God, if we could only track the lives of the characters we love through the lens of the actors who play them.
The narrative appeal is endless, if not ludicrous, for the thought that Marlon Brando’s actual life led him from the ‘coulda-been’ Terry Malone in On The Waterfront to boss-extraodinaire Veto Corleone in The Godfather; imagine that Jimmy Stewart kept playing self-flagellating characters throughout his actual life.
It’s a fun thought: we – as movie goers – would like to think that the piece we’re viewing picks up at a certain point, gives us a poignant glimpse and simply continues after the main conflict fades to end. We can then disengage from the surreality of the screen and return to our lives, whose experiences do build upon one another.
This is not how noir film works. Instead of a slice of the big fictional pie, noir rips through an entirety of a story in wildly emotional acts, leaving every stone unturned and not a single character the same, often not alive and occasionally better off dead. L.A. Confidential is no exception to this high concept and pays grand homage to noir film of decades past. As the apotheosis of the highly stylized neo-noir genre, L.A. Confidential is, in 2013, darkly comical in its treatment of actors-as-characters. I can’t hardly see James Cromwell, affable farmer in Babe, as a twisted captain or even more so Guy Pearce, pointillist in his proceedings as a lieutenant, as a man lost and never found in Memento.
This is both a function of the genre and an externality of brash originality of this movie. These characters – Cromwell’s Dudley Smith, Russell Crowe’s Bud White, Pearce’s Ed Exley, Kevin Spacey’s Jack Vincennes….Danny DeVito’s Sid Hudgens – are dynamic, interwoven foils of their also highly stylized city. Curtis Hanson directs his cast as he would paint a puzzle. He recognizes the central and peripheral themes of James Ellroy novel as the ridged pieces and the actors as the box from which the puzzle can be finished. Continue reading