I’m posting this junk entry because I wrote a comment on the social network which I wanted to archive here. Plus I’ll share a recording of myself reading from my own book, which almost relates to the topic.
Here is a detail from the movie poster for Cry Danger (1951), which is not the movie that I wrote about in this post. Why am I sharing the wrong image? Because the omniscient spaceman who invented existence itself commanded all earthlings to help increase our world’s sum total chaos. At least, that’s my belief. And the actors depicted below are named Dick and Rhonda.
Before I offer the following “prolegomenon to my own personal take on a movie that I recently saw”, I want to repeat that what I’m about to say has nothing to do with the image that appears above.
Prolegomenon to my own personal take on a movie that I recently saw
I am an intense admirer of at least two people: the writer Thomas Pynchon and the filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson. So I was excited when I heard that Anderson had adapted Pynchon’s novel Inherent Vice. For months, I waited impatiently for the movie to find me – and yestereven, at long last, I got a chance to screen it.
Why did I wait, instead of simply buying a movie ticket? Because theaters make me so nervous that I can’t enjoy the films they show. Or else I have to drink so much nail polish that my eyes forget to focus. So I always wait for movies to be released on disc.
(I used to worry that this preference for home viewing over public theaters would disqualify me as a movie fanatic; but then I heard an interview with the great director Alain Resnais, who’s a hero to me; and he admitted to having exactly the same preference.)
My own personal take on a movie that I recently saw
My take on Inherent Vice was that its so-called problematic aspects were all intentional – the feeling that the plot is incomprehensible translates as good fun to me – the film flaunts its disarray: it’s enjoyably convoluted. And there’s a history of that kind of thing in this genre: I immediately thought of The Big Sleep (1946), whose plot was so perplexing (although unintentionally) that its own director and screenwriters and even the source-novelist admitted being confused about certain details. I assume that Pynchon was cheerfully engaging in this type of madness when he wrote his novel, and then P.T. Anderson approached his adaptation as a chance to add to the ‘noir’ tradition in cinema: to take his place in the line that goes from The Big Sleep to The Long Goodbye (1973). That last title came to mind as I watched, because of its pacing and mood, and its dazed tendency to meander right alongside its dated detective. If The Big Sleep is considered noir, and The Long Goodbye is considered neo-noir, then Inherent Vice is like neo-neo-noir or post-neo-noir or some term equally & humorously far-fetched. To be sure, Anderson incorporates more influences than just those two films; but they’re the most important ones; they provide the key background: Vice deserves to be called their lovechild. (I mean this as high praise.)
Anderson’s movie also seemed true to Pynchon’s style & book – as true as a film can be in this regard – which I think is a real achievement: I always presumed that Pynchon’s writings were movie-proof, maybe even on purpose; so it felt good to be wrong.
An extra, personal reason this film pleased me
An extra, personal reason this film pleased me is that I myself have dabbled with reanimating the elements of old B-movies. Long before I read Pynchon’s novel or saw Anderson’s adaptation, I wrote a short text called The Stickup Continuum, which I describe as “a brief non-story, like a mosaic made from memories of so-called noir films”. On account of this relation, I hope you’ll pardon my sharing of this reading that I recently did at a coffee & wine cafe.
P.S. the full text is also available in my first collection.