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Movie Night: The Maltese Falcon and Requiem for a Dream - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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Movie Night: The Maltese Falcon and Requiem for a Dream [Jul. 30th, 2004|07:52 am]
Young Geoffrey
[mood |chipperchipper]
[music |World Report (CBC 1)]

Wednesday night was Laura night. For a change of pace, we opted to rent a couple of videos. I have long wanted to share with her some of my favourite old movies - was thinking The Philadelphia Story would be a good one, but it wasn't it stock, so chose The Maltese Falcon, with Humphrey Bogart as hard-nosed private detective Sam Spade. Laura spotted Requiem for a Dream and so we picked that up as well.

The Maltese Falcon has been on my "A" list ever since I crutched down to the Bloor Cinema from my then-home at Saint-Claire and Bathurst more years ago then I care to remember2. Classic noire, it reaks of surface cynicism, dark humour, a convoluted plot and the fast-paced dialogue typical of the better movies from Hollywood's early talkie years.

Watching it with Laura,1 though, was a rather different experience, like taking an out-of-town visitor on a tour of your own city. Suddenly, the familiar is less so, as you re-view it all through the eyes of a newcomer.

In this instance, the ol' hometown wasn't quite the sophisticated metropolis I had so comfortably known it to be. It seems that my out-of-towner was from New York, or Paris, the the lights of my burg no longer gleam so bright, nor my skyscrapers stand so tall.

Obviously, the black-and-white takes some getting used to - ditto the dated styles; the score is of its era, far from subtle and has been parodied for decades; the slang - and I had forgotten just how much of it there is! - 60 years later is dated ("You're a doll," "I won't play the sap for you!"); and the acting itself seems stiff if not stilted, as if the actors are not yet convinced that a sound stage is not a theatre's stage.

Still, I enjoyed seeing the picture again and I believe Laura did too, despite her frequent, "inappropriate", giggles. But it was clear that - for her - The Maltese Falcon is more interesting as a period-piece - a cultural curio - than it is was for me.

With the benefit of fresh vision, the film has changed for me. No longer a vital, present work of art (as it was when I last rented it, no more than 2 or 3 years ago), it has become instead a sort of time capsule, a faded image of a time long since passed into the dusty twilight of memory.

Which brings us to Wednesday's second feature, a far more recent film - Requiem for a Dream, a movie that is "about" something (the perils of addiction) in a way that Falcon is not "about" anything, except perhaps the virtue of loyalty.

Laura said it was a great movie, that it left some of her friends devastated for days after seeing it.3 I knew that I had read about it when it came out, was vaguelly aware it had something to do with drugs, but was essentially coming to without conscious pre-conceptions.

Requiem for a Dream left me cold. I was annoyed by the faux-world-weary bleakness of the film's vision and frustrated that its characters did not have the depth to justify it (to the limited extent that I cared about them, I was wondered why they were all so intent on self-destruction); I was offended by the superficially flashy cinematography; and insulted by what I saw as a blatant attempt, first, to manipulate my sense of tragedy and, second, by a simplistic anti-drug story-line that goes back at least as far as Reefer Madness.4

It didn't take long before I knew exactly where the movie was going, that all 4 major characters were doomed to very bad ends indeed (prison; amputation; indefinite hospitalization in a psych ward; being gang-banged for a fix). Since I knew where the movie was going, the fact I didn't care how they all got there made for an uninteresting ride.

What struck me, finally, was the realization that Requiem for a Dream is as much a product of its own time as The Maltese Falcon and at least as stylized in its own way.

The performances are more naturalistic and the camera is far more fluid but below the surface sheen, it is no more than a product of a paranoid, neo-puritan era in the United States, in which it is okay to show drug use, so long as the behaviour is punished - and punished severely.

I need a little more complexity in my tragedies, thank you very much.

*     *     *     


In other news, I am a little nervous about the next couple of days. My not-quite 14 year-old niece proposed that she visit me for a couple of days. "Why don't you pick me up on Friday and I'll stay over Friday and Saturday?"

I am wonderfully pleased, of course, but also a little nervous as I wonder whether I'll be able to keep her entertained for what is - to me - such an extended period. Mostly, I'm pleased - but if any of you closer to that age than I am have any suggestions, feel free to offer 'em up.

All right, time to grab some breakfast, empty the dryer and have a shower before heading back out into the grown-up world.


P.S. For those keeping track, my little experiment in sobriety is still on track. Tuesday I'll be allowed to drink again, but I don't - at this point - find myself counting down the minutes until that time.





  • 1 Who, of course, will jump in and correct me if I mis-represent her views in this post - right, darlin'?

  • 2 All right, you vipers: call it 20 years ago.

  • 3 Last night after work I went out with Heath for dinner and drinks (yes, club soda in my case). He told me Requiem left him depressed for 2 days.

  • 4 As the Globe's Johanna Schneller pointed out some time ago (possibly while discussing Requiem for a Dream (though maybe not), Hollywood's take on drug-use almost always neglects what is probably the most important element on the road to addiction: fun. People enjoy getting stoned and, typically, Requiem doesn't spend a lot of time showing that.
  • linkReply

    Comments:
    [User Picture]From: thefuriouscynic
    2004-07-30 05:35 am (UTC)
    Oh, Requiem for a Dream. If I had to settle on one word to describe the entire film, it would be "unnecessary." That movie struggles with its own artfulness, tries harder, and is more exhausting than a tenth-grade art exhibit.

    Have you seen In a Lonely Place? It's my favourite Bogey film, although it might be tied for that position with To Have and Have Not -- I haven't decided yet.
    (Reply) (Thread)
    [User Picture]From: ed_rex
    2004-08-01 08:18 am (UTC)
    "[U]nnecessary" ... Yes, I'll go with that, viewed as art. Politically, it pisses me off. I weary of morality tales in drag as art.

    I am shocked (shocked!) to confess I've never even heard of In a Lonely Place. I'll be rooting around for it at The Film Buff in the very near future (I doubt very much that my 24/7 outlet carries it.

    And, finally, I am ashamed (ashamed!) to admit that (probably) haven't seen To Have and Have Not - and me with a half-crush on Bacall.
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
    [User Picture]From: fadefromnothing
    2004-07-30 05:54 am (UTC)
    I'll tell you from personal experience; I'm usually the niece that visits my uncle (in the vicinity of 30, single, gay) quite a bit. I'm seeing him tonight, spending the night s'well.

    Usually, I'll go over and help him clean up (and I do believe you need to be doing that); hence, it's always good to recruit the help of someone else. And 14 year olds are eager, I'll tell you that. In addition, make something to eat, watch movies or go out for a movie.

    Keep her out late, it's not irresponsible so much as it is a break. My uncle tends to do that, and when I was younger, it made me feel quite rebellious, while still keeping in line with my limitations.

    Most importantly though; talk. Chances are, she's the kind who can't keep her mouth shut, females are as such. Talk, young Geoff.

    In the day, why not head out somewhere like the Harbourfront Center (there's usually something going on there); just somewhere you can walk. Bike together, or something of the sort.

    I've always commended you because you're not the type to treat those younger then you with less respect, as is an obvious trait in most subsurvient little bitch-adults, I find.

    She'll have a good time.

    -Sidra
    (Reply) (Thread)
    From: patriarch420
    2004-07-30 07:59 am (UTC)
    that's hella good advice from Sidra, I'd take it if I were you... The keeping her out late was probably the best suggestion in there.. even if all you're doing is roaming around the city.
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
    [User Picture]From: ed_rex
    2004-08-01 08:25 am (UTC)
    The state of my apartment's cleanliness (or lack thereof) has perhaps been slightly exagerated - it wasn't too bad on Friday night.

    Thanks for the advice, though - cleaning aside, I took it. I would have done the same anyway, but it was good to have some support for my instincts.

    And you were completely right about her mouth; she's a very articulate girl, with a delightful wit and a good story-telling ability.

    I've always commended you because you're not the type to treat those younger then you with less respect, as is an obvious trait in most subsurvient little bitch-adults, I find.

    Thank you, I've long prided myself on not talking down to kids (although that can sometimes lead to mistakes - see my upcoming post for details). I come by it naturally - my parents (especially my father) really respect children, while at the same time remembering that they are children. Meaning that my brother and I were not raised without discipline either. Also, I always hated being talked down to when I was a kid.
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
    From: dilvalicious
    2004-07-30 08:02 am (UTC)
    i had a few friends that were obsessed with Requiem...Miker and I had never seen it, but one day when we were over at their place, they were watching it, but it was towards the end, so we got to see all the amputation, gang bang, hopped up on speedy stuff...

    and yeah....


    no desire to ever watch it straight through, thanks very much.

    I like my drug films, don't get me wrong...but nothing is as wicked as Trainspoting. That movie owns!

    (and I actually asked my boss when I worked in a music store if we should put Trainspotting in the comedy section *LOL*)
    (Reply) (Thread)
    [User Picture]From: ed_rex
    2004-08-01 08:28 am (UTC)
    I tried Trainspotting a few months ago and couldn't sit through it. Not sure if it was the thick Scottish accents, the fact that I'd smoked a bowl or that I just didn't much like it that made me turn it off, unfinished.

    Another one of those movies or books that all around me are lauding to the heavens while I scratch my itchy scalp wondering what the hell all the fuss is about.
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
    From: dilvalicious
    2004-08-01 08:59 am (UTC)
    ahhhhh...well, too bad you couldn't handle it. I love it for the accents, and the humour, i am quite the anglophile, and scottish accents turn me on.
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
    From: dilvalicious
    2004-08-01 09:00 am (UTC)
    not to mention i own every Irvine Welsh book he has written
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
    [User Picture]From: ed_rex
    2004-08-02 03:25 pm (UTC)
    It's on my list to try again; in retrospect, I am inclined to suspect it was my mood and not the movie that made me not want to finish watching it.
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
    From: dilvalicious
    2004-08-02 07:15 pm (UTC)
    well, it is definitely not for everyone, that's for sure!

    Completely understandeable
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
    From: 10021
    2004-07-30 10:53 am (UTC)
    too bad The Philadelphia Story wasn't available - that's one of my all-time favorites. For me, it still "works", and I don't mind it being a bit dated.
    (Reply) (Thread)
    [User Picture]From: ed_rex
    2004-08-01 08:31 am (UTC)
    I've been threatening Laura with it, so I may have a chance to re-evaluate it in the near future. (God! Wouldn't it be nice to be able to wipe your mind of your memory of movies like that, so you could see them again for the first time? The Philadelphia Story was a revalation to me, in part because I had never seen any of Grant's work before and had thought him as just another good-looking, leading man; I had no idea he was such a brilliant physical comedian. (And anything with both Catherine O'Hara Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart has to have something going for it.
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
    From: 10021
    2004-08-02 12:11 pm (UTC)
    My mind often wipes itself clean of memories, but rarely on command. So far, the process seems random.

    Have you seen Bringing Up Baby? Another Hepburn-Grant classic.
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
    [User Picture]From: ed_rex
    2004-08-02 03:16 pm (UTC)
    Within the past year or so, actually, and I enjoyed it a lot.
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
    [User Picture]From: amaaanda
    2004-07-30 12:41 pm (UTC)
    She's 13, so I imagine you can't take her to the ROM's free night tonight then. Unless she's a chic 13 year old.

    I agree with the person who suggested keeping her out a bit late - when you're 13/14, you're vying to be treated like an adult without having to actually act like one. Remember that.

    Even a little walk down Yonge street around the Eaton Centre might be fun. Depending on if she's from the city or not, the CN Tower would be quite fun as well.

    But ask her what she might want to do, because she could just want to go to the movies with her Uncie Ed and then go to Chinatown for some grub.


    *says the girl who liked Requiem for a Dream*
    (Reply) (Thread)
    [User Picture]From: amaaanda
    2004-07-30 12:43 pm (UTC)
    Of course I meant Uncie Geoff - Uncie Ed just sounds cooler.
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
    [User Picture]From: ed_rex
    2004-08-01 08:35 am (UTC)
    She lives in the Beaches (or rather, she summers there; she lives in Peterborough), so by the time we actually got moving it was too late for the ROM in any case.

    I am glad to say she mostly just calls me "Geoff", without the honorific - and I thank the nameless, non-existent gods that she has never called me "uncie". That, I think, might make me clout her.
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
    From: patriarch420
    2004-08-01 05:51 am (UTC)
    Hey hun, how's the child abuse going for you? :P sorry I didn't call you last night but we ditched the "hippies" (which took us 3 hours to find) fuck...HIGH PARK IS FUCKING HUGE!! but we climbed a nice tree and smoked lots pot :) Anyway- there's a play at Grange Park today and you're comming!! Call me when you awaken. xo much love, laura
    (Reply) (Thread)
    [User Picture]From: ed_rex
    2004-08-01 08:36 am (UTC)
    Quite all right, my dear - as I said on the phone, the streetcar crawled last night, and I didn't get back in until 10.

    I can't wait to see you later on, even if I am a little terrified of hanging out with you and your lunatic friends. :)
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
    From: patriarch420
    2004-08-01 09:11 am (UTC)
    Now, before we use such language to describe my friends (of whom which I hold dear), let us examine said language before usage...

    lu?na?tic adj.
    Suffering from lunacy; insane.
    Of or for the insane.
    Wildly or giddily foolish: a lunatic decision.
    Characterized by lunacy or eccentricity

    Err, perhaps the last definition is the most accurate, so let's use that..

    We're eccentric!! And don't pretend you don't love it...

    xoxo see u soon-ish sort of.

    love,

    -looney laura-
    (Reply) (Thread)
    [User Picture]From: ed_rex
    2004-08-02 03:23 pm (UTC)
    All right, all right, "lunatic" is going too far; "eccentric" is definitely more apt. You have an interesting group of friends, no doubt about it.

    But I have to admit, in my old age, I have a harder time dealing with your youthful exuberance (read: joyful screaming and yelling and damned if you care who stares) than I once did. Next time, I'll just hang back and talk religion with Marie-Claire while you and Irene beat the crap out of each other. :)

    (I know you already know this, but, again: thank you so much for coming into my life.)
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)