WEIRDLAND: "Detour": You can't cut away a piece of your memory (Driven to Darkness)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Detour": You can't cut away a piece of your memory (Driven to Darkness)

"The theme of an artist of high cultural abilities and ambitions prostituting himself carries over from Bluebeard, of course, except that the biographical link to Ulmer’s own situation is more direct in Detour, where the conflict is not between epic poetry and puppetry but between European classical and American mass culture. In Detour, the “continental divide” is displayed in the film itself when Roberts, in his wee-hour riff, merges a pop tune, Brahms’s “Wiegenlied”, snippets of jazz, a Chopin waltz, and a hard-driving boogie in the same brilliant improvisation".

Tom Neal and Ann Savage as Al Roberts and Vera in "Detour" (1945) directed by Edgar G. Ulmer

"As Roberts’s doleful narration drones on, the camera moves backward behind his eerily white coffee cup that now appears overlarge and surreally animate . . . then forward, past, and behind him to another circular object, the spinning record on the jukebox, whose love song triggers his tortured memory of happier times . . . which, in turn, are visualized through a form-match dissolve to the circular white surface of a base drum in the nightclub where Roberts, in flashback, accompanies sweet Sue. Roberts’s voice-over underscores his limbo state, as well as the innocent fugitive’s lament":
“Did you ever want to forget anything? Did you ever want to cut away a piece of your memory, or blot it out? You can’t, you know, no matter how hard you try. You can change the scenery, but sooner or later you’ll get a whiff of perfume or somebody will say a certain phrase or maybe hum something—then you’re licked again.”
-"Driven to Darkness: Jewish Emigre Directors and the Rise of Film Noir" by Vincent Brook (2009)

Also please read again Performances imitating real feelings.


New York nightclub pianist Al Roberts decides to hitchhike to Hollywood to see his girl, Sue. When the sleazy gambler he's riding with dies en route, he impulsively takes the man's identity to hide from the police. A mysterious woman blackmails him and we watch his accidental descent into a life of crime. Despite a miniscule budget, this powerful and seedy drama was one of the most profitable films ever made.

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