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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Altman and inner monologue:



well, (1) because this site started off with an enchanting interest in obituary, and (2) after reading ymM's kind invitation to comment on the link he drew between Badiou's remark on europeans fear of islam and Haneke's Cache (i will... another promise to fulfil), i felt this irresistable urge to play along... Robert Altman died a few days ago, he was 81.

i'm not gonna write about him though. i'm not very familiar with his work, for some obscure reason. i say so because i only saw three of his films, 'Mrs. Miller and McCabe', 'The Long Goodbye' and 'Gosford Park', and all of them were perfect. pure meditations... on a few Leonard Cohen songs, on the use of inner monologue in hard-boiled fiction/film as to generate a distant/objective gaze, and on the irreducible materiality of class stratification (see Woody Allen's 'Match Point' for a more current take on this), respectively.

let me concentrate on the film noir 'cause currently i'm reading Alain Robbe-Grillet's Jealousy, actually started couple of hours ago, a 100-page novel written in mid 50s, one of the landmarks of the so-called 'nouveau roman'. from a distance, it has nothing to do with film noir actually. it's about a man who gets jealous. but:

The lustrous black hair falls in motionless curls along the line of her back which the narrow metal fastening of her dress indicates a little lower down.
...

No, her features have not moved. Their immobilty is not so recent: the lips have remained set since her last words.
...
Her silhouette, outlined in horizontal strips against the blind of her bedroom window, has now disappeared... She says "Hello" in the playful tone of someone who has slept well and awakened in a good mood: or of someone who prefers not to show what she is thinking about-if anything-and always flashes the same smile, on principle; the same smile, which can be interpreted as derision just as well as affection, or total absence of any feeling whatever.



this is the cold voice of the male noir protagonist. watching, silent... trapped in his faith...

there is more to it. the story is narrated grammatically in the third person, yet it is actually the inner monologue of a paranoid man who suspects of an affair between his wife (the whore, the femme fatale) and his neighbour (the hairy stupid buddy). there are apparently three characters in the story (man, wife and her lover), they are having drinks on the porch or eating dinner together, and the reader is told of a third glass, plate or chair etc. but never a third person is mentioned. the only way it could have been mentioned is by referring to this person as "I" but the author delibaretely resists to this temptation. that person is always missing. so the novel turns into a series of schizoidly precise/detailed descriptions of objects (windows, stairs, banana trees), of people or of words. extreme subjectivity dissolves into pure objectivity.

of course, it's perfect for cinema. the camera will be the lacking protagonist. but one of the biggest problems is how to maintain the integrity of the story, for the novel has the liberty of not mentioning the "I", whereas in cinema, the "I", the camera, is inescapably there. the more you avoid it, the more visible he becomes.


... and the banana trees on the opposite slope, soon invisible in the darkness.



by the way, Ceylan's latest, "Climates", is a total disaster.

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