Wednesday, June 20, 2007

2GBC: All Frank Miller, All The Time!

I am, of course, kidding, but I saw this from the kids over at Blog@Newsarama today and had to say something.

Frank Miller to Direct Raymond Chandler's Trouble Is My Business

A few facts:

1) OK, this may or may not come as a surprise to any of you, but Raymond Chandler happens to be my favorite author of all time.

2) Trouble Is My Business is a longish short story featuring detective Philip Marlowe, and would actually make a pretty decent movie I think.

3) I've been waiting for a good new Marlowe adaption for a long friggin' time now. The last quality one was Powers Boothe in the HBO series a long time ago.

4) Clive Owen has been signed to play Philip Marlowe, something I've been hoping for ever since I saw him in Privateer 2: The Darkening. I'm not even kidding about that.

(Side Note: Is there a website that captures actors' shitty performances from full-motion video games from back in the 90s? If not, there oughta be. I've got some games that, let's just say, Christopher Walken and Paul Giamatti would probably rather I didn't keep.)

I guess what I'm trying to say is:


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Anonymous plok said...

I'd feel more comfortable with Miller adapting Hammett, wouldn't you?

Ah, who'm I kidding. I don't know who decided to elevate poor Frank to Universal Genius status, but as much as I love Batman: Year One, it's no Farewell, My Lovely...and that's a fact. I actually think Frank could probably do some wondrous things with Mickey Spillane, but Chandler (and Hammett) wrote the sharpest prose I've ever seen, and I think it'd be a challenge for anybody to adapt "Trouble Is My Business", which is so very very tight a story that it blows my mind whenever I read it.

I sense danger.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Plok, you and I are in exactly the same brainspace here, friend. I'm not sure I'd even want Miller to do Hammett, though some of the Continental Op stories and books --- Red Harvest comes to mind --- seem right up Miller's amoral alley.

Miller is definitely more Spillane than anything else, I think.

And that's what makes me think he's unsuited to Chandler --- whether he was writing about Marlowe or not, the protagonist was always the moral center, a knight in rusted armor who may have painted in shades of gray --- but only because he understood that using gray was the only way to draw the line between black and white, if that makes any sense. (Pardon while I wax poetic.)

I'm totally incapable of seeing Miller capturing that.

And where exactly did Miller get all this sudden directing credit from? Fawning over Robert Rodriguez?

2:55 PM  
Anonymous plok said...

Nice way of putting it!

Yeah, I was thinking Red Harvest too...the thing I think is so remarkable about Hammett is his absolute economy: Marlowe thinks and feels and observes, but the Op just acts, and superficially that seems more up Frank's alley.

But, is it really? I'm not so sure. The standard basket of hard-boiled detective motivations doesn't explain the Op's impulsivity any more than it explains Marlowe's melancholy, because in a way that standard basket is only the record of other peoples' failed attempts to synthesize the effect of Chandler and Hammett's peculiarities, without actually being peculiar themselves. Not that I'm saying there's no other good detective fiction, far from it! And there are plenty of good movies, even TV shows, in that genre too. Sin City, for example, may be very good; I haven't read it, so I can't say it isn't. But that doesn't mean Miller really understands Marlowe on a making level, instead of just a reading level, in fact not understanding Marlowe on a making level is probably just about the commonest thing there is, so why should anyone expect Frank to be good at it?

I guess it probably won't be really awful. But will it be awesome? Because that's kind of what makes Chandler Chandler, isn't it?

You know what I love? The old Philip Marlowe radio plays with Humphrey Bogart. Forget the famously peculiar face: it's that famously peculiar voice that gets the job done, there, and it's fantastic. In this fan's opinion. So what's Miller going to have on hand to offer me, that'll grab me as effectively? I also loved Miller's Crossing, and I could tell you why in detail -- it wasn't just Albert Finney and John Turturro. But, they were part of it. So, I'd trust the Coen Brothers with this stuff, because they know how to give me a "Bogart's voice" factor on the screen. But will Frank know how to do this?


4:54 PM  
Blogger Chris said...


So many choice quotes from your last comment, my favorite being:

"But will it be awesome? Because that's kind of what makes Chandler Chandler, isn't it?"

Couldn't have put it better myself.

Also, agree on the Bogart radio plays --- I just got them as a gift about a year ago and couldn't believe I'd waited so long.

I agree on the Coen brothers mainly because they made the greatest neo-noir picture of the 90s in The Big Lebowski. (It's amazing how many people I talk to that don't realize that it's a Chandler/Hammett parody set in modern times.) Plus, if ever there was a Marlowe, it's Jeff Lebowski.

While we're on the subject, it always seemed to me that there was a distinct lack of --- I dunno... 'joy' isn't the right word... quiet moral satisfaction? Moral impetus? --- in the Op stories, but then I realize they were written from a distinctly different point of view.

Anyway, I'm just thrilled to discover another Chandler/Hammett fan!

6:59 PM  
Anonymous plok said...

Well, me too!

Hmm, there's a paper topic for you: what the Op lacks. Is there such a thing (barring matters of pure self-preservation) as an impetus to action that isn't somehow based in the moral sense? Red Harvest suggest that there is...but what it is...gee. As a first approximation, I think we've got some Nietzsche here, which definitely means a species of joy, but just as definitely no satisfaction in the normal sense. Everywhere the Op goes, in every story, he finds something to involve himself with; as far as opportunities for involvement in action go, the landscape of Hammett's America is pretty amazingly rich! But why does he involve himself, when he doesn't have to?

Well, that's part of what makes those stories such astonishing writing. Chandler speaks to the reader -- especially in lines like "nothing was ever as quiet as the way she moved", or whatever it was, I'm sure I've missed the exact words -- of what his world is like, but Hammett's world almost defies interpretation, it's simply chaotic terrain. Amazing! I'd love to be good enough to write like Chandler, but what Hammett does just plain mystifies me. How the hell does he think it up?

This sounds like I admire Hammett over Chandler, I guess. Well, I actually admire Chandler more; but Hammett's achievement is (I think) unique. And it blows me away, for just the reasons you note. Maybe Conrad's project in the novel is the only one closely comparable to Hammett's, when it gets down to it...and there's another paper-in-the-making, I guess: Conrad - Symbolism = Hammett?


I bet someone's already thought of that one, though.

11:02 PM  
Anonymous cinephile said...

Well, at this point in his career, I'm afraid saying "Frank Miller, don't fuck this up!" is like saying, "Sun, don't rise!" or "Body, don't breathe!"-- you can hope against hope, but it ain't happening. Like you, I am a huge Chandler fan, but while I think clive owen is cool casting (I always think clive owen is cool casting, but if you watch croupier, you'll see he'd make an excellent chandler hero), I think Miller as a director is, to put it euphemistically, a mistake. Great question about when Miller achieved Universal Genius status-- I'd say it was when rabid fans overpraised Sin City for its similarity to the comics, as if simple translation was goal enough, without noting what a fascist piece of crap it was.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Harvey Jerkwater said...

Hammett left so much to the reader's imagination. Why does the Op do what he does in Red Harvest? I always saw the outlines of a sense of outrage, that the Op simply couldn't let things be and live with himself, but damned if I can recall Hammett ever saying it.

The emotional opacity of his characters was damn near total. Part of what made Sam Spade so hypnotic was the obscurity of his motives. Revenge? Justice? Greed? All of the above?

Red Harvest was partially inspired by Hammett's past. When he was a Pinkerton, he was brought in with a bunch of other Pinkies to work security during a copper miners' strike in Montana. Act as strikebreakers, keep the strikers from sabotaging the mines, stuff like that. During the job, a mine company manager offered Hammett five thousand dollars to kill the leader of the miners' union. You can see his disgust on every page of Red Harvest.

As far as Miller and Chandler, let's just go with "yikes" and leave it at that.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous plok said...


I'm gonna re-read RH now, I think...

4:13 PM  
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6:43 PM  

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