Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Adversary

Over at Ransom Notes, I'm getting a little bit into the True Crime field which is a place I frankly don't spend near enough time. The post came about from thinking on something Dennis Tafoya said to me in an interview:

"In my experience, criminals are rarely masterminds who make careful plans to avoid detection. They're mostly driven by barely-controlled impulse, and they tend to be immature, self-mythologizing, and unable to own up to their mistakes. They're like terrifying children." (Look for the rest of that interview in June.)

One exception did come to mind though. Jean-Claude Romand thought at least a few steps ahead, though was never able to stop himself from playing what was a losing game and when the game was drawing to an end, rather than man up and face the consequences, he killed his wife and children and inlaws just to avoid having them witness him being exposed as a fraud. His family and friends believed he was a well respected doctor doing important research for the World Health Organization and a sharp investment strategist to boot. The truth is, he was neither and the lengths that he went to daily, hourly and the level of deception he sunk to with his most intimate connections was staggering.

The Adversary by Emmanuel Carrere is a strange, sad and resoundingly disturbing book that tells Romand's story. As you sense the end approach, you feel Romand's panic set in, along with your own, you cannot help but plead with history to change itself and spare his victims. But when the climax arrives it will shake you.

Carrere is also the author of a unique biography of Philip K. Dick, I Am Alive and You Are Dead and a couple of novels, The Class Trip and The Mustache. I've read The Mustache and really enjoyed that one about a man who, as a practical joke shaves the mustache he's worn for years, right before he and his wife go to a party. He's dismayed that at the end of the evening no one, not his wife not his friends, have noticed. He figures that his wife, who is also a practical joker, has organized everyone in a counter joke to not say anything. When he can't stand it anymore, he admits defeat in their war of jokes, but she takes it a step further. "What mustache?" The one I've worn since we met. "You've never worn a mustache." A game of increasing desperation ensues as he tries to prove that he in fact did wear one and she steadfastly denies the claim.

Things get bad. Bloody and insane. Good read. And quick.

Carrere also wrote and directed an adaptation of The Mustache, though I don't recommend it nearly as highly as the book. For one, presenting it visually, you pretty much have to choose a side and go with it, while in the book both are plausible. Also the endings are different. Book's is much better.

Speaking of French crime stuffs, I caught Jacques Audiard's Un Prophete at le cinema last week and I still haven't recovered. I wake up in the middle of the night making horns and mouth-riffing Back in Black - that's how much it rocked. Gritty, graphic, bloody and intense, I can not recommend this film any more highly. She-it, I can't wait to see it again.

My family was out of town last weekend and I took the opportunity to catch up on some more good crime films - Antoine Fuqua's Brooklyn's Finest and Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Good week. BLPoCNO was a genuinely strange film. I loved it. Nic Cage is channeling Quasimodo as the good cop spiraling out of control on pain meds and whatever he can steal. Great scene where he snorts heroin believing it's cocaine and an even better one where he threatens an elderly woman in a wheelchair to gain information. Plus lizards. He's hallucinating lizards and dancing corpses. Great stuff. The ending is tidy almost to the point I wondered if he was still hallucinating. Finest was solid if not spectacular. Good work all around. It's the film I wanted Pride and Glory to be.


Dennis Tafoya said...

Loved The Adversary. It stayed with me a long, long time. And the Prophet was amazing - I made all the guys I'm doing the film project with go see it. It that rare combination of naturalistic and dreamlike, and it all works perfectly. Can't wait to see it again.

Iren said...

When I saw the title I was thinking the song by Crime and the City Solution-- which is used in the film Wings of Desire as I recall.

I saw Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans this week, and as a fan of the first film I like to think of it as the Kinda Bad Lt. Not that it was a bad film, just that it lacked the grit, surreal nature and the downbeat nature of the first film. I do want to see it again, there were a couple of amazingly great scenes.

jedidiah ayres said...

Crime and the City Solution had that song in at least one other Wim Wenders film - Until the End of the World - great song.

Bad Lt. was actually tacked on to the title after Herzog was involved. Apparently the producer held the rights to a sequel and decided he'd have a (small) built in audience if he called it that.

Supposedly Abel Ferrara was aghast and Herzog's response was "Who is Abel Ferrara? I have never heard of this person."

But you're right. Different films for sure.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I saw the filmed version of THE MOUSTACHE, which was very good. I could have seen THE PROPHET yesterday but saw THE GIRL WITH THE instead. Have to go back and catch it before it leaves.

jedidiah ayres said...

How was Girl W/?

jedidiah ayres said...

Red Riding Trilogy is playing here this week, but I don't think I can swing it. Damn.