I once had a professor who insisted that some of the most haunting film noir scenes did not take place in shadowy alleys or low-rent bars, but rather in ordinary suburban settings that seemed innocuous on the surface, but hinted at something lurking below. Remember that insane carousel scene from Strangers on a Train? I had an entirely new view of amusement parks after seeing that film.
David Lynch’s Blue Velvet
probably cornered the market on creepiness beneath the picket fences of suburbia, but that film built on the foundation of the works of writers like James Cain and Raymond Chandler. To this day, I can’t look at a happy Mayberry scene without imagining the way Chandler would have described it.
I remember being surprised to learn that Chandler lived in some truly white-bread neighborhoods in Los Angeles County. I always pictured him in a seedy walk-up in Hollywood, not a cozy little bungalow in Monrovia
. But maybe he understood what my film professor was trying to say. Maybe he liked imagining potential darkness inside every sunny American dream.
(I think Chandler would have loved the iPhone MoreMono app. It turns everything into Marlowe’s playground.)
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