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Saturday, 14 November 2009

On Dangerous Ground



It's not her inevitable unhappy end

We recall but her ambiguous power.

Her darkness drinks up the hero's gaze

As an ocean draws its feeble tributary

Into itself, to drown in its mirrors.

Which angle is to be trusted with

Secrets that make watchers uncomfortable?

Or does the sneaky camera eye control

Everything, the way night encompasses

Day, aggressor prey, heroine hero

Swaying from her to eternity and back

With his psyche hanging out, and this slack look?


Out of the Past, 1947 (publicity still): image by D.C. Geist, 2007

The Big Combo, 1955 (movie trailer): screenshot by Esun, 2008


George Mattingly said...

"The way night encompasses day, aggressor prey." Wonderful. I think you've captured the heart of film noir perfectly here Tom.

TC said...

Ah, what great movies those were.

I guess we still have the guys with the slack looks and the psyches hanging out. Maybe more than ever. No more Jane Greers around to mesmerize them however.

Looking at this still, I wonder what if anything was actually in Mitchum's mind at the moment.

I once saw him playing polo in Santa Barbara. Not much mesmerization. Though then again, the presence of visible manifestations of Money under Palm Trees is always a rather mesmerizing thing.

Still not up to the Jane Greer level though.

Annie said...

I agree w/George. Bingo.

What makes her dangerous is that most women learn early to survive in an ostensibly black and white world really means negotiating closely observed tonal values. She IS the camera, and that's why it loves her.

Annie said...

Forgot to mention I also watched movie stars play at the Santa Barbara Polo Club, actually closer to Carpinteria Beach, where we used to go for summer vacation in the dog days of August. (Was not as impressed as Mom wished, as I was antsy to go ride the dome car of the miniature Santa Fe train across the way at Santa Claus Village.)I think it brought back her stardust memories of watching Clark Gable and others whack the white ball at Will Rogers' personal field near Sunset Blvd. Kinda blasts the populist image to hell, but Rogers would aver that "they call it a gentleman's game for the same reason they call a tall man Shorty."

TC said...


You remind me with your amusing instance of image-blasting of all the internal contradictions built into the proverbial love/hate thing about SoCal; that is, the slightly woozy feeling of perpetually existing in a confusing middle ground between that lush fairy tale of the fortune palms and that arid poverty of reality in the endless pavement. Thinking clearly, in any place at any time, one never finds easy; but for me, in SoCal, the attempted cogitations often seemed to drift off obliquely like cartoon wig bubbles into the hazed azure; got the clue it was time to depart when finally no longer able to tell the difference between an actual thought and A Polyester Notion

. said...

Dangerous and as addictive as gravity. Such power, which you caught here.

TC said...


That dark addictive power that comes into movies echoing developments in the late 1930s with Expressionism seems perhaps to oddly parallel what was happening in nuclear physics in Germany around the same time, the additive of deuterium isotopes to the water molecule to create Heavy Water -- something denser in the molecules, more powerful, harder to bottle and impossible to hold for long.