Femme Fatale: Brigid O’Shaughnessy

In Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, made into the film noir classic of the same name, we are initially introduced to Brigid O’Shaughnessy as Miss Wonderly. A truly wonderful name.

O’Shaughnessy is revealed to be a black widow, which provides us with a different type of femme fatale. Our other femme fatales may be alluring and attractive, but this one is all of that and hiding so much more. She is smart, dangerous and as capable as the men. In the cases of the men who fall victim to her, she is more capable. To Sam Spade, she is attractive, but ultimately punished for her sins.

O’Shaughnessy provides an interesting contrast to the other women in the story. There is Effie the ever obedient secretary and Iva, the widow of Spade’s partner.

Unlike the ending of other femme fatales, O’Shaughnessy is defeated in a way that allows Spade to continue with his life. Spade’s partner Archer is not so lucky and joins the ranks of other femme fatale victims like Walter Neff in Double Indemnity, providing us with a different interpretation of the femme fatale.

 

 

 

 

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Supernatural Ending in Dorian Gray

SPOLIER: If you haven’t read The Picture of Dorian Gray, the ending might not come as a huge surprise, but it’s worth while read and I would strongly suggest finishing the novel before you read on.

For those those of you who have read the novel the ending could leave you with a lingering question…or two.

What happens might be the first one and maybe an easy one to answer. Assuming you have read the novel you’ll know…

SPOILER (is it safe to say I’ve left enough space for those of you who haven’t read the novel not to accidentally have it spoiled? I hope so):

Dorian attacks the painting that has been bearing the burden of his sins and dies. A pretty easy answer and also the obvious supernatural element.

In destroying the painting, the burden of sin is suddenly thrust back upon Dorian and kills him. The painting then becomes the ideal representation of Dorian Basil initially painted.

But maybe that leaves a more challenging question:

Why does Dorian attack the painting?

Attacking the supernatural object that is allowing you a supernaturally long life seems an odd decision, but it is a decision prompted by a couple of impulses.  If we know one thing about Dorian, he is driven by impulses. The painting allow him to do whatever he wants whenever he wants because even if he did confess to the murder of Basil “who would believe him? There was no trace of the murdered man anywhere.” Do you remember the helpful Alan Campbell who Dorian blackmailed to destroy the body?

In a previous chapter, Dorian had an impulse to be good. Instead of corrupting the country girl Hetty Merton. Lord Henry had referred to this as just Dorian searching for a new pleasure. Dorian disagreed and went to look at the painting to see the effect. He isn’t pleased to find “The thin was still loathsome–more loathsome, if possible, than before”. He also sees  “in the mouth the curved wrinkle of the hypocrite”, but Dorian isn’t too bothered. It is only when he starts thinking about pleasure and the past he gets into trouble.

Dorian thinks of the painting, “Once it had given him pleasure to watch it changing and growing old. Of late he had felt no such pleasure.” Hence he is searching for new pleasure (not corrupting Hetty, rather than corrupting everyone he encounters). Now, when Dorian looks at the painting, “Its mere memory had marred many moments of joy”.

Dorian’s impulse for pleasure and reflection on the past provide him with a conflicted perspective that make him look at the painting differently. Having, previously decided that there was no evidence linking him to the death of Basil, he looks at the painting:

“The picture itself–that was evidence. He would destroy it.”

Unfortunately for Dorian, he happens to have the knife he killed Basil with hanging around (evidence of the murder? not really “He had cleaned it many times” and it was the 19th century so no CSI).

Using the knife Dorian is looking to “kill the past” as it had “killed the painter” which would mean “he would be free”. It is the level of freedom he is looking for that is significant.  He is looking for the freedom to experience pleasure. Unlike moral readings of Dorian, the painting is destroyed not because he finds it repulsive but because it is stopping him from experiencing new pleasure. Unfortunately, given Dorian’s opportunities he has no pleasures left to experience, which send him a little crazy. Crazy enough to pick up a knife and destroy the single object allowing him to do anything he wants.

At the end of the novel, Dorian is a horrible mess of man after years of corruption are suddenly thrust upon his physical form while the painting remains a “wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty”.

AzanaBand Origin Revealed

Adverts for a scary looking virtual reality collar have been running on Channel for a week now, particularly around technology scaremongering shows like Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. The placement of the adverts was the first clue that their shocking content was not all it seemed.

Hopefully you weren’t taken in by the adverts, just mildly intrigued. Because now Channel 4 has a new science fiction show for you. Not too far removed from a Matrix combined with a Ready Player One, the show, called Kiss Me First, looks like a sci-fi version of Skins. The title of the show itself is a little unusual, suggesting more of a romantic focus than a science fiction show. Only time will tell and the time is growing close.

The premier of Kiss me First is 2nd April, just missing out on the April Fools date that might suggest Chanel 4 has another trick up its sleeve. Especially as this isn’t the first time that Channel 4 has used fake adverts to generate interest in a new show. Remember Humans? Before the premier, Channel 4 ran adverts for Persona Synthetics . It was interesting the first time around, now with more fake news flying around the place, I’m not sure.

Check out the Kiss me First trailer:

Kiss Me First Trailer

Too Late to be Watching 12 Monkeys?

The second time that Cole pulled a gun on his son, the big bad otherwise known as The Witness, I had to take a break.

Being given the entire 3rd season of 12 Monkeys all in one weekend is like being given a car on your 16th birthday. You can sit in it but you just can’t get the full enjoyment. Not just yet, but soon.

I watched a couple of episodes and it felt like watching a really long film, rather than a series of episodes. Which want a bad thing. I stopped watching, reluctantly, until I got to the last couple of episodes. With the finale in sight, with that information about The Witness that has been alluding us within my grasp, I pressed on. And on I pressed until Cole pulled a gun on his son a second time. At that point, I got a little crazy feeling.

Here you have two people, let’s call them Cole and Cassandra. They have a life together, you know the 1950s house. They love one another. They are happy. And then they get pregnant. They continue to be happy, but things change. They start to wonder about a life without their child. What will it do to their realtionship? Is there life beyond their child? But they can’t do that. The child exists, their actions are redundant. The idea of the child is more powerful than their relationship. It presents a future of destruction. I’m not making this up, but their child bring about the end of the world.

Knelling before his father holding a gun, the son says “Whatever love you have for her is the reason that you must pull the trigger.”

Wow. I need to know how the writer feels about his or her family. If they haven’t already been to the psychratrist, they might need to go.

What is the moral of the story? Apparently, in the world of 12 Monkeys, life is great until you have a child who then ends the world and really puts a drag on your relationship. Heavy stuff.

Now that I’ve got that piece of crazy off my chest, I guess I’ll finish watching the episode.

One final note, Ramsey’s death. Let’s hope they bring him back because I spent half the series waiting for something to happen to bring him back. With this series, who knows.

 

The Good People of London Fallen

Just as “bourbon and poor choices” led Mike Banning to become the secret service super machine, beer and poor choices led us to late night Netflixs and London has Fallen.

If you saw the first instalment, the second is no surprise. A forgein guy (with religious and ideological issues tastefully removed) had a revenge plot against western civilisation. He didn’t throw the first punch, he probably says in a delicately accented voice, but he is going to change the world forever. Errr…probably not.

The film isn’t going to win any awards, except biggest fearmongering effort of the year or lamest sequel since every other lame sequel. What is most interesting is the good people of London. By good, I mean obedient and invisible.

London is a backdrop, a stage prop that falls into place behind the actors and does very little apart from having a number of recognisable landmarks that get destroyed. The people of London end up being insignificant.

When it becomes obvious that the army of terrorists are dressed like emergency services, the chief inspector pulls all emergency services and sounds the air raid siren (do they still have one covering the city?) so only the terrorists are left. Now Banning can kill everyone he meets without worry about identifying them because they are carrying a non-standard issue machine gun. Handy.

But would the people of London be so obedient without emergency services and CCTV surveillance? I sure hope they wouldn’t. While anyone’s first thought would be riots and public disobedience, might there not be a second reaction? Given the absence of obvious protection would not Londoners rise up to protect themselves and their families. I like to think so.

Violent Delights: Westworld Finale

Pete Postlewaite’s voice echoes with Shakespearean significance: “violent delights have violent ends”. No wait, it was Anthony Hopkins, I’m thinking about a different film.

The first season of Westworld has been and gone with its HBO serious tone of adult importance. Has HBO ever had a good comedy? Entourage maybe? Even then it was as much drama as comedy. It is the serious adult nature of Westworld that defines it as an distinctive property. You know when that HBO logo appears with all that static you are going to see some boobs and naked ass cheeks. With so much pornography so readily available, HBO is the final bastion of softcore. The cheesy 70s movie from a Michael Crichton novel about a futurist theme park is a faded memory, erased like the unwanted memories of so many hosts. Do you think Crichton was on retainer with Disney or Universal, because he certainly promoted theme parks. Or maybe not if you consider Jurassic Park and Westworld both contain lots of death paying customers. Not good for business.

The Westworld series gave us parallel narratives separated by different time periods. A usual collection of undecipherable clues, more origin narratives than there were characters and dramatic realisations a plenty. Or at least that is what we were supposed to think. Remember the boobs and naked cheeks? Well, you can add killing because other than a child’s toy, the final reveals in Westworld were a little empty.

Ed Harris’ man in black turns out to be William? No really? Dolores achieves freedom? I’m shocked. Bernard is brought back and the old town that seemed so hard to find turns out to be pretty boring. So what at the end of the series carried all that HBO seriousness? It is probably more the repeated images of naked and dead hosts than any insight realisation about human existence. If we pretty much know how this all plays out, what are we watching for except the dead bodies and naked cheeks? Which inevitably leads me to the question of whether to watch Season 2: the hosts rise up because they get tired of all the fucking and killing, when do we rise up against shows that can’t seem to see past dead bodies and naked cheeks?

You can’t get more B-movie than Violated (1953)

Crime B-movies are a dime a dozen. There are more crime B-movies than a there are porterhouse steaks in a butcher’s shop. Except Violated would be a steak a little too bloody with too much gristle.

From the opening sequence, which contains an unseen vicious murder, an unseen killer and lots of screaming, to the ending, which provides a convenient psychological answer, the doctors tell us it was “subconscious compulsion right down to the hair fetish,” Violated is the very epitome of B-movie.

The premise of the film is everything you might expect: a violent crime with sexual motivations by an unknown individual investigated by the police. There are a couple of suspects, some explanations from a doctor and a couple of possible victims (in this case a young girl starting a modelling career and a burlesque dancer).

The police are as wooden as the plain room sets they inhabit. It’s not worth your while distinguishing one cop from another, they are all one formless entity only in the film to help the viewer figure out the identity of the murder. At one point, a roomful of cops are interviewing a suspect and one, I can’t remember which and it doesn’t seem to matter, says you’ll talk “you dirty rat.”

One of the most interesting elements of the film is the reaction of the police. A cop fires into the air after hearing someone shout “Hey, stop that guy.” It makes you wonder whether the film is being overly dramatic or the fifties were a very different time. Let’s hope it was the former.

Look out of the lynchpin of the police’s investigation, it’s a suit sent to the drycleaners with hair on it. A far cry from modern police procedurals and crime scene investigators, but it works in the movie as does the killer’s explanation. After the doctor puts the guy under, we get a brief explanation

The killer’s failure to go through with marriage because her “was afraid of having children” leads the doctor to ask, “Was your childhood so terrible?” Of course it was, how could it not be. The first problem was “I once saw my father cry,” but then it turns out the killer saw “A man was stroking my mother’s long beautiful hair and kissing her.” Who was that man? Well, he’s not in the film, but he also wasn’t his dad.

Violated even has a moral for us, more of a warning if you like. Want to know what we should look out for to avoid this morally corrupt individuals? Look for the guy that helps you pick up papers when you drop them. If you’re not careful he’ll turn out to be a sexual monster with a pair of scissors.

My favourite parts of the film? Easy, couple of burlesque dancers getting into a quick cat fight and the creepy killer as he goes down a fire escape. Forget the wooden cops, this actor was going out Stanislavsky on the part.

Watch Violated online. The extended shot of the burlesque dancer in a top hat is the very definition of gratuitous.