Tuesday, July 6, 2010
"Cause, man, this is America."
When exactly did my country roll over and decide that we didn't want to compete on the global field of crime filmmaking? When did the motion pass that we only make films about people who are "the best" hitman, conman, heist crew, gangster, drug dealer, gunrunner, embezzler, lawyer, investigator, journalist, bounty hunter, security specialist etc? Or, and this is how you know it's a comedy - a real side-splitter - someone who's "not the best." Gah, I don't generally care about the elaborate mechanics of crime - yeah, they're nice details, condiments, but I'm sick of eating ketchup sandwiches. I'm here for the who and sometimes the why of crime, followed - nay pursued - by the consequences of it all. The human fallout.
C'mon, America, how many fucking amazing foreign crime films are we going to let go unanswered? I'm currently losing my shit over Aussie David Michod's Animal Kingdom which oughtta be arriving soon. Michod and pals Nash (director of The Square) and Joel Edgerton (writer on The Square as well as actor in that one and Animal Kingdom) appear ready to take on the world and I can only hope they can keep making crime dramas for a while and don't get co-opted into some fucking superhero/blockbuster franchise that they can never leave, (remember the Wachowski's made Bound first, Joe Carnahan once made Narc. Bryan Singer made The Usual Suspects. Chris Nolan made Following and Memento).
And I know there are exceptions. There are still good, small crime films coming out here, (I recently enjoyed Antwon Fuqua's Brooklyn's Finest and Brian Goodman's What Doesn't Kill You - both starring Ethan Hawke btw who was in one of the finest American crime films of the last ten year's - Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - when did the sniffly kid from Dead Poet's Society become this guy?) And The Nerd of Noir suggested a wicked recent 1/2 American double feature in Crimefactory 3.0 David Gordon Green's Snow Angels and James Marsh's The King But for every Shotgun Stories and Winter's Bone I seem to find three Pusher films. For exporting No Country For Old Men we import Amores Perros, Sin Nombre and City of God. For giving L.A. Confidential we receive Jerusalema and three Red Riding films.
But where is the American Baader Meinhof Complex or Il Divo? Surely James Ellroy has given us a template for this kind of fare. Who's got the balls to make them? How about Gomorrah? Or A Prophet? The gauntlet's been thrown, please please please, somebody score one for the home team.
To be fair though American television has answered the call. The Sopranos, The Wire, The Shield, Deadwood and Breaking Bad rank among the best crime fictions of any medium (and to a lesser extent, but still worthy of mention Brotherhood, Sons of Anarchy, Oz, Dexter and Justified are hold your head up moments for the USA). But dammit, we've lost our grip on the two-hour format. Put me in coach.
Okay, enough ranting.
To cleanse your pallet, may I suggest perusing Allan Guthrie's excellent list of favorite 200 noir books listed chronologically and stopping dead at a self imposed date of 1997. I'm officially intimidated.
Or how about checking out the all fiction supplement issue of Crimefactory (3.5) featuring stories by HBW friends Cullen Gallagher and Jason Dukes as well as Sophie Littlefield, Jonathan Woods, Jake Hinkson, John Kenyon, Garnett Elliot, Jay Stringer, Robert Crisman, Julia Madeline, Eric Beetner and Naomi Johnson.
Or better yet, go read John Rector's brand new The Cold Kiss. There's hope.
At Ransom Notes I'm talking about Arturo Perez-Reverte's The Club Dumas. A full 100% better than Roman Polanski's film version The Ninth Gate starring Johnny Depp. Which is not to say I hate the movie, I enjoy it on a certain level, but it's a lousy representation of the book.