An ode to classic film noir

Words by @LeeArnoldMWF

If pillows were puppies, this one would be the runt of the litter. There was no way of twisting it, smooshing it, or cramming it, to ease the steadily throbbing pain in my head. No, this hard head needed a softer touch, and on damp-ass nights like this one, there ain’t nothing soft. It’s all just a swamp of muck.

This damned room even has a humidity that’ll make muck stick right to your skin. The room glowed red too. The neon Vacancy sign sat right outside the window whose curtain I left open, exposing this hot box to the perverted streets of this sleazy town.

If my boxers break agape as I sprawl on the bed in the throes of alcohol withdrawal and someone sees my toolbox, that’s fine by me. Those cretins can stand there giving me the fisheye all night, but it’s of no concern to me.

That’s how I got here in this hell-hole of a motel room, feeling around on the floor for the half bottle of Mogen David orange I remember having before taking my nap.

I took a swig.

Just my luck, Mogen David orange and cigarette butt, and my last cigarette at that.

With no relief in sight, I turned on the television hoping it would numb the pain in my head.

There were guys in nice suits, wearing hipster hats, armed with guns, and they weren’t afraid to use them.

They shot snitches.

They shot bitches.

Some guys even shot coppers if they got in the way.

I was peering into the world of film noir, a film genre that dominated the action/dramas of the 40s and 50s.

Who can’t love a character like Tim Foster, in Kansas City Confidential, who says something like, “What makes a two-bit heel like you think a heater would give him an edge over me?”

Classic film noir is the visual equivalent of the music of Roy Orbison, in that no matter what time of day it’s experienced, it’s going to feel like it’s midnight.

These films go well with stout whiskey and a strong acigar.

No one whose existence is mired in the muck of third-rate motels gives a damn about consequences of hedonism.

LIke drunken Don Birnam said about drinking in Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend, “It shrinks my liver, doesn’t it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys, yeah. But what it does to the mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly I’m above the ordinary. I’m competent. I’m walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I’m one of the great ones. I’m Michaelangelo, molding the beard of Moses. I’m Van Gogh painting pure sunlight. I’m Horowitz, playing the Emperor Concerto. I’m John Barrymore before movies got him by the throat. I’m Jesse James and his two brothers, all three of them. I’m W. Shakespeare. And out there it’s not Third Avenue any longer, it’s the Nile. Nat, it’s the Nile and down it moves the barge of Cleopatra.”

I wish it was the Nile outside this room. Hell, I wish the Nile was in this room.

It reminds me of a conversation from Sunset Boulevard.

Betty Schaefer says, “Don’t you sometimes hate yourself?”

To which, Joe Gillis replied, “Constantly.”

Classic film noir was black and white in more ways than just one. When the genre grew in popularity, good guys and bad guys were most often clearly identifiable in the film. While this was still true in classic film noir, the stories were told along that gray line at the intersection of black and white. The good guys weren’t always entirely good, and the bad guys weren’t always going to rape and kill your family before killing you.

They focused on the things that motivate man, things like jealousy, lust, greed, gluttony, and the rest.

William Neff was a fast-rising superstar in the insurance business in the film Double Indemnity. Then he found himself under the charm of an anklet worn by a manipulative woman.

His career was over when he uttered the words, “Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money – and a woman – and I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman. Pretty, isn’t it?”

Film noir is about as pretty as this tiny-ass pillow sticking to the motel room wall like a spitwad on a special ed classroom whiteboard.

Give them a shot some time. Feel the darkness.

Disclaimer: Jeremy wants to make it clear the views expressed here are not his own, but that of someone he met online whose views might be completely different. Roxy is indifferent about the content altogether unless her name is mentioned somewhere in it. Acid Pop Cult itself does not necessarily support these views either. Lee’s on his own with this shit.