Boccaccio: Day 1, Stories 1-3.

Mike's Billiards

I think the fondest pre-reading memory of Boccaccio I have is as I stood outside a billiards-room in Amherst, having been reintroduced to Will after some years, and while I’m trying to decide if anyone realizes that I’m only pretending to smoke a cigarette, he’s trying to make a point about Walter Benjamin’s “Mechanical Reproduction” and asked me, “so, if you’re familiar with Boccaccio, you’d, oh, are you familiar with Boccaccio?”
The Decameron, yeah” Apparently he wasn’t expecting me to say that.
“…really?”
“Of course.”
“Why do you know who he is?”
“I dunno, because I studied English and it’s important to know where Chaucer and Shakespeare got their stories from?”

Of course, I was bluffing. I knew just enough to bluff. But he immediately switched the subject to the connection between Boccaccio and Charlie Chaplin, which, if you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know I can bluff just as well when it comes to the great silents…anyway, he was dismayed, I was delighted, and we got a place together and lived happily ever after.

One comes across the plague in various forms, a source of fascination to every generation, a muse in every genre, sometimes lightly as Bergman’s Seventh Seal or Boccaccio, sometimes dark, as in Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura, or Mary Shelley’s Last Man. At its heart, I think, is the extreme focus of the singularity of man, in whose fragility and amidst a divine silence it becomes apparent that there is nobody watching over us, no higher order, no final recompense; there is only life, which is suffering, and death, which is horrid. But it’s precisely that divine silence that allows brilliance to flourish time and again, not that we need a plague to feel forsaken, as I think the atmosphere of post-Enlightenment war straight through the 20th century has produced  rarely more than works of forlorn schizophrenia to the point that we may have replaced Greatness with Feelings forevermore.

Anyway, Boccaccio so transparently wants to write stories of frivolity yet needs to grant himself license to do so somehow, and so the framing begins. Indeed, he reminds of the horrors of the plague and how it led many to…well, licentiousness. Well, forget them, as his characters are religious and well-disciplined young men and women who, with their servants, of course, pack up and take a trip far off into the countryside, about the distance that I’ll go for a slice of pizza when I’m super hungry, and tell stories befitting such religiosity, discipline, etc. etc.

Master Ciappelletto dupeth a holy friar with a false confession and dieth; and having been in his lifetime the worst of men, he is, after his death, reputed a saint and called Saint Ciapelletto.

And this is where the fun begins. It takes quite a long series of introductions to reach this point, but the payoff is fabulous. The most horrible man you’ve ever heard of becomes a saint because he lies about his deeds. That’s it. And the way he goes about it is so very, very funny, and heretical, and one wonders how things like this become classics anyway.

Abraham the Jew, at the instigation of Jehannot de Chevigné, goeth to the court of Rome and seeing the depravity of the clergy, returneth to Paris and there becometh a Christian.

Just to remind you that one religion is the correct religion, or something, but a brief story with none of the character development, the humanity, of the first one. I think it’s written for one reason, which is to provide an excuse going forward, that “it having already been excellent well spoken both of God and of the verity of our faith, it should not be henceforth forbidden us to descend to the doings of mankind and the events that have befallen them.” Voila. Who can argue with logic like that? The Church is responsible for logic like that, and so…

Melchizedek the Jew, with a story of three rings, escapeth a parlous snare set for him by Saladin.

I haven’t anything else to say about this one. Saladin asks him which religion is best, and he answers “to each his own,” and then happily lends Saladin some money for war and the two become BFFs.

In short, it’s the lovely framing of the stories that I find so fascinating, as Boccaccio, under a pious cloak finds a way to tell us dirty little stories.

I wonder if I can fall asleep this time.

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Allen: A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1980)

I’m drinking my father’s beer, just pizzazzed up (shouldn’t the plural of pizza be pizzazz?) my mother’s stirfry with WHOLE WHEAT PASTA, lime juice, teriyaki sauce, tobasco, and sugar (it was DREADFUL…i’m so sorry), and this film made me laugh about things I wouldn’t have found humor in a decade ago.

“Can sex and love be different from each other?”
“Sure! Sex relieves tension and love causes it.”

Yo ho ho.

I was inspecting some toolbag’s bookshelves and found them to be remarkable in what can only be described as their retention. Goethe, Anais Nin, Hofstadter, how lovely to be well-read. And is it possible to, in this day and age, use it for evil? What with most of the fine educations, okay, all the fine educations, going to the well-endowed, mustn’t those without satin shoes and saffron condoms be at least of fortunate demeanor? I simply do not want to read anymore, not if it will turn me into a wrinkly arse, a mean-spirited so-and-so, an upstart crow.

Why shouldn’t Woody Allen make whatever films he pleases? And why shouldn’t he place himself in the lead? And why shouldn’t he remake classics to suit himself? He’s also prolific, which is an archaic concept, even for serious-minded graffitists. In the vast sea of collegiate dung, at least one can find a few diamonds, which the dung would claim were formed in the collegiate intestines, but which were truly just indigestible. Like twigs.

Better to be a twig than dung, but your salary won’t be nearly so high. So you probably won’t have healthcare.

Anyway, “Wooden Allen, or Artificial Exteriors” is written by Bert Cardullo in The Hudson Review, and he doesn’t even notice himself being mocked in Sex Comedy, as he writes with the same tone as Leopold speaks. Allen is a TV comic writer (mais si, si, I differenciate between comedic and comic, I’m a big pile of dung) and not worthy of sharing a sentence with Strindberg, the artistic godfather of O’Neill (who knew his place) and Bergman (whom Allen lathered up and shaved and smeared all the shaving-filth onto film and made his career, ah, ah)–Allen is clearly not the person we think he wants to be and is therefore a sympathetic puddle of redundancy, and and and and here’s another nine pages of what I think is important.

If only a fine education was expected and received by all…first, there’d be no Sarah Palin, and second, those of intellectual prowess would stop coddling the pricks of these useless critics whose life-experience begins and ends before their belly-button strings are thrown away. Senses and emotions, yes, indeed, those things bouncing around inside the plebs!

You know what I think of Ben Jonson? I walked out of a Ben Jonson performance. Senses and emotions, you can’t discuss them if you haven’t any yourself, you can’t appreciate the bouquet of wine when you can’t appreciate the bouquet of the earth at night, or the snow, or the deep autumn forest. But you can believe that’s precisely what you’re doing. And that’s culture. And you’re wrong, wrong, wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

And I might never read again.

Bergman: The Virgin Spring (1960)

So it has been long since I’ve written anything. I’ve been crawling through the same books as I have for ages, and sometimes it’s one, sometimes another, they come and go into my hands as they please, disappear again, but never long enough to be completed. Well, I misplace the blame as well. But I have been busy living as a musician for the first time in my life, which is an endless swath of sofa cushions and turnpikes, and when there is money I live richly, and when there is not I live poorly, and I’m never quite sure what the next day will look like, not its weather,  nor how it might appear on a calendar. Returning to anything resembling culture is rather difficult; one becomes lazy and unassuming after a time, and simple syrup is enough nourishment.

Well, so I tell myself that perhaps a nice starting point would be Bergman, whose Smiles of a Summer Night is one of my favorites, though little more than a romantic comedy. I begin with the Seventh Seal, and then Wild Strawberries. The first does not speak a word to me, the second I find one of the most profoundly beautiful films I’ve ever seen. But I don’t have anything to say about them, or rather, not yet, I’m mulling over them.

But now, nearly five minutes into The Virgin Spring, I don’t have a point to make, but I find the first sequence remarkable in its loaded simplicity. The film opens with a dirty woman staring directly at you. That’s what they’d tell you to notice in a film class, I imagine. And then she blows at you. And a fire erupts. They would remind you that it was the breath of God that brought forth life. And fire seems to be alive, yet it thrives only through destruction. And because she was blowing at you, are you the fire also? And because the fire emerged from between you two, are you guilty in the creation of something terrible? And though it is so terrible, we yet cling to it. She walks across the room and turns to the side, and we see she is pregnant–and we see no father, and we still wonder if we are the fire-child, or the father of the fire-child. The rooster crows, we know it is a morning to which nothing gave rise, we wonder if this is the book of Revelations, and then she does the least likely thing that could be expected of her in a scene like this: she prays to Odin.

And then we are in the next scene, perhaps a monastery, and it is Friday, the day of Jesus’ suffering, as opposed to Wednesday, that is the day of Odin,  and the woman, who is perhaps a nun, pours molten wax on her wrist to commemorate his suffering.

A woman empties an apron filled with baby chicks, saying ‘so help me God, I nearly stepped on them out there in the dark.’

And this is how the film begins. Needless suffering going unnoticed by the gods, first as anguish, then willingly, and then blind to it altogether.

novel: Lawrence: The Trespasser (1912)

Lawrence is one of these authors whose books I’ve always collected, but whose work I’ve never really found the courage to read. Where does one begin? It was my mother who handed me a copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover when I was still a teenager, which was all I ever really received as far as a ‘birds and the bees’ talk goes, and I would skim through it looking for some magical description of the female orgasm. But, you see, I viewed it as pornography before literature, so that I looked towards the end of the book, and, finding nothing of interest, tossed it aside, figuring, I mean, hell, what could anyone know about sex way back then anyway. Anais Nin’s Unprofessional Study and how it brought her together with Henry Miller is when I began considering that perhaps I should be reading his works, and so a few years ago I did read The Fox, which I recall as being a cross between Jules et Jim and Bergman’s Persona, nothing ever really feels cleared up. We all giggled nervously at age 17 when masturbation was brought to light in “The Rockinghorse Winner”–but, without a doubt, Lawrence has become one of the most important writers of my life. Yes, I came to my sexuality with my best friend Anais Nin in one hand, I came to my senses with Henry Miller in the other (no, let’s be serious, it was the same hand. just kidding!), but I came to understand my masculinity thanks to Lawrence, and furthermore, it’s in this early novel of his that I find the truest illustration of your complete servitude to the most ephemeral of feelings, feelings that must in truth be something like little bats clumsily bobbing through the air, avoiding Siegmund by scent and smacking into the faces of Helena, who, well, reacts as you characteristically do his myopic and oppressive male chauvinism. And so, it is this book which has led me to make firm my conclusion that I’ve been unsure about for ages, but now am quite certain, because all these games must finally end: I must hide myself, and this may be the only way to finally shake you to your senses, to remind you of reality, there needs to be a complete restructuring of the existing social organization so as to produce full and equal status and protection of both sexes and all genders in order that we might attune our natural with our cultural rights, and perhaps then, perhaps then, the universe will be okay.

What’s most fascinating is the extent to which Lawrence clarifies the logic of his characters in a novel of which I see no signs of his biography, yet I see myself, and I see a confounding episode of my own life that takes place in the same settings as this novel does, under similar circumstances, and I had to deal with the same nonsense of it all–and while I had no answers before, I do now. I am a misogynist. But, before I leave an extended number of quotations that struck me for one reason or another, I will mention two things in particular:

In chapter 29, Lawrence breaks the rules pretty violently after writing up to this point in the past tense, suddenly he draws us out of the story and leads us to believe that there is something beyond the novel, something in reality that continues even after we close the book, something in the present [emphasis mine]:

Now Helena believed he was ill, perhaps very ill, perhaps she only could be of any avail. The miles of distance were like hot bars of iron across her breast, and against them it was impossible to strive. The train did what it could.

That day remains as a smear in the record of Helena’s life. In it there is no spacing of hours, no lettering of experience, merely a smear of suspense.

Towards six o’clock she alighted, at Surbiton station, deciding that this would be the quickest way of getting to Wimbledon. She paced the platform slowly, as if resigned, but her heart was crying out at the great injustice of delay. Presently the local train came in. She had planned to buy a local paper at Wimbledon, and if from that source she could learn nothing, she would go on to his house and inquire. She had prearranged everything minutely.

And then, not long afterwards, he draws us out of the narrative flow like this:

Helena stood still on the station for some time, looking at the print. Then she dropped the paper and wandered into the town, not knowing where she was going.

‘That was what I got,’ she said, months afterwards; ‘and it was like a brick, it was like a brick.’

She wandered on and on, until suddenly she found herself in the grassy lane with only a wire fence bounding her from the open fields on either side, beyond which fields, on the left, she could see Siegmund’s house standing florid by the road, catching the western sunlight. Then she stopped, realizing where she had come. For some time she stood looking at the house. It was no use her going there; it was of no use her going anywhere; the whole wide world was opened, but in it she had no destination, and there was no direction for her to take. As if marooned in the world, she stood desolate, looking from the house of Siegmund over the fields and the hills. Siegmund was gone; why had he not taken her with him?

This is all quite absurd, really, and quite brilliant, and perhaps in some way paying homage to the real Siegmund and the real Helena, whose story he used as his source, but I think goes quite a bit further than that. Chapter 27, as Siegmund is contemplating suicide, he finds solace in the idea that ‘the heart of life is implacable in its kindness. It may not be moved to fluttering of pity; it swings on uninterrupted by cries of anguish or of hate.’ And then furthermore,

Siegmund was thankful for this unfaltering sternness of life. There was no futile hesitation between doom and pity. Therefore, he could submit and have faith. If each man by his crying could swerve the slow, sheer universe, what a doom of guilt he might gain. If Life could swerve from its orbit for pity, what terror of vacillation; and who would wish to bear the responsibility of the deflection?

The novel begins many months after the suicide, Helena characteristically cold, playing with the affections of her best friend, and some guy, and yes, Siegmund is dead, but very clearly things aren’t so bad after all. And then the narrator takes us back to the beginning, through the suicide, and the aftermath through one year. And the narrator proves just what Siegmund believed, which is that the world does not even hesitate for the blink of an eye at one’s suicide, and even his wife only cries out of mere fear.

If I was faced with the girl I love, hanging in the doorway by the strap of her portmanteau, her face unrecognizable and distended, piss and excrement beneath the shadow of her nightgown, I suppose she’s the only person in all the world whom I could cut down, and place delicately on the bed. And I don’t know that I could leave her alone until her body was underground. And you can’t even text me. Well, such is love, the fairest, truest love.

So, while the opening chapter may be necessary for the sake of framing, the closing chapters are less so, but they function to illustrate that indeed, life does go on, very easily, and perhaps smoother than before, for both wife, children, and mistress. And in case the reader wonders whether things continue on so well, there’s no question, because the narrator drags us to the present tense for a moment, letting us know that, indeed, the death of one man means nothing at all, not to anyone.

* * *

So, now let’s move on to things I really love about this, which is the sorts of conversations I know all too well, in fact, these may be my conversations, not the protagonist’s, because in case you haven’t heard, generally you see no relationship between words and reality.

Chapter 4:

“When Helena drew away her lips, she was exhausted. She belonged to that class of ‘dreaming women’ with whom passion exhausts itself at the mouth. Her desire was accomplished in a real kiss. The fire, in heavy flames, had poured through her to Siegmund, from Siegmund to her. It sank, and she felt herself flagging. She had not the man’s brightness and vividness of blood. She lay upon his breast, dreaming how beautiful it would be to go to sleep, to swoon unconscious there, on that rare bed. She lay still on Siegmund’s breast, listening to his heavily beating heart.

With her the dream was always more than the actuality. Her dream of Siegmund was more to her than Siegmund himself. He might be less than her dream, which is as it may be. However, to the real man she was very cruel.”

Chapter 6:

Then again, when he raised his head and found her mouth, his lips filled her with a hot flush like wine, a sweet, flaming flush of her whole body, most exquisite, as if she were nothing but a soft rosy flame of fire against him for a moment or two. That, she decided, was supreme, transcendental.”

Chapter 7:

“‘I am her child, too,’ he dreamed, as a child murmurs unconscious in sleep. He had never felt her eyes so much as now, in the darkness, when he looked only into deep shadow. She had never before so entered and gathered his plaintive masculine soul to the bosom of her nurture.”

Chapter 8:

‘The best sort of women—the most interesting—are the worst for us,’ Hampson resumed. ‘By instinct they aim at suppressing the gross and animal in us. Then they are supersensitive—refined a bit beyond humanity. We, who are as little gross as need be, become their instruments. Life is grounded in them, like electricity in the earth; and we take from them their unrealized life, turn it into light or warmth or power for them. The ordinary woman is, alone, a great potential force, an accumulator, if you like, charged from the source of life. In us her force becomes evident.

‘She can’t live without us, but she destroys us. These deep, interesting women don’t want us; they want the flowers of the spirit they can gather of us. We, as natural men, are more or less degrading to them and to their love of us; therefore they destroy the natural man in us—that is, us altogether.’

‘I wonder,’ said Hampson softly, with strange bitterness, ‘that she can’t see it; I wonder she doesn’t cherish you. You are full and beautiful enough in the flesh—why will she help to destroy you, when she loved you to such extremity?’

Siegmund looked at him with awe-stricken eyes. The frail, swift man, with his intensely living eyes, laughed suddenly.

‘Fools—the fools, these women!’ he said. ‘Either they smash their own crystal, or it revolts, turns opaque, and leaps out of their hands. Look at me, I am whittled down to the quick; but your neck is thick with compressed life; it is a stem so tense with life that it will hold up by itself. I am very sorry.’

“Throwing himself down on the sand that was soft and warm as white fur, he lay glistening wet, panting, swelling with glad pride at having conquered also this small, inaccessible sea-cave, creeping into it like a white bee into a white virgin blossom that had waited, how long, for its bee.”

Chaptern 11:

“All she knew was that he was strong, and was knocking urgently with his heart on her breast.”

Chapter 16:

She made a moaning, loving sound. Full of passionate pity, she moved her mouth on his face, as a woman does on her child that has hurt itself.

‘Sometimes,’ she murmured, in a low, grieved confession, ‘you lose me.’

He gave a brief laugh.

‘I lose you!’ he repeated. ‘You mean I lose my attraction for you, or my hold over you, and then you—?’

He did not finish. She made the same grievous murmuring noise over him.

‘It shall not be any more,’ she said.

As usual, a man produces a billion sperms every hour, and a woman produces one egg each month, so women are often, highly economic with words when it comes to things that matter, things that demand discussion. This case illustrates it well. And then, here’s a rather pretty line: “turning to Helena, he found her face white and shining as the empty moon.”

Chapter 19:

‘I see it has,’ he answered. Then to himself he said: ‘She can’t translate herself into language. She is incommunicable; she can’t render herself to the intelligence. So she is alone and a law unto herself: she only wants me to explore me, like a rock-pool, and to bathe in me. After a while, when I am gone, she will see I was not indispensable….’

‘Is that why I have failed? I ought to have had her in love sufficiently to keep her these few days. I am not quick. I do not follow her or understand her swiftly enough. And I am always timid of compulsion. I cannot compel anybody to follow me.

‘So we are here. I am out of my depth. Like the bee, I was mad with the sight of so much joy, such a blue space, and now I shall find no footing to alight on. I have flown out into life beyond my strength to get back. When can I set my feet on when this is gone?’

A line I rather like is, ‘the naked body of heat was dreadful,’ and I was also struck by “‘If now,’ prayed Siegmund, ‘death would wipe the sweat from me, and it were dark….’” And it is essential to note that in both chapters 18 and 19 Helena is overly concerned with the time. Siegmund provides no commentary on this, but it’s a trait in you I’ve noticed quite a number of times, as you people have shown an offensive obsession with the time, with timetables, with minutes and hours and schedules and itineraries, and then without explanation, they don’t care anymore, they push aside the importance of time, and then eternity is something that makes sense to them again, and then back to timetables, the importance of being someplace at a certain time when nobody is waiting for you, and another train is leaving in half an hour anyway, but perhaps I’ll never understand because I’ve never gestated anything but diseases, and the only blood I ever anticipated with certainty concerned my wisdom teeth. So perhaps you have some frightening intrinsic connection to the clock, but god knows it’s offensive and superficial.

‘She does not understand,’ said Siegmund to himself. ‘And whatever I do I must not tell her. I should have thought she would understand.’

As he walked home beside her there mingled with his other feelings resentment against her. Almost he hated her.

–which aligns with something a line from chapter 31, when Helena is with her new boy-toy, Cecil, told from his perspective as Helena takes him through the exact spots she took Siegmund, exactly one year later:

He looked at her, wondering how much he was filling the place of a ghost with warmth. He thought of Siegmund, and seemed to see him swinging down the steep bank out of the wood exactly as he himself was doing at the moment, with Helena stepping carefully behind. He always felt a deep sympathy and kinship with Siegmund; sometimes he thought he hated Helena.

Chapter 20:

As Helena continues her flimsy companionship, sometimes overcome with senseless unexplained passions, like every time you’ve thrown yourself at me and then jumped away crying ‘no, I cannot, I cannot,’ only to wake me up hours later by flinging yourself at me again and pulling the same stunt, followed by a two hour rant about why Senator Clinton trumps Senator Obama any day of the week; let’s see how Siegmund fares:

She had a peculiar, childish wistfulness at times, and with this an intangible aloofness that pierced his heart. It seemed to him he should never know her. There was a remoteness about her, an estrangement between her and all natural daily things, as if she were of an unknown race that never can tell its own story. This feeling always moved Siegmund’s pity to its deepest, leaving him poignantly helpless. This same foreignness, revealed in other ways, sometimes made him hate her. It was as if she would sacrifice him rather than renounce her foreign birth. There was something in her he could never understand, so that never, never could he say he was master of her as she was of him the mistress.

Chapter 24:

Some rather nice lines:

“Her father’s quiet ‘H’m!’ her mother’s curt question, made her draw inwards like a snail which can never retreat far enough from condemning eyes. She made a careless pretence of eating. She was like a child which has done wrong, and will not be punished, but will be left with the humiliating smear of offence upon it.”

“The west opposite the door was smouldering with sunset. Darkness is only smoke that hangs suffocatingly over the low red heat of the sunken day. Such was Helena’s longed-for night.”

Chapter 25:

Siegmund dealing with his youngest child, after all his family has turned against him, his youngest daughter who conspicuously disappears after his suicide, a bit like Celia’s mysterious and unexplained lack of a single line in the entire final act of As You Like It, when she stands there dumbly as every difficulty is resolved. But seriously, isn’t this the truth? Dear children, the only ones who can see life as it is because they’re the only ones who can see life as it should be, and they’re only wrong because they discount all human constructs as being so false as they truly are.

He waited in a daze of suspense. The child shifted from one foot to another. He could just see the edge of her white-frilled drawers. He wanted, above all things, to take her in his arms, to have something against which to hide his face. Yet he was afraid. Often, when all the world was hostile, he had found her full of love, he had hidden his face against her, she had gone to sleep in his arms, she had been like a piece of apple-blossom in his arms. If she should come to him now—his heart halted again in suspense—he knew not what he would do. It would open, perhaps, the tumour of his sickness. He was quivering too fast with suspense to know what he feared, or wanted, or hoped.

Chapter 31:

The best evidence for why I should hide from you, right now, is during Helena’s discussion with Cecil:

‘More sorrow over one kitten brought to destruction than over all the sufferings of men,’ he said.

She glanced at him and laughed. He was smiling ironically.

‘For the latter, you see,’ she replied, ‘I am not responsible.’

Because although she sometimes loved Siegmund in all the right ways, even in his absence, she also has that peculiar chilliness about her, the separation of body and mind and life and morality and emotions. It’s all a lot of shit.

film: Huston: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The-Maltese-FalconIf you didn’t know, I studied film during my first year in college, and finding myself, after one year, too emotionally unstable to continue its pursuit, I switched to studying something else. I didn’t watch another film until 2007–and this was it. Watching it, I suddenly understood many things I hadn’t as an artsy film student trying to “get” Godard’s À bout de souffle, and so I decided I’d watch the classics so I could understand French New Wave. And then I figured, well, I might as well just take things from the beginning since the popular medium began less than a century ago, and that explains why I’m watching all these silents. It’s not because I have a passion for silent film…I’m actually more fond of Bergman and Godard. So…here we have the beginnings of this project.

Okay, so now I’ve seen the whole film. Though not necessarily in the correct order, I’ve seen it, and I’ve begun to pick up on what the defining traits of Sam Spade are–though, if I mean Humphrey Bogart, then I will know after having seen Casablanca. I was prepared this time around to not understand the characters because they speak too quickly, so I kept subtitles on, and I had the pleasure of being able to rewind and watch bits multiple times (Sam Spade pulls the guy’s jacket down over his arms, and grabs the guns from his pocket–how’d he do that?) Now I’ve seen detective films from three different decades: Fantomas, in which Juve doesn’t really have much charisma, so we find ourselves cheering for Fantomas, as heartless as he is, just hoping that his victims will end up alright as often as possible. Nick Charles [The Thin Man], he’s got the charisma, and he’s got the smarts. Juve tends to have things go smoothly, Nick Charles would take a smooth ending and find a reason why it’s entirely wrong, and sneak off to make things more exciting. But for all his quips, and however quick he is in punching out his wife when he determines she’s in the line of fire of the gun he’s about to provoke, he’s still drunk for the whole movie, and always seems but hairs breadth away from being badly damaged. But Sam Spade, he seems like he invented smart one-liners, and he’s so easy with them that he condemns others for using them poorly. Everyone’s against him, and he himself is fallible and a bit immoral, coldly working for money and sex, threatening and extorting and earning our support all the while. He reads people, he reads situations, and one wonders if he’s acting, ever. So, now it’s clear where Godard builds his Michel–who uses Bogart’s character to no good, and begs the question, is there a normative morality? One character modeled on the other, yet with tragic results, despite romantic plots. Perhaps that’s the division between Hollywood and Godard, or of movies and life, or an observation that Sam Spade is only himself when in his home environment, when he knows the tricks of getting through locked buildings and the DA’s by name. Would Sam Spade kill a cop? Perhaps, but he wouldn’t hide afterwards.