Saturday, March 27, 2010

Get Hodges

The deadpan narration of Watching the Wheels Come Off reminds me of Clive Owen's deadpan voiceovers in Mike Hodges' 1998 movie Croupier.

No surprise there, perhaps. Hodges, who began his movie career directing Get Carter in 1971, published Watching the Wheels ... , his first novel at age 77 and one of the first two titles from Maxim Jakubowski's Max Crime imprint.

I don't quite know why, but I find passages like this beguiling:

Alone, in a long black dress on a tall black bar stool, sits Ursula Letts. Everything about her, from the cut of her hair to the shape of her shoes, radiates style and originality. Even the stigma of a lazy right eye suits her quirky style. Ursula is a primary-school teacher. She also has the dubious honor of being Mark's childhood sweetheart and very first lover. Unfortunately for her, the affair won't quite lie down and die.
It's an odd story involving a faded seaside resort, a plucky public relations man who lives in his office, a fascistic cult leader, a down-at-the-heels detective, and a latter-day Houdini who, at the point I have reached, has vanished into the ocean chained in a trunk.

Here are two more bits I've liked:

He picks up the evil-looking burger. "Jesus, it couldn't be more dangerous than this."

He thinks about taking another bite but decides against it. Instead, he watches Ursula walk out of his life. The waitress moves in to clear the table.

"Anything else?"

"Yes, penicillin."
and

When conferences began to replace communities, every seaside resort in the country built a centre for them. These centres, with the greedy fingerprints of local burghers all over them, were inevitably portentous, ugly and erected on a prime location where nobody could ignore them. ... Conferences make the world go round or, more exactly, give the appearance of making it go around. Like careousels, things tend to end up pretty much where they started.
© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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20 Comments:

Blogger adrian.mckinty said...

Croupier was 10 years ago? Thats amazing. I thought it was two or three. Great underrated film though.

March 27, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I liked Croupier too, but I knew it was awhile ago. Owen has done a lot since.

I liked the passages here and am surprised that the screenwriter of Get Carter would be its author. Screenwriting seems to be such a different kind of skill.

March 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, Croupier is older than than that, actually. Apparently it had a brief theatical release in the UK in the very late 1990s, but took off only after its US release in what I have found out was 2000. I saw it on its initial theatrical release here in the US, but I had not remembered what year that was.

Fetch, with whom I had drinks last week, was similarly amazed that the movie was that, er, non-recent. I tip my hat to him for letting me know about Watching the Wheels Come Off.

March 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, the fascinating thing is that Hodges did not write Croupier's script, or at least does not credit for it, despite the similarities I detect between that movie and his novel. I had meant to mention this in my post, but Croupier's protagonist/narrator, Jack, is a struggling writer. It's tempting to imagine Hodges thinking back then about one day writing a book of his own.

March 27, 2010  
Blogger Donna said...

Peter - I read WATCHING THE WHEELS COME OFF a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it (the publishers are my publishers too and I've been begging for this one for ages!) I thought it was lovely and sleazy. And it's definitely written with a screenwriter's eye. There's a great passage about the grubby PI standing in the doorway of a hat shop which was so cinematic.

March 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And I imagine that some of the rally scenes would tempt screenwriters and cinematographers -- lots of pink faces shouting with enthusiasm, lots of lockstep disciples.

Hmm, and a solitary ending on a beach ...

March 27, 2010  
Blogger adrian.mckinty said...

Clive Owen hasnt changed THAT much although I cant see him wearing the silly hats these days.

March 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

When did he wear silly hats?

March 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

OK, I just found references to a bad hat in Croupier. It must have been a really bad hat, because none of the stills from the movie shows Owen wearing it.

March 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, man, you mean the little beanie-like thing he wears while writing, don't you?

March 27, 2010  
Blogger adrian.mckinty said...

Yeah it was horrible wasn't it? I'll bet all his contracts from then on said no hats.

I like Owen very much and he has a cool, tough guy persona but I laughed my ass off when I was in Argentina and saw that he did perfume ads.

March 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm not generally a fan of that school acting that stresses lack of facial expression, but I've liked Owen's performances.

I did some searches to try to unravel the hat mystery, and I found an article that derided Croupier's depiction of author who

a) writes only when it rains

b) writes in a hat

and

c) finds a cigarette a necessary accessory.

I think the criticism missed a satirical point, but the hat was bloody awful.

March 27, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Don't you remember when your teachers told you to put on your thinking cap? Obviously Owens' character just took this a bit too literally.

Personally, I wouldn't hold against any writer what they chose to wear when they were actually sitting down writing, but then, I'm a liberal.

March 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have been told a time or two to don my thinking cap. I may once even have known the origin of the term.

The critic of Owens' headwear thought the movie was adhering to ludicrous writerly stereotypes, though the objection was easier to understand with respect to the cigarettes and the rain. I think the ludicrousness was a satirical jab.

March 27, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I'd have to watch it again to decide.

March 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Good movie, bad hat.

March 27, 2010  
Anonymous John H said...

I thought the lazy might be really sexy along with the black dress and shoe.

March 28, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I like her name. Both of them, in fact.

March 28, 2010  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

Sounds great. Remember Pulp? Hodges film with Caine and Micky Rooney? Top stuff.

March 28, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I missed that one. I also haven't seen "Morons From Outer Space."

March 28, 2010  

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