Monday, 13 April 2015
Inherent Vice at the movies with molto panacakum
I used to think that Thomas Pynchon might be more than one person, the way he switched genres between novels. My first reading was Gravity's Rainbow and the next was Vineland.
From Gravity's Rainbow's description of escapism in a London and a dark German-occupied Netherlands in the time of V-2 bomb raids, to Vineland's dippy California of Zoyd and Prairie on the run from drug enforcement and living on a mental disability benefit. A narrative on 60's rebellion and 80's repression.
Then a pseudo historical novel about the Mason-Dixon line. It was only later that I jumped back to the sometimes student set-piece of Pynchon's shorter story, The Crying of Lot 49 (from 1966). With its symbolism, references to the Beatles and surfer dudes, there's some elements that pass forward into his later work.
There have also been big gaps between the books. I read Inherent Vice, when it first appeared in 2009 and may re-read now I've watched the movie adaptation.
I'll call it surf-noir. Pynchon was 72 when he published this one which describes a Doctor/Private Investigator/Slacker who gets embroiled in a case brought forward by his (ex) girlfriend. It turns out that there's actually more than one case but they have inter-connections. For the movie, the Dude-like Doc. Sportello (played by Joaquin Phoenix) hangs in there and despite his disarmingly hazed appearance is smarter and more determined than the square-topped and troubled detective played by Josh Brolin.
I'll admit that this movie won't be for everyone. It's a tangle of impressions and works best by not trying to over-analyse the apparently haphazard components. The whole cast play it with spirit and theres a few meta-scenes to keep the viewers on their toes. 'Is this the scene where I'm supposed to lecture you about the ...'
My own slightly strange mind really enjoyed this and I'll be waiting for the DVD to appear so that I can watch it again and replay some of the madder and unreliable moments which zipped past on a first viewing. I think this is the first time a Pynchon novel has been made into a film, and to me it somehow carries the spirit of the writer into this alternative version.