Friday, April 11, 2008

Ain't That a Kick in the Teeth?

Listening to David Schmid at NoirCon, I was reminded of my college days, reading great film criticism and film theory. It was in my Junior year that I had a bit of a breakthrough in my writing that allowed me to funnel my newfound appreciation for writers like Metz and Mulvay. In an essay for an American Lit class, I chose to compare two of our assigned books, Mickey Spillane's I, The Jury and Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. I looked at them as books about investigation and their portrayals of gender. Into the mix I added parallels between the two novels and Howard Hawks's THE BIG SLEEP and Roman Polanski's CHINATOWN. I wrapped everything up with a big bow, citing passages from film critic Molly Haskell (most likely quoting from From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies).

I don't have a copy of this paper anymore. I don't remember where I saved any of the papers I wrote in my first few years of college, if I saved them at all. I'm pretty sure I threw away the original as I was sorely disappointed in the grade I received. Rather than being impressed by my leveraging of Haskell, my professor was curious as to where my opinions lay. That was always the problem I had with my writing and one I hope I've managed to overcome since: I would present two ideas and hope that the reader would see the thrust of my argument rather than bashing them over the head with a third sentence that stated the obvious. I've since realized that there's nothing obvious to some people, especially pedagogues. It's always best to bring that train of thought to the station, rather than letting it continue rolling down the track.

Hearing Schmid's take about Noir and its heretics, I'm half tempted to revisit these four works and see what kind of trouble I could get into on my own (having no idea where my Haskell has ended up).

Schmid also helped crystallize the fact that I've not done a lot of theorizing in my writing lately. I might hide a nugget or two in there but I haven't jumped off the deep end and really taken a film apart the way I enjoy. I was on the verge of doing so at NoirCon as I watched the "Fallen Angels" version of "Professional Man." The recurring breaking of fingers could only lead me down a path where these stood in for castration images. I don't remember what other thing I hit upon in my discussion of the episode but I know I prefaced it with, "As a former film student, I like to draw wild conclusions over tiny details..." Nothing brightens my day as much.

Well, I'm off to watch OVER THE TOP and see if there's any kind of archetypes of masculinity to be found...

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