Top positive review
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"I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me."
on 5 July 2017
A deeply romantic noir with Bogart and Graham in fine form as the ill-starred lovers, adapted from a fine and much darker novel by Dorothy B. Hughes. Hollywood, as usual, fillets the novel, keeping the suspicion theme and the friendship with the cop, but setting it firmly in the Hollywood milieu of screen-writers, directors, producers and agents.
The novel is a disturbing portrait of a serial killer, closer in tone to Jim Thomson, where the character claims to be a writer as a cover story to explain away his lack of means of support, whereas Bogart is a successful writer with what we would refer today as 'anger management issues'. The novel roams the length and breadth of the Los Angeles area, with such geographical attention to detail that with the aid of a map it should be possible to chart his precise movements, whereas the film economically confines itself largely to his apartment complex and a celebrity restaurant.
Although the film changes the ending and makes him innocent, it denies him happiness and ends with a suitably despairing climax to warrant it's inclusion in the noir pantheon.
I imagined what an even better film it would have been if they had stuck to the novel but it was far too dark and despairing for Hollywood to
entertain. Bogart played mean and nasty characters at times but, such is our emotional need for reassuring archetypes, we the audience could never accept him as a serial murderer.
Rather like Cary Grant in Hitchcock's 'Suspicion' (another film adapted from an even finer novel where the ending was changed) we we can accept him as a lovable rogue but never as a murderer.
I thoroughly enjoyed both the book and the film, but rather than see the film as an adaptation I prefer to think of it more accurately as a
variation on certain themes., a life without lover
I cannot end without a special mention for the wonderfully sublime, evocative and resonant title that can variously refer to a murder scene, a life without love or the mental state of a psychopath.