supposed to feel sorry for either of them, I genuinely didn't. I just kept thinking, "these are the worst murderers ever.
Natalie:  YES! And I thought that BEFORE they even got to the murder part. When they're "running away" by walking through the California desert with luggage I actually said out loud that they're the dumbest people ever. I just didn't believe any of the supposed emotion. The book wants Lana Turner to be a femme fatale at least: "Director Tay Garnett’s tight framing emphasizes the imprisonment of the fatal lovers, and the film’s gloomy and forbidding mise-en-scene is the perfect setting for their grim story. With white costuming and glamorizing lighting, Turner becomes the visual center of the story . . . Cora is no ordinary femme fatale. Her feelings for Frank are genuine, not artful manipulation." Meanwhile, I was also reminded of a better movie while watching because of the beach scenes--From Here to Eternity.
Tracy:  Yeah, her genuine affection makes her less than an ordinary femme fatale. In that I'm not sure that doesn't disqualify her entirely. Never seen From Here to Eternity! But I have no doubt it's better. I've also never seen Double Indemnity, but I have no doubt it's better. I wonder if the novel is better?
Natalie:  I agree about the femme fatale status. I think other femme fatales wouldn't let her in the club. We'll be watching From Here to Eternity and Double Indemnity at some point--both are on the list! I've not seen Double Indemnity either. I don't know if the book is better but I just looked and it's a short 128 pages so I doubt there's much more character/relationship development. I wonder about the re-make with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. I meant to try to watch that one too but forgot.
Tracy:  I think the femme fatale club would pretend to let her in, and then frame her for all their crimes! I wonder about the re-make as well. It seems like it's a LOT sexier. I'm basing that on the cover of the movie.
Natalie:  HA! That's exactly what would happen! So apparently, this version is the third adaptation of the novel. There was a 1939 French version, Le dernier tournant, and then our The Leopard director friend Visconti did it as Ossessione in 1943. The Netflix description seems to back up your guess about the 1981 version: "This remake of John Garfield's classic film noir goes where 1940s Hollywood feared to tread: into the realm of explicit sex." Meanwhile, the book tries to argue, "The Postman Always Rings Twice reflects the Depression culture of the 1930s, with most of the scenes played in a barely respectable roadside diner, a potent image of rootlessness and limited opportunity. The flashback narrative suits the omnipresent pessimism of the noir series, of which this is one of the more justly celebrated examples." But, since the diner was the home base of sorts, I didn't get a feeling of rootlessness; it seemed they had very strong roots that kept them there and immobile and that they were trying to kill to keep that.
Tracy:  The book is such bullshit! What about the highway coming through, and how the diner becomes insanely profitable? It could have used some explicit sex. Might have distracted me from the stupidity of the main characters.
Natalie:  HAHAHA! I also didn't mean to ignore your comment about the title above--hopped up on cold meds--what did you think about that final speech where he finally gets in the postman reference?
Tracy:  I thought it was pretty, again, melodramatic and, though I wasn't on cold meds but had had a glass or two of wine by the time it was over, didn't make much sense. Is the Postman death? Love?
Kevin Costner?
Natalie:  I think the postman is Kevin Costner. I'm going with that. Because that makes more sense than the speech. So, did it need to be watched before we die?
Tracy:  Geez, I don't think so. For some reason I have heard of it, but I think that must be because of the Jack "explicit sex" Nicholson version.
Natalie:  I don't think so either. I think we've heard of it because for whatever reason people seem to think it's worthwhile (ahem, book) but I'm also guessing that they can't give a solid argument why this one is worth watching when there are a lot of movies that do what this one attempted much better. So it's just "but it's a CLASSIC." And, yeah, I bet the explicit sex version had some cultural hold :)
Tracy:  Agreed. Not hideous, but not 1001 worthy. It was interesting to see what Hume Cronyn looked like when he wasn't 1000 years old, though.
Natalie:  Oh, yes! Not the worst movie we've watched for this project by a long shot! Ha! That was fun. So, up next is a Japanese film! Woman in the Dunes.

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