Monday, April 11, 2011

farewell, my lovely (1975) | pulp magazine glories

Nothing particularly soul foodish about this one, but I'm a nut for both Raymond Chandler and baseball history, so I got quite a kick out of the 1975 treatment of Farewell, My Lovely - perhaps the most faithful of the Philip Marlowe screen adaptations, with a celebrated turn by Robert Mitchum in the lead role.

I love the look of the film, its saturated colours mimicking not so much the black and white glories of film noir as the lurid covers of those pulp magazines where Chandler's genre-defining hard-boiled stories first appeared.

That particular image evokes the paintings of Edward Hopper, doesn't it? The colour saturation and grainy resolution are exaggerated in these images because I was viewing the film on vhs tape, and doing my screen captures by shooting the screen with my digital camera. Not particularly true to the actual cinematography, but I do like the effect: pure pulp.

The title sequence at the beginning suggests vintage postcards of Los Angeles neon.

Credit where it's due...

I kept noticing the score, which is exceptional - reminded me sometimes of vintage noir scores like Anatomy Of A Murder, Touch Of Evil, Experiment In Terror, The Untouchables, other times of Bernard Hermann's chilling seventies noir score for Taxi Driver. Turns out the soundtrack became available a few years ago: I downloaded it from iTunes. (It's the "End Title" and "Main Title" versions of "Marlowe's Theme" you're after, and maybe "Moose Finds His Velma.")

The inspired casting doesn't end with Mitchum. In a brothel scene, one of the hoods looked suddenly familiar.  A review of the credits confirmed: Sly Stallone, a year before his breakout performance in Rocky.

For my money, Charlotte Rampling plays the fatale-est femme in all noir...

But it wasn't till the closing credits rolled that I noticed who played her husband: the only screen appearance (so far as I know) of the legendary crime novelist Jim Thompson, whose bleak pulp fictions were boiled much harder than Chandler's ever were.

"Farewell, My Lovely" was published in 1940, but the 1975 screenwriter must have been a ball fan, because he chose to set his story in the summer of 1941, against the backdrop of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.

The baseball angle also leads to the screenwriter's invention of a little black kid, probably over-emphasizing the "who is not himself mean" part of Chandler's famous mandate - "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor."

But if the kid's presence in the picture ultimately tips things the slightest bit too far in the direction of sentiment, it can be forgiven for giving us this particular little street scene...


Anonymous said...

Found it on iTunes of all places. Can't wait to see it.

Anonymous said...

Finally watched it. A fine addition to the Chandler films.

It took me a while to accept the look of the film, to be honest. Mostly because "my" Chandler films are The Big Sleep and Double Indemnity. But by the third act it felt perfect. My response to Mitchum was the same. He took some getting used to, but I realized halfway through that he was probably the most Marlowe-esque of all of the Marlowes.

You're the Chandler expert, but it seemed the most faithful to the Marlowe stories compared to the rest of the films I've seen.

I loved the backdrop of Joe DiMagio. A nice tough.