Friday, June 8, 2012

Chat: The Big Sleep

Tracy:  Ready to talk dames and private dicks.
Natalie:  There were quite a few dames in this one--bookstores, cabs . . .
    Tracy:  I know! "Night is better . . . I work during the day." Wonder if Faulkner wrote that line. Like you, I thought I had seen this movie, but I don't think I actually had (maybe read it with Forter?), but I really loved the look and feel of it. The central mystery didn't concern me much, but the clothes and the banter was so entertaining.
Natalie:  I remember the car garage scene but I don't remember having seen the rest of the film so maybe I saw a clip. Who knows. But, yes! The look, the clothes, the steamy but not lusty/obscene romance. Although, "What's wrong with you? Nothing you can't fix." would probably have been a little risqué/suggestive. And the clothes. Sigh. I love movies from the 40s.
Tracy:  And I couldn't help but pay attention to the way Marlowe (Phil?) was portrayed since I'm working on that Angel paper about hard-boiled masculinity, and I thought this (even more so than Maltese Falcon) sets up different versions of men that Marlowe bests--we've got the "General" in the wheelchair, the effete type that Marlowe himself impersonates, the cops, the DA, etc. And unlike Maltese Falcon, we get a romance that isn't a disaster. The "femme fatale" in this movie is dangerous, but Marlowe sees through her right away, and his actual match is not a danger to him at all.
Natalie:  Yes! And his actual match not only isn't a danger but also isn't just a wallflower or completely naive/innocent either. She's got serious vices. But, he only has to save her from the mess he dug up/wouldn't leave alone so it's not about "saving" her so much as undoing what he did himself.
Tracy:  That's totally true. It's a really interesting dynamic. I loved how they both immediately were in on that sort of prank call. MAD chemistry. Book says they were married six months after the movie wrapped. And Jesus, Bacall was so pretty in such an interesting way.
Natalie:  The prank call was so funny! You can see how easily they managed that whereas it might have been a struggle if the real-life people weren't so well matched. She was! And the actress cast as her sister was just similar enough around the mouth to really look like her sister.
Tracy:  And there was a lot of attention paid to that mouth! So here's why the book says we should like it. After an anecdote about how Chandler himself said he didn't really understand the twists and turns of the plot (sounds like bullshit, but whatever), "The Big Sleep is a reference to death, and indeed death pervades the  movie. This is a film noir masterpiece missing several standard film noir tenets. There are numerous femme fatales, but no flashbacks; chiaroscuro lighting, but no voice-over. More important, Bogart's Marlowe seems not lost in a world of lies and deception but utterly confident and in control at all times. He's a droll antihero, cool in the face of cruelty, unfazed in the face of wanton sleaze, and always appreciative of a pretty face." So I agree with the last bit, which is what we were sort of saying, but I'm not sure death "pervades" the movie--there's a lot that's funny and the romance is life affirming. And I don't think most of the women count as for real femme fatales. What do you think?
Natalie:  Ok, so yes, the part that we were already basically saying but, no to the femme fatales. A woman in a noir isn't automatically a femme fatale. What makes a femme fatale a femme fatale is her ability to actually ensnare the man--there's only one woman in the movie who actually does that. He sees straight through Carmen, isn't fooled by the devious bookstore girl, just has an afternoon tryst with the cute bookstore girl (we suppose--he could have just had a drink), and has little to no interaction with the cab driver, the girls at the casino, or Mars's wife. So, yeah, if they are femme fatale's they're not very good at it. And, no, I don't think death pervades the film either. It's a crime drama so of course people die but it's not like there are a lot of dead bodies at the end of the film. And I don't think he's unfazed or he could have walked about without trying to find the missing guy.
Tracy:  Exactly. Femme fatales spread death wherever they go. Hence the fatale. It's just Carmen, and she's sort of bad at it. And yeah, "unfazed" implies he doesn't care, when he clearly does care about the mystery (even after he's done what he was hired to do) and the Bacall, and he felt bad about the little guy who got poisoned, which is also uncommon for a hard-boiled detective. So I found it really fun and surprising to watch, though I cared less about the mystery then Marlowe did! I say keep it if only for the sparkage and how key that relationship is to the legend of golden age cinema, but the movie itself is also interesting in lots of other ways too. So an enthusiastic yes from me
Natalie:  Agreed all around. I enjoyed watching it (and that's always a HUGE plus with films on this list) and I think it says interesting things about gender and noirs. Plus, I always love movies where you can obviously tell the two real people are madly in love; Guess Who's Coming to Dinner kills me for that reason.
Tracy:  GOD I love that movie. Is that in this book? And yes! Enjoyment is such a nice treat! Yay for Bogie and Bacall. Hope we get a few more of those.
Natalie:  Me, too! It's NOT in the book?! What?! That makes not a damned bit of sense at all!
Tracy:  I KNOW. Another tragedy.
Natalie: I can't imagine why that's not on the list and some of the nonsense we've seen is. It's kind of a landmark race film whereas Silver Lode is nonsense.
Tracy:  I know! Silver Lode over Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. They're madmen at the 1001 book office. But it looks like against all odds (literally) we'll be enjoying two movies in a row. I don't gush all over Amelie like some, but I do find it charming.
Natalie: Madmen. Hooray! I like Amelie better than most of the movies we've seen so far. And I find it watchable which I can't say of some of the films that I thought were ok to have on the list. Speaking of, we can roll again if you like.

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