Thursday, September 04, 2014
Nightmarish Affairs: "Detour", "The Lost Weekend", Stiegler's diagnosis
A masterpiece of Poverty Row, Roger Ebert called this film "the guilty soul of film noir." Detour is that rare film whose brevity somehow communicates a tome's worth of ideas and themes. The staging is bare-bones —Ulmer used a total of four sets (three interior, one exterior) and used stock footage and rear projection for everything else— and the narrative is stripped to virtually nothing, so all that exists is a creeping, paranoid mood and deep sense of alienation. How Ulmer achieved so much with so little is something of a marvel, but credit the milieu's deliberate artificiality and the unconventional, oddly stilted performances. This is one of very few films rightly described as a "fever dream." Source: www.chicagoreader.com
He takes a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and shakes one out, lights it. As he puts the match in the ashtray, his eyes fall on that jigger of whiskey. It's hard to resist it any longer. He takes a handkerchief from his pocket, wipes his forehead, then his parched mouth. The time has come now. He puts the handkerchief back in his pocket, lifts the glass and drains it in one gulp. Actually, Don doesn't like the taste of liquor, actively hates it indeed, as a one-legged man might hate the sight of his crutches but need them in order to walk.
Gloria is back from the powder room. On her way to her gentleman friend at the table, she runs her finger through the neckline of Don's hair. She is almost past him when he catches her hand and pulls her towards him. DON: Shall we dance? GLORIA: You're awfully pretty, Mr. Birnam. DON: You say that to all the boys. GLORIA: Why, natch. Only with you it's on the level.
DON: That's my novel, Nat. I wanted to start writing it out in the country. Morbid stuff. Nothing for the Book-of-the Month Club. A horror story. The confessions of a booze addict, the log book of an alcoholic. (Holding out the jigger) Love's the hardest thing in the world to write about. So simple. You've got to catch it through details, like the early morning sunlight hitting the gray tin of the ashcans in front of her house. A ringing telephone that sounds like Beethoven's Pastoral. A letter scribbled on her office stationery that you carry in your pocket because it smells of all the lilacs in Ohio.
-extracts from "The Lost Weekend" (1945) script by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, based on the novel "The Lost Weekend" (1944) by Charles R. Jackson.