Friday, November 09, 2012

Noircon 2012, Evening I

I was second on the bill at the kick-off for Noircon 2012 at the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art Thursday evening, after the German artist Heide Hatry and before short films and commentary by filmmakers Oren Shai and Ed Holub and a set of music by Philadelphia's Scovilles.

My talk was short, sweet, and simple: ten minutes on noir music people might not think of as noir music, with examples from Brazil, Peru, Ireland, from jazz, country, symphony, opera, and flamenco, and a smashing conclusion with a recording of this song, from right here in America.

The presentation went well, I think, with a couple of hosanas and a huzzah flung my way afterward, including one from Robert Polito, editor of the Library of America's volumes of David Goodis and of American noir from the 1930s, '40s, and '50s.

Two highlights of the evening were contrasting views of Quentin Tarantino from the two filmmakers, and a surprising remark from Hatry about her choice of Wagner's Tannhäuser as a soundtrack for part of her presentation.

If I understood him correctly, Oren Shai cited Tarantino's self-referential genre storytelling as a vital response to exhausted genre conventions. Ed Holub, on the other hand, said it was fine for "Mr. Quentin Tarantino" to engage in "revisionist history, making sure all the parts line up, but there's more than that. I think he's missing the core." For Holub, the core of the original noir was postwar angst. Today, in neo-noir, he said, that emotional core has to be personal. 

The remarks on Tarantino caught my ear because I'd said in my talk that Nick Cave's music struck me as mannered and too aware of itself, "a musical equivalent of the Coen brothers or Quentin Tarantino."

And Heide Hatry, whose work is intensely political, surely chose Wagner as an acid commentary on Germany and the hellish dangers of a nation gone wild? Nah, she said, she just liked Tannhäuser. Sometimes a piece of music is just a piece of music.

(Read Cullen Gallagher's behind-the-scenes account of Noircon, Day I at Pulp Serenade.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Blogger John McFetridge said...

mannered and too aware of itself..."

I find it interesting that in crime fiction we still cling pretty closely to Elmore Leonard's, "if it feels like writing I rewrite it," or his other line about the "writer sticking his nose in too much," but in the movies we love the director sticking his nose in all over the place - Scorsese, Tarantino, Spike Lee, Francis Ford Coppola - all kinds of camera moves to attract attention to the fact we're watching a movie.

November 14, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One will hear an occasional voice of protest against the idea that style should be invisible, but in general you're right.

But were we (other than film professors and students) really aware in mass numbers of those director's tricks before Tarantino called our attention to them on a mass scale? Perhaps back in Howard Hawks' time (or D.W. Griffith's) we just accepted those tricks as effective storytelling.

November 14, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

... we love the director sticking his nose in all over the place...

Well, not in the movies I (and a few others) love.

November 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I can assert with some confidence that John prefers John Sayles to Quentin Tarantino. By "we," he means "them."

November 15, 2012  

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