Monday, February 14, 2011

Charles Pappas on Film Noir

I'm pleased to participate in the "For the Love of Film (Noir)" Blogathon hosted by Ferdy on Film and The Self-Styled Siren. This important film preservation event begins today and runs through February 21. Its purpose is to help the Film Noir Foundation locate and restore films on the verge of disappearing forever. My post today is part of this special fundraising Blogathon.

Because I'm a big fan of film noir, I admire Charles Pappas' terrific book, It's a Bitter Little World. Looking at the world through blood-tinted glasses, Bitter celebrates the hardboiled language of the genre's classis from The Maltese Falcon to U Turn. Now updating his book, Pappas lives in Rochester, MN. A mild-mannered writer for Exhibitor magazine and a grandfather, he claims to be "still moderately dangerous." (Thanks to Pappas for sending me that colorful bio. Like film noir itself, he has a way with words.)

Clearly, film historian Pappas loves cynical movies about sex, violence and money that feature losers who seek the very thing that gets them killed. His fascinating book -- subtitled The Smartest, Toughest, Nastiest Quotes from Film Noir -- concentrates on the biting dialogue that makes these films so memorable. Included in this well-researched book are quotes from such classics as Double Indemnity, Touch of Evil, Gilda and The Big Sleep as well as from contemporary films like The Usual Suspects, The Last Seduction and Pulp Fiction.

Using the words-as-weapons writing style characteristic of his subject, Pappas crafted a stylish "Introduction" worthy of the best film noir screenwriters. "In noir, the women have jewelers' loupes of brains and cash registers for hearts; they stom on the men who are losers on loners," he observes. "The words are the explosions ... if, as Emerson said 'language is poetry,' film noir will now and forever be a skeletal record of monsters that bite worse than any T.Rex."

Here are three of my favorite quotes included in Pappas' book:

See, Mr. Gittes, most people never learn to face the fact that at the right time and the right place, they are capable of anything. --- Chinatown (1974)

There's one good thing about being a widow, isn't there? You don't have to ask your husband for money. --- Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

You shoot me in a dream, you'd better wake up and apologize. --- Reservoir Dogs (1992)

It's a Bitter Little World is a wonderful resource book. I think it's a must-read for film noir fans.

Check out the "For the Love of Film (Noir)" Blogathon at the following links:

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  • We often don't give enough credit to the way dialogue shapes these great films. Fun post!

    By Blogger Tinky, At 2:52 PM  

  • Thanks, Tinky! I agree with you wholeheartedly about the importance of dialogue in film noir offerings.

    By Blogger Betty Jo, At 5:22 AM  

  • Thank you for the lead. I have to look for that book.

    By Blogger Joe Thompson, At 2:55 PM  

  • I think the book is available on, Joe.

    And you will love it! Thanks for reading my post.

    By Blogger Betty Jo, At 3:39 PM  

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