Friday, June 8, 2012

The Big Sleep (1946) Directed by Howard Hawks

The Big Sleep has always been present in this blog, because the title banner is a picture from the film. Why is this the visual image we chose out of all possible film visuals? That might be a good question to attempt to answer right now. I think it was important to have an image portraying a couple, because being a couple was the premise for our blog. Then it was about what energy we wanted to convey and that is where The Big Sleep and Bogie and Bacall became a natural choice. This cinematic couple is nothing if not verbally superior, sexy and edgy. Their looks are also to die for, as is the style of the whole movie. To put Bogie and Bacall in the banner is to direct you to imagine what's to come: the differing opinions of a man and a woman, their difference and their similarities all being equally important ingredients in their romance – and on the blog. To put B & B on the banner is also to engage with the imaginary, which is why we watch films in the first place, I believe.

There is a secret that the world of cinema has largely forgotten since 1946: a put-down can be the sexiest thing one can say to the other. You just have to choose the right time and tone to deliver your line. Howard Hawks knew this, Bob Dylan knew this, Bogie and Bacall certainly acted like they knew – but what's happened to the beauty of a put-down these days?

Another great aspect of the way B & B talk to each other in The Big Sleep is the implicit sexiness of almost everything they utter. In this exchange the subject is supposedly horses and betting on them:

Vivian: Speaking of horses, I like to play them myself. But I like to see them workout a little first, see if they're front runners or comefrom behind, find out what their whole card is, what makes them run.
Marlowe: Find out mine?
Vivian: I think so.
Marlowe: Go ahead.
Vivian: I'd say you don't like to be rated. You like to get out in front, open up a little lead, take a little breather in the backstretch, and then come home free.
Marlowe: You don't like to be rated yourself.
Vivian: I haven't met anyone yet that can do it. Any suggestions?
Marlowe: Well, I can't tell till I've seen you over a distance of ground. You've got a touch of class, but I don't know how, how far you can go.
Vivian: A lot depends on who's in the saddle.

So a lazy Independence Day passes by once again. As was pointed out to me earlier in the day by Astrid, Finland seems to be a country that celebrates its independence by watching various celebs and political types visit the Finnish President's palace on TV. No demonstrations in the street this year, this seems to be a time to be home with the family watching the box. It's a strange tradition where even the  most ardent political renegade displays their soft under belly. Why do Finns get so soppy at this event? So, as the hand shaking progressed, we wanted to watch something classic.

The Big Sleep offers more than the pure heated sexual chemistry of the nowadays iconic Bacall/Bogart team-up. Some of the dialogue between the two here is as charged as film dialogue has ever been without expressively shouting "I wanna Fuck!" Yes the photo at the top of this blog is from The Big Sleep. But instead of focusing on Bogart & Bacall or even Hawks (as we have dome in the past), it's time to give the script some credit as to why The Big Sleep still retains the edge and sexual prowess that is pretty much unrivaled in mainstream cinema. The Big Sleep was mainly written by William Faulkner from the Raymond Chandler novel. Like Chandler, Faulkner was a serious writer who turned to Hollywood to make some money and ended up writing some (often uncredited) scripts. He already scripted the Hawks/Bogart/Bacall team up To Have And Have Not. For me, The Big Sleep surpasses even that milestone with clever plotting, great characterization, and the screen Philip Marlowe. So much is down to Faulkner's energetic script.

If for some reason this film has passed you by, stop what you're doing and track it down and watch it (shouldn't be too hard). One of my all time faves, The Big Sleep reminds me of a time when the Studio System really did have the best talent available. That combination of artistic ideals combined with entertainment values have rarely created anything as stylish and sexy as The Big Sleep.