The Short Goodbye Goes DutchTuesday, December 10, 2013
The Short Goodbye Goes Dutch.
Guest Blog by John Lekich
I was going through puberty when I first saw the Howard Hawk version of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. The movie is full of little men and big women who are – in the immortal words of Chandler – about as “exclusive as a mailbox”. Humphrey Bogart plays Marlowe. Lauren Bacall plays the sultry but sensible sister of Carmen, a thumb-sucking nymphomaniac. It is a world where lighting a woman’s cigarette qualifies as foreplay. There’s a scene in Philip Marlowe’s office where Lauren Bacall begins a heavy round of flirtation. You can tell Marlowe likes it. And so did I. The next time I spoke, my voice had changed. From that moment on, I sounded like I could order a drink at any bar in town.
Many years later, I told this story to Lauren Bacall in front of an audience packed with her lifelong admirers. She rewarded me with that throaty laugh before the entire house joined in. It sounded like waves of joy crashing on the beach. It wasn’t that my story was so great. It’s just that everyone in the place innately understood the seductive power of the Chandler woman.
Alex’s shots of Bronwen capture that power so well. Here, Bronwen portrays the quintessential Chandler woman. No matter how much you love her, it can never match the deep well of self-love she feels every time she looks in the mirror.
In Chandler’s world, lingerie is a business expense – a lacy distraction from a stacked deck. Don’t like the deal? This is why it usually ends with a woman holding the kind of gun that always seems a little too big for her hands. The telegram in her eyes? She’d rather drink alone, with a bag full of money for a pillow. Some unseen man doesn’t know it yet. But he’s about to be given the short goodbye.
In addition to being a devout student of Chandler, Alex is also a huge fan of Elmore Leonard. For my money, Dutch Leonard is the most worthy successor to Chandler when it comes to portraying self-directed women. Alex’s pictures of Nina remind me of Leonard’s darker side. Chocked full of ex-cons, seedy fortunetellers and crooked real estate deals.
Nina seems like the perfect Elmore Leonard character in waiting. Her eyes have the look of a skittish Countess who’s fallen behind on her car payments. A finishing school rebel who took to the wild side after her inheritance ran out, she still remembers the proper way to wear a silk scarf. Look deeper into those eyes and you can see a bad girl longing to use the right fork.
Of course, that knife in her hand doesn’t belong in a tea service. It seems that fortune has made her a master of the short goodbye. And, as always, that goodbye has a very sharp edge.
Mamiya RB-67 Fuji 100
Nikon FM-2 Fuji Superia 800
Nikon FM-2 Kodak T-Max 400 pushed to 800
Pentax MX 20mm lens Fuji Superia 1600
All b+ws, Leica IIIF T-Max 400 pushed to 800