Derik Badman's Journal

2021-07-10 08:41

Watched a bunch of movies the past week, including a bunch from the neo-noir program on Criterion right now.

Lilith (1964) was one I ended up mostly watching cause Jean Seberg was in it (co-starring alongside a very young Warren Beatty). Beatty plays a young man out of the army, perhaps showing signs of PTSD, who decides to get a job at the local mental health asylum, the fancy kind where rich people send the relatives they don't want to deal with. He becomes infatuated with Seberg's character who they only really hint at what her issues are. She has a made-up language, and maybe she caused her brother's death (indirectly, I think, via suggestion), we see her almost cause another patient's death. The movie's adapted from a book, and it feels like a lot is left out by way of really understanding the full situation. It was... ok... but not that memorable.

Rewatched The Blue Dahlia with a Raymond Chandler screenplay starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. It's one of the better of the Ladd/Lake noirs (better than This Gun For Hire), no doubt due to Chandler's work, though Lake feels underused in it. Classic noir with murders and secrets and identity confusion and twists, with the common trope of the returning G.I.s as its set-up. The final reveal of the actual murderer feels a little too pat, like Chandler just suddenly decided he didn't want to blame one of the soldiers.

Brian De Palma's Body Double, one of those neo-noirs, was a lot weirder, though that's not unexpected from De Palma (what little I've seen of his work). It has a lot of scenes that seem illogical and it has a overly complicated murder plot. A bit of Vertigo and Rear Window at play, and a ridiculous scene featuring Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax." It does start off with a movie within a movie, so you know there will be a facade of irreality and acting throughout. I enjoyed it, though I don't know I'd want to see it again.

Also watched David Mamet's Homicide which... maybe I have seen before... I watched a bunch of Mamet movies years ago this one kept seeming familiar, then unfamiliar again. Maybe I just didn't remember it well. Joe Mantegna is a homicide cop who gets put on a case about a old Jewish store owner getting murdered, and he basically gets wrapped up in a mostly unrelated investigation that he seems drawn to because he's neglected his Jewish heritage. At one point he even blows up a model train store run by a neo-nazi. The whole thing starts to obsess him enough that he neglects the other big case his partner is working on. It's a good example of the metaphysical detective story subgenre in film, as the investigation is not really about the crime, and in the end the solution to the actual crime is almost incidental (and done by someone else), instead the detective is investigating aspects of himself. As soon as the dialogue starts you know Mamet wrote this one with the repetition and clipped phrasing.

Reread Kawabata's Thousand Cranes the other night. He's one of those few authors that I feel like I can always pick up and read (Queneau, Markson, Le Guin, etc.). I find it hard to say what it is I like about his work. It's quiet, undramatic, very Japanese... comparing to Ozu seems too easy, and also probably a bit of a disservice to both. Kawabata is much more about interiority of individual characters, while Ozu is all about society and interpersonal relations. I enjoyed rereading it so much I ended up ordering a few other Kawabata books I've not read. Maybe they'll make it on to my beach reading pile (if I don't get to them before that). I've already started gathering books for beach week, including a new edition of The Book of the New Sun (well the first half) and a translation of the Decameron I'm expecting in the mail.

We have guests this week. It's first time we've had guests in forever and probably the first time we've had more than overnight guests in this house ever. I'm not used to having other people around, so I'm trying hard to not get uptight about all my little things. I am such a person of habit and... structure, I guess, that I've already found myself, moving things around (back to where they should be, as my mind has it). At least for me I always have my office to go to, and I wake up a lot earlier than everyone else, so I have the early mornings to myself.

Tomorrow we are playing the mostly improvised 90's Mall Game, that somehow I have found myself running for our guests and the regular gaming group. My planning so far has been minimal, I keep putting off putting any actual work into it, even right now I should be doing that instead of this. It's going to be a murder mystery, but I think... I hope... I can get a lot of mileage out of just going along with what the players come up with. It's not like I am trying to stump them or anything, so I'm going to try to leave it open even in my mind who the murderer is and see where the players' actions and the dice take us. There's only so much we can do in one session anyway, so wasting time on red herrings and wrong deductions seems pointless. We'll see how it goes, I just want everyone to have fun and if we can manage that then it will be a success. Getting together is still so novel and █████ hasn't been here in person for one of our games for a long time, so there is also just a certain amount of social interest regardless of the game.

Anyway, better work on my game notes. I did a copied and slightly changed version of my Hadleyville web app so I could put some tables and notes and npcs all in one place on my laptop, but at this point none of the notes or npcs are there.