Archive for July 29th, 2011

PURE PLEASURE

July 29, 2011

It pays to be a virtual explorer sometimes as one can alight upon sites which are pure pleasure to peruse. Somehow this morning when in work avoidance mode, I landed on an Expats Taiwanese Blog HERE. Thanks man.

Aside from seeing myself in the blog roll, I discovered a virtual corncupia of other interesting sites, and this ONE in particular Film Studies for Free tended by an academic (?) Catherine Grant. Then I hit pure gold, that being her sections on Japanese Movies and Road Movies. Just so much quality, referenced reading provided.

Since I’ve already tried my hand at a Japanese film review to deadening silence HERE, hopefully some words about the classical road genre will get me beyond the wall of reader indifference.

Point One. The road genre is not inclusive to movies. Beginning with a great read. James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss conforms to the road movies genre in all its essentials, plus having an introduction to die for.

“When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart out of a fine spring afternoon… “

This was then followed by a bar brawl with a couple of redneck shade tree mechanics, a point to which I shall return.

I had the pleasure of running up a massive phone bill talking to Mr Crumley in the early eighties, and regret to this day that I didn’t follow through with his request, that being to send him half-dozen novels by Arthur Upfield in his Boney series. Crumley had a particularly high regard for Upfield’s Boney the Aboriginal police investigator. You can read a questionable wiki treatment of Crumley HERE and an good account of Upfield HERE.

The first American road movie ever was unquestionably Detour by Edgar G Ulymer in 1945. And did it explode into existence. Filmed in a couple of weeks on a shoestring budget by Czeck expat director Ulymer. Female lead Ann Savage set the standard in terms of pure evil female tarantula, while Tom Neal, playing Al Roberts the hapless low rent nightclub pianist hitching the US from NY to LA, was in fact a vicious scumbag in real life. He shot his third wife dead with a bullet in the back of the head. And Neals son appeared in the 1992 remake of Detour. There your go! Thumbing a lift on the great highway guarantees a whole mess of trouble. Neal link HERE and a good review of Detour HERE.

To be continued….Road Movies

The 1970s were a watershed in American cinema with great revisionist westerns – The Shooting and Ride the Whirlwind – by Monte Hellman, and that monster Easyrider which was really a western with Harleys and acid instead of horses and bad whisky. While Vanishing Point HERE has its share of devotees, and offers a amphetimined sociological view of the main themes characterising ’70s counterculture, I have a decided preference for Monte Hellman’s Two Lane Blacktop and its main protagonists.

1955 Chevy; 468 cubic inches; twin Holley mechanical carbs.

The Driver, The Mechanic @ The Girl

A very nattily attired Warren Oates

[So much muscle car worship in the 21st century, I probably need counselling.]

Now if you want a conventional review go to this LINK. I want to concentrate on the introductory scene as our protagonists (who really could double for cyborgs) drive to an illegal street race meeting held in Nowheresville in the good old US of A.

They count their collective cash, pay an entry fee, park their motor and open the hood for an inspection by the rubes and local rev head wannabes. “468, Holleys, Hurst shifter, blah, blah, and we are open to offers”.

Is this competing manhood measured in terms of engine displacement and speed over a quarter mile? Not even close. Your post feminist sensibilities are blinding you, friends.

Welcome to the great American tradition of the hustler: “Someone who conceals their skill level to fleece money from players they “gamble” with, although they are relying on disguised skill rather than a strict gamble or chance match”.

Fast Eddy Felson in The Hustler and its update The Colour of Money epitomised this tradition, while the highly underrated movie Rounders worked thru this theme at the card table. I Spy the sixties TV show with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby dealt with tennis hustlers who also indulged in a spot of espionage.

As much as I despise golf, it is a sport with more than its share of hustlers, and it you don’t read any link on this page, read THIS one on Titanic Thompson and THIS.

And what are the origins of this tradition of separating suckers from their cash? It is the Medicine Show or Carny Culture of rural pre-modern America, something to which I shall return in the near future.

Too rational to be hustled. This guy doesn’t think so.

Now, if our Small Town USA street racer had out hustled our grungy pair of blow-ins to the local race meet, he would also have encountered this delight, but it was not to be.

Race Queen - multicultural version

To be continued….