Archive for February 18, 2023

Window Blind

Posted in Comics, FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2023 by dcairns

I’m delighted to have a local second-hand bookstore one street away, and even more delighted that it’s called The Community Bookstore, since that was also the name of my neighbo(u)rhood bookstore in Brooklyn when I’ve stayed there for brief spurts. The CB sprang up just after the sad closure of the All-You-Can Eat Bookshop, and has been a similarly pleasurable drain on my income.

One thing I bought lately is Coin-Op Comics Anthology 1997-2017, by Peter Hoey + Maria Hoey — it has John Dahl and Peggy Cummings from GUN CRAZY on the cover, in a cartoon copy of a still I once turned into a painting when I was a misguided art student, so you could say it was AIMED AT me.

What made me buy the reassuringly sold hardback, which cost more than my £2 auto-purchase threshold (if it’s under £2 and looks promising, I’ll buy it, regardless of whether I’m likely to actually READ it), was finding a strip in there which mashes together REAR WINDOW and UN CHIEN ANDALOU to create a terrifying Lynchian nightmare.

When I was a misguided art student I also dabbled in comics, and so in my current incarnation as film cricket I’m interested in the conjunction of comics and movies — not in comic strip adaptations of the MCU variety, nor in comic adaptations of feature films, but in comics as a means of film cricketism criticism. I enjoyed Edinburgh-based Edward Ross’s Filmish, which transfers film studies as it is taught at most universities into didactic strip-cartoon form, in something like the style of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, but Coin-Op is doing something weirder. It’s not officially film analysis, and yet somehow it is.

Just by folding together the Bunuel-Dali short and the Hitchcock feature, the piece naturally uncovers similarities and differences. Both films come to feel like explorations of the Kuleshov Effect: Hitchcock supposedly reused a closeup of Jimmy Stewart in two wildly different contexts, and delightedly screened the results to his star, to prove how performance can be superseded or subverted by cutting. The Spanish expats short-circuit the audience’s tendency to relate to POV characters by showing Pierre Batcheff reacting in very vivid and very inappropriate ways to the strange things he sees from his window. CHIEN actually feels as if a bunch of random reaction shots have been spliced together with equally random POVs in order to mess with our minds.

These thoughts are prompted by the weird, creepy story (poor Jimmy!) the Hoeys (Hoeyii? — a brother and sister team working on opposite US seaboards) concoct, rather than being embedded in it as text. They also do a piece on Orson Welles which isn’t quite as successful but is VERY interesting, and a more conventional biopicstrip of Nick Ray. Also lots of beautifully laid out and surreal non-cinema material.

The drawing can seem a little clenched — very few comics artists can do celebrity likenesses in a relaxed style, the way the best caricaturists manage. The lines are mechanically even, not offering the lively variation of nib or brush. But these movie mash-up narratives hint at a whole new way of doing film criticism, more worthy of further exploration I think than David Thomson’s Suspects, which is the closest thing to it I can think of. (You CAN end a sentence with a preposition, see? Or would you prefer “the closest thing to it of which I can think”?)