No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

The Big Goodbye / Red Pill

The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood, by Sam Wasson

I guess I thought this was going to be more generally about 1970s film-making in Hollywood, but the book is very tightly focused on the production of Chinatown from inkling of a story through the whole process, focusing on writer Robert Towne, producer Robert Evans, Polanski and Nicholson. It does a great job of bringing that process to life, and the characters involved, although the book occasionally strays into fleshing out the details with some story-telling flavor. Lots of interesting details. Hard to imagine Jack eating at Norms. Or Jack dating Anjelica Huston at the same time that Jake is romancing John Huston's screen daughter Faye Dunaway. Or Jerry Goldsmith (who studied under Miklos Rozsa at USC) coming in at the last minute to score the film in less than two weeks, after Philip Lambro's score bombed in test screenings and with the studio.


Red Pill, by Hari Kunzru

A fictional tale of a somewhat feckless author type, who gets a prestigious fellowship at a German literary center, and as his life comes unglued, he also gets strangely attracted/obsessed with neo-Nazi types. And his life becomes more unglued. Does a good job of hinting at the maddening attractiveness that sucks some seemingly sane people into these bizarre undergrounds, but ultimately kind of pointless and doesn't quite deliver in my view. There's also a strange interlude as our feckless narrator interviews a maid whose story of East Germany is 10 times more interesting than his own life, but it seems very disconnected plotwise, even if it hits common thematic elements of paranoia and secrecy. I did appreciate the real-life references to Heinrich von Kleist woven in to the mix.

Tags: book, california, film, la

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