Thursday, August 18, 2005

Chandler, Marlowe & "The Big Sleep"

“So you're a private detective,' she said. ‘I thought they only lived in books. Or else they were fat little men looking through keyholes in hotels."

There was nothing in that for me, so I didn't touch it.

Raymond Chandler created Philip Marlowe sometime in the 1930s, thereby creating a stir in the detective genre of fiction. The incisive and streetwise character that Marlowe is stands on his own in a genre already filled with creations quite distinct by their nature and modus operandi - from the broody and analytical genius of Sherlock Holmes to the womanizing and daring James Bond.

"The two rooms showed lights on the ground floor and a car stood on the drive in front. That must be Mr. Canino's brown car, I thought. He lets her drive it sometimes. He probably sits beside her with a gun. The girl Rusty Regan should have married. The girl Eddie Mars couldn't keep. The girl that didn't run away with Regan. Nice Mr. Canino."

He is probably one character, that I know of, who does it for the money – unlike Holmes whose reasons are more pedantic and have a lot to do with improving once trade, or Bond, who did it for the Queen or just for the thrill of the chase. Like Marlowe puts it in 'The Big Sleep',

“I have no feelings, I only want money. That’s why I work for twenty-five dollars a day, I do my own thinking. The police hate me, and so do Eddie Mars and his friends. I try to miss the bullets and stay alive. It’s difficult. I ask for trouble. I do all this for twenty-five dollars a day. And perhaps I feel a little sorry for an old man as well.”

Though, if you thought Marlowe was all work and no play, then you would be wrong.

“Her face under my mouth was like ice. She put her hands up and held my head. She kissed me hard on the lips. Her lips were like ice too.

I went out through the door and it closed behind me. The rain blew into my face. It wasn’t as cold as her lips.”

He does play the hermit quite often though.
Though, the main attraction of Raymond Chandler is not the character that is Philip Marlowe, but, is his style of writing. It’s made for a movie, this one. If Robert Rodriguez made 'L.A. Confidential' with Frank Miller’s dialogues and the scene templates of 'Frank Miller’s Sin City', the result would be the cinematic recreation of Chandler’s narrative. Philip Marlowe could very well be Jack Nicholson out of Polanski’s Chinatown, a Jack who spoke much lesser of course.

'The Big Sleep' is short, just like its style, and comes across as very refreshing to someone trying to discover a new style or character in the genre of “who-dunnits”. The story comes with the usual set of Rusty Regans and Eddie Marses, twisted plots and sub-plots, crisp action sequences and an always on the move feel. It’s like the experience of watching Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952) - a story that has been done a lot since but a narrative and a central character that stays as new now as it was then, yet.

1 comment:

Mridul said...

Classic would sum it up :)
The influence on comic strips is also pretty evident ... calvin for sure (the detective series) , and Dick Tracy is also influenced mightily by it ... the ones which I used to read :)