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Crime Films
Bar Harbor
kestrell and I watched a couple of movies last weekend, both of which were crime movies in one way or another.

I had seen "The Big Lebowski" once before, and wanted to see it again, both on its own merits, and because Veronica Mars keeps dropping references to it.

It's a film which is hard to categorize, but I think I've figured out at least one major component. It's an anti-noir film. Bright and colorful instead of black & white; a hero who has no particular moral code, but merely parrots what's said to him; a series of crimes that are all more venial and trivial than they seem; a femme fatale who is completely honest and who is not seeking to entrap the hero. The police officers are honest, helpful, and do their jobs. There isn't much violence, and the only death is accidental and random, not the desired outcome of a complex plot. When the hero's partner is 'killed', he doesn't manage to do much of anything about it. At the end of the movie, no criminals are brought to justice, and there is no reward for the hero whatsoever. All the classic noir tropes are turned upside-down.

Of course, it also has much the same trait that we recently observed in "The Man Who Wasn't There", also a Coen Brothers film: all the characters have their own idea about what genre of story they are in, and they're pretty much all deluding themselves.

[later: Saw this quote on Making Light today. They meant it in reference to the publishing industry, but it seems very apropos to TBL:
"It is impossible for human nature to believe that money is not there. It seems so much more likely that the money is there and only needs bawling for."
-- Dorothy Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon
I really must get around to reading more of her work one of these days...]

Later in the weekend, we saw "Reservoir Dogs", a first for both of us. Tarantino, like the Coens, likes to make movies that are as funny as they are chilling, and was doing so from the start of his career.

Kes was a little shocked that such a violent film got by with an R rating. Actually, there is relatively little on-screen violence; much more is just off camera and implied. Of course, while it was not seen, it was still *heard*...

Am I the only one who saw echoes of "Hamlet" in this? You've got the long speech on the value and craft of the acting profession in the middle. A lot of moral indecision about who is or isn't a rat, and what should be done about it. And a final image of one man cradling the head of a dead friend in his lap, surrounded by the corpses of most of the other characters in the story, slaughtered by each other, as their mutual enemies stand ready to take over. I'm not saying it's even as close as, say, "O Brother Where Art Thou?" was to _The Odyssey_, but I felt definite echoes.

[later: All my web-browsing today seems to come back to this post-in-progress. See, for example, this on the Tarantino/Shakespeare connection.]

Some other nifty storytelling devices there. Never showing the heist itself, only unreliable narrations of it. And the way the afore-mentioned theater lesson played out; as the actor got sufficiently practiced in the role, he was able to have a 'flashback' to an entirely invented story.

The biggest surprise? Steve Buscemi's character not only survived this story, but got away with the loot. Now *that* is playing with audience expectations!


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