Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Monday, September 04, 2006


We watched a little noir-ish film, Brick, that came out last year. At least, I was expecting a noir-ish film set in a high school – that’s how the film was sold to me in the Focus Features trailers on the DVDs I was renting – so I was hoping for another teenage genre-bender like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Veronica Mars.

But Brick isn’t a blend of teenage angst and gritty crime novel. It is 100% gritty crime novel. The action unfolds on a high school campus with high school characters, and that is exactly where the youth angle ends. The film actually revels in its unapologetic pot-boiler detective conventions, flaunting them preposterously in the school setting. “I know about these little informal chats, Principle Trueman – you want to keep me here, you write me up! Otherwise I’m walkin’.”

That may seem a little cute (it does get a laugh) but the story is a dark one. The movie opens with the beautiful blonde lying face-down in a concrete drainage easement, hair trailing in the water, and a young man who must love her staring at her in mute and muted pain. It’s a serious thriller with life and death at stake, and the comedic notes are just that: notes, not the theme.

The result is a little bizarre, but fun. It’s kind of like when a progressive drama company stages and costumes a Shakespearean play in some far-flung historical setting, like World War II. The different setting and stock characters makes the formula seem fresh again. Once you get past the fact that eighteen-year-olds are talking like they’re forty-five, you can just enjoy a really fast-paced crime story. In plot, it’s just as twisty as Miller’s Crossing – full of alliances and double-crosses, with the free-agent hero constantly surfing on the edge of disaster. Just allow lots of time to watch it, because you’re going to have to rewind often to hear the speeches. Sometimes the plot exposition goes by in a lightning-flash and your confused; sometimes the dialog is just so good you want to hear it again:

Principle: Well, I’ve been meaning to talk to you . . . you’ve helped us out
Brandon: No. I gave you Jer to watch him be eaten, not to see you

Wow! There’s a lot of exchanges like that, all dark and edgy and clever, like a hopped-up 40’s-era thriller. Put it in your NetFlix queue.



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