Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ira Levin; Deborah Lipp

I've now read six Ira Levin obituaries. Only two of them, thank the Lord, informed us that he wasn't much of a stylist. I don't know from style but I do know from cultural impact. When one man writes seven very short novels (A Kiss Before Dying, his masterpiece, being the exception) that have the social impact of Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives and The Boys From Brazil, I'd say he was an amazing and truly important writer. So long, Ira.

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That very cool website Cinema Retro led me to culture commentator (and Wiccan and cat lover) Deborah Lipp. Commenting on the original The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three she said something simple and profound about movies (though I'd disgaree that Sierra Madre doesn't have a theme and a powerful one):

"The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is probably best known today as the source for using color-coded pseudonyms during a heist, lifted by Tarantino for Reservoir Dogs. Which is a shame; the movie should be known for its own merits.

"One way to describe Pelham 123 is to tell you what’s not in it. No one on the subway car is related to, or in a relationship with, anyone working in the transit office or for the police. None of the hostages are Lt. Garber’s mother, sister, or childhood sweetheart. There are no coincidences in the plotting or characterization at all. No one in the movie looks like they’re in a movie; no one has perfect features, or exquisite skin tone, or flawless makeup. There’s no romance. But it’s not a “guy” movie, either; the hostages are as likely to be female as male, and there are an unusual number of female roles for a heist movie.

"All of which makes it kind of hard to describe. Some movies are great because they have a sweeping theme, or are startling or innovative, or are romantic, or incredibly witty. But a handful of movies are great because they’re just great movies. They tell interesting stories with a rich array of embellishments. You walk away from them thinking not about love or truth or family or death, but about storytelling, and authenticity. The Man Who Would Be King is such a movie, a great yarn, you might say. So is Treasure of the Sierra Madre. And so is The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. "

for the rest go here http://www.deborahlipp.com/wordpress/

Ed here: Storytelling! What a concept!

5 comments:

Bill Crider said...

A concept mostly forgotten by today's filmmakers, unfortunately.

John McFetridge said...

There's been talk of a Pelham 123 remake.

save us, please save us...

Graham Powell said...

I saw this earlier this year via Netflix and was surprised at how well drawn the characters were, and how varied. And no criminal masterminds or supergenius detectives, just smart professionals.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Brilliant movie. I'd hate to take a chance on a remake. It's one of those movies that was too perfect to remake.
Levin's books were all page-turners: you just can't explain today how original each one was and different from the others. I couldn't wait to lay my hands on the next one.

Duane Swierczynski said...

Couldn't agree more about Ira Levin, Ed. A KISS BEFORE DYING is a masterwork of suspense. (And written when Levin was only 23!)