I’ll say more about my thoughts on the film later, but I thought I’d just get things rolling with a couple of topics/questions.
1. I find Melville’s film to be devastatingly emotional, beneath the laconic dialogue and cool surfaces (or should I say, “because of?”). Do genre films–or let’s say films within genres that work as a kind of apotheosis of the genre–pack more of a punch emotionally because they are playing on a set of expectations? In other words, is the constraint of genre really a kind of freedom?
2. I particularly like the way the film quietly explodes the idea of a stoic masculinity–actions are not expressions of a philosophy where gesture supplants internal life, but messages from a vast unknown territory. Of course, I am a bit taken aback when I read that Melville describes his protagonist Costello as a “psychopath.” Do you agree? If so, the film might be part of the discussion with Straw Dogs and White.
3. Does the film’s dramatization of repression have anything to do with Black Narcissus’ vision?
4. is the film particularly modern by making obsessiveness the main indicator of internal psychology? and how would one “diagnose” Melville’s own obsession with the crime/caper film, where every gesture is in its place but the outcome is death? This question goes back to genre as well–the possibility that the comparison of the way Robert Mitchum wears his hat in Out of the Past with Jeff’s wearing of his fedora is more revealing than all the agonies of Bergman. True, or auteurist claptrap?
5. Jeff follows a real path of suicide, real death in contrast to karol of White–but is he equally deluded? Is his death merely a self-involved confirmation of his fantasy or is something more going on?
6. Is it better to address the mess of the world with composure and coolness, even at the risk of a certain disconnection, or does one do better by being more open to, and hence more vulnerable to, this mess? is there a difference?
7. I am sorry this film does not include the sexy 60’s Catharine Deneuve, but I would direct your attention to Un Flic (A Cop) which may even be more abstract, more (in Mark’s words) surreal and more melancholy.
8. how do you evaluate Alain Delon’s performance? I think it is a great piece of acting, just as I think Steve McQueen is great in Bullitt. But I guess we must re-define acting to some extent?
9 and, finally, if you were a giant hot dog, would you eat yourself? it’s a simple question!!