sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2017-08-24 01:55 pm

You begin to interest me—vaguely

I am aware that David Thomson in his 2000 BFI guide to Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep (1946) is pointing out the absurdity of the male fantasy that all Bogart's Marlowe has to do is walk into a bookstore and the clerk pulls down the shades and takes her glasses off, but I cannot agree with his view of Dorothy Malone's character at the end of their afternoon's tryst: "She does nothing to protest, to ask what now, what next, what about me? What did this mean? She has behaved like a placid whore, an available young bitch. And Marlowe has sought no more." First of all, I think that's a funny thing to say about a pair of people who bond not just over off-the-cuff sexual availability but nonexistent rare editions and people-watching. Second, it never occurred to me to think that the scene was incomplete without Malone's clerk protesting or pining. What next is she closes up the Acme Book Shop and goes home to whatever closer-to-real world she lives in, beyond the half-screwball hall of mirrors that is the plot of The Big Sleep. What about her is she got the same afternoon's fantasy as Marlowe: a smart, sexy stranger, no strings attached. "Placid" is a peculiar adjective to apply to a girl who makes the first move. "Bitch" is even more opaque to me: in heat? Indiscriminate? I don't think Thomson is trying to say she takes her hair down for all the customers; I certainly don't think Hawks implies it. If anything the scene is a testament to the irresistible virility of Humphrey Bogart, which is itself framed a little like a joke: that roll of thunder when he introduces himself as "a private dick on a case" is just a bit too on the nose. He self-consciously sucks in his forty-five-year-old waistline when she describes Geiger as "fattish." And yet women all over this movie throw themselves at him, from both Sternwood sisters to the taxi driver who cracks a racy joke that makes Marlowe blink. Doylistically, is it like a repeating kaleidoscope of the Hawksian woman throughout the script? Sure. But then one of the characteristics of that archetype is that she is not a mere object, not disposable. The girl at the Acme Book Shop watches Marlowe walk away through the steamy afternoon, but I don't think she's seeing the man that got away. She got him and good and now life, with or without a Ben-Hur 1860 third edition with a duplicated line on page 116, goes on.

tl;dr I did not buy Thomson's BFI guide to The Big Sleep because I hit that analysis while I was flicking through it and I thought if he was that wrong about Dorothy Malone, God knows what he thinks about Elisha Cook Jr. or Lauren Bacall. To disclose all biases on the part of the viewer, my major complaint about the scene is that she takes off her glasses at all.
swan_tower: (Default)

[personal profile] swan_tower 2017-08-24 06:29 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow, yeah. That . . . that commentary is special. It basically assumes the only agency she could have in that scene is to cling to him, and her failure to do that makes her a whore.
gwynnega: (Barry Ryan)

[personal profile] gwynnega 2017-08-24 06:38 pm (UTC)(link)
What the hell, David Thomson?

I agree with you about the glasses.
moon_custafer: (Acme Bookshop)

[personal profile] moon_custafer 2017-08-24 07:04 pm (UTC)(link)
I need to put her back up as my default icon.

And yet women all over this movie throw themselves at him, from both Sternwood sisters to the taxi driver who cracks a racy joke that makes Marlowe blink.

Andrew and I sometimes refer to this movie as "Bogart on the Planet of the Babes."

She’s also there for contrast with the dressed-to-kill, not-even-pretending-to-know-about-books Agnes in the previous scene. BTW, anyone else think Marlowe’s disguise (Hmm?) influenced Deckard’s nerdy, sleazy “Investigator for the Confidential Committee on Moral Abuses” in Blade Runner?
Edited 2017-08-24 19:10 (UTC)
ethelmay: (Default)

[personal profile] ethelmay 2017-08-24 08:44 pm (UTC)(link)
I never realized they were pince-nez, not even glasses.
asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)

[personal profile] asakiyume 2017-08-24 09:41 pm (UTC)(link)
I found myself fascinated by that. I was thinking, "Where are the parts that go over your ears? ... Do the glasses not have any?" And they didn't!
muccamukk: Jan flying. Text: "Watch out where you swing that hammer, Golden Boy! There's a lady present!" (Marvel: Feminism)

[personal profile] muccamukk 2017-08-24 09:16 pm (UTC)(link)
Yeah, I think that says A LOT more about Thompson than it does about the movie. She was sparky and fun and banged a hot guy, then went home. What on earth is the matter with that?
alexxkay: (Default)

[personal profile] alexxkay 2017-08-24 09:33 pm (UTC)(link)
I wonder if he realizes what sort of secret business that bookstore does. I saw the film first, and *I* certainly was surprised by the equivalent scene in the book.
alexxkay: (Default)

[personal profile] alexxkay 2017-08-25 01:49 am (UTC)(link)
It's been years; I may be mis-remembering. But one detail that I definitely remember was that it wasn't that there was porn *retailing* going on (though there probably was some amount) as that there was a porn *lending library*.
asakiyume: (aquaman is sad)

[personal profile] asakiyume 2017-08-24 09:39 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow, yeah, that scene was charming, and not AT ALL like that line from Thomson! I saw a competent, independent, amused and amusing young woman, who, as you say, invited a man who began to interest her (vaguely!) for a little fun. Nothing says placid, nothing says whore, nothing says available young bitch. What amazing misogyny.
swan_tower: (Default)

[personal profile] swan_tower 2017-08-24 11:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Well, y'know, her sole purpose in existing is to validate his manliness, and if she does it wrong (doesn't give him protests to overcome, doesn't try to keep him) then she's a bitch.

Blurgh. >_<
Edited 2017-08-24 23:21 (UTC)
asakiyume: (aquaman is sad)

[personal profile] asakiyume 2017-08-25 12:03 am (UTC)(link)

You said it!

eff that noise, you know?
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2017-08-25 12:56 am (UTC)(link)
"Vaguely" is the genius word in that whole genius scene, to me. She really zings it.
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2017-08-25 02:05 am (UTC)(link)
The way she keeps using Marlowe as a kind of tailors' dummy is hilarious too. He's the one being objectified there!
asakiyume: (definitely definitely)

[personal profile] asakiyume 2017-08-25 01:20 am (UTC)(link)
that the appeal is not only to the male point of view.

Right on! I think she's absolutely appealing to women, in all kinds of ways! And yeah, maybe a fantasy, but like, the Humphrey Bogart character isn't??
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2017-08-25 02:09 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, not to be vulgar, but it's like the "zipless fuck" fantasy Erica Jong wrote about in Fear of Flying -- perfect guiltless anonymous sex with no strings attached. (Which the heroine of that novel winds up rejecting, BUT ANYWAY.) Whether or not it's possible IRL is debatable, but it's certainly a fantasy both sexes enjoy.
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2017-08-25 12:53 am (UTC)(link)
"Placid" is not how I would describe her looking at him at about 2:05 into that clip. She looks wolfish.

an available young bitch

W.T.F. He's the one supplicating her, asking for information -- then he begins to interest her ("vaguely," I love that), she subtly invites him, he's a little dim, then she INVITES him, and he's all Oooh yeah wouldn't want my bottle to get wet. (Heh.) The doffing of pince-nez and letting down of hair sorta annoys me, but it's such a tiny change in her appearance -- her hair's back, not all the way up -- even that's like a sly joke.

tl;dr She works in a nice bookstore, she bangs Humphrey Bogart, she goes on with life! YAY FEMINISM
asakiyume: (definitely definitely)

[personal profile] asakiyume 2017-08-25 01:09 am (UTC)(link)
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2017-08-25 01:34 am (UTC)(link)
I had originally typed "eat him for lunch"! HEH

IDEFK about this film critic guy. I mean, if Bogart were laying one on her and pulling down the blinds and Overpowering her with His Mighty Passion, sure, it would suck. But she's so completely the one calling the shots it makes me wonder if film critic guy didn't go overboard in some weird need to make her have no agency.

(I am also thinking some slightly grim thoughts here about performative allyship. Hah.)
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2017-08-25 02:04 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, just related to the whole Whedon thing -- which probably doesn't need to be dragged in here -- that a lot of the time, men can think they're being Good Allies and righteous for the cause (he's defending her agency!) and in reality, seen from the other side, it's just baffling and weird because what they're saying is so far off the mark. Like the film critic is assuming that since they have sex and Marlowe doesn't, IDK, propose marriage, or the bookseller demand "But what about ME?", she's just "available" for him like a bitch in heat. But a lot of women are reading the scene very differently, as the character exerting her agency and even being the aggressor. There's no indication that she's unhappy with what happens or wants anything more. It's just pretty obvious the guy has good intentions, but no real knowledge of what he's referring to. Then if you try to point out "well I don't see it like that," he gets pissed and how dare you call HIM sexist and he was defending the woman and perhaps it is YOU who are sexist, &c &c.

To go back to Whedon, it's like when Nat said "They sterilize you.
It's efficient. One less thing to worry about. The one thing that might matter more than a mission. Makes everything easier. Even killing. You still think you're the only monster on the team?" in AoU, and about half the audience went SAY FUCKING WHAT, and the other half was like "WTF are you pissed about? and Whedon had to clarify "She said she was a monster because she was an assassin. Being rendered infertile made her feel unnatural, made her feel cut off from the natural world. But it was her actions that defined her. Her murdery actions. That’s what 'monster' meant." And I'm willing to believe that's even what he thought he meant. But boy that was not the effect.

And I mean, Whedon bragged about that scene on the DVD commentary -- he said he thought he had unique insight into Natasha and it was one of the best things in the movie and he obviously felt proud of it. And he's still defending it. Obviously the backlash probably made him defensive, but it's pretty telling he apparently never once stopped to think "But what are all these women, whom I claim to admire and speak for, actually so pissed about?"
ethelmay: (Default)

[personal profile] ethelmay 2017-08-25 08:13 pm (UTC)(link)
I wonder if he thinks men who get vasectomies feel cut off (heh) from the natural world?
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2017-08-25 08:49 pm (UTC)(link)

There was actually a meme like that on Tumblr -- HA, I lit image Googled "Bucky can never have children monster" and HERE IT IS

original post:
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2017-08-25 09:39 pm (UTC)(link)
oh dude you nearly fucking killed me

kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2017-08-26 05:42 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh wow, that's nice. Oh boys. //sniffles
moon_custafer: (Default)

[personal profile] moon_custafer 2017-08-26 12:53 am (UTC)(link)
I think some of those expressions are her literally putting her tongue in her cheek.
gwynnega: (Basil Rathbone)

[personal profile] gwynnega 2017-08-25 03:35 am (UTC)(link)
She works in a nice bookstore, she bangs Humphrey Bogart, she goes on with life! YAY FEMINISM

thawrecka: (Default)

[personal profile] thawrecka 2017-08-25 06:58 am (UTC)(link)
I am 100% with you. I've always really loved that scene. Obviously, when I think on it, it's kind of absurd that Bogart's Marlowe gets hit on by women left, right and center, but I find that scene, and that entire movie, utterly delightful.

I'm glad I never bought any of Thompson's film books because that is one sexist mess of a comment to make about such an innocuous scene.
ethelmay: (Default)

[personal profile] ethelmay 2017-08-25 08:15 pm (UTC)(link)
I've never seen the movie, actually. I can see I'm going to have to.
dooriya: (Default)

[personal profile] dooriya 2017-08-25 10:37 pm (UTC)(link)
definitely speaks volumes about Thomson's life than anything else...

great fuckin movie, one of my favs.
lauradi7dw: (Default)

[personal profile] lauradi7dw 2017-08-27 01:32 am (UTC)(link)
The library had a two cd set, with the popular 1946 version and the lesser-seen 1945 cut. Should we just start with '46?