Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

...And Now We Lose Jules Dassin, Too.

Director Jules Dassin died on April 1st, dammit. Like Richard Widmark, it's not a shock--he was 96--but it's really a shame. Thanks to my own forays into film noir, I ran across Mr. Dassin many times and became a big fan. Not only are his films among the best--Night and the City and Rififi in particular, for my money--but if you get the Criterion prints, they always have interviews with Dassin, and he's one of the greatest interview subjects I've ever seen on a DVD: Completely candid, full of interesting stories, and usually very warm and funny. That's the kind of old guy I want to be!

If you're interested in the guy himself, I recommend renting The Naked City, which was his last American film. The Criterion edition contains the interview that got me hooked. (Of course, if you haven't seen Night and the City yet, that'll give you both Widmark AND Dassin. And come to think of it, Dassin himself actually has an acting role in Rififi, so that's another option.)

By the way, although he was best known for Night and the City, which was filmed in Paris, and although he lived in France and Greece (he was self-exiled, thanks to McCarthy's blacklist), he was, in fact, an American from Connecticut. I'm glad to lay claim to the man.

From my Netflix account:

THE NAKED CITY ****
Too dated for mainstream tastes, but for anyone with a taste for classic cinema or a love for New York City, this is essential viewing. It's the Ur-Law & Order, with 107 vintage location shoots. Although the acting itself is pretty thudding, and the police-procedural-noir (shades of Border Incident or T-Men or He Walked By Night) is rather talky and detached by modern standards, the film delivers in spades in its location work and cinematography, the mystery itself is interesting, and the EXTRAS on this Criterion Disk are terrific: not only commentary by the screenwriter, but two brilliant deconstructions of the movie by academics (one an expert in noir, one an expert in New York-based cinema), and a thoroughly charming onstage interview with the director, filmed in 2004. For film noir/police procedural fans, this is a truly great package.

RIFIFI *****
The granddaddy of all heist capers hasn't lost an ounce of muscle in fifty years. Sharp, brutal, and full of energy, it gives Paris a refreshing noir sheen (particularly in this beautiful Criterion print) and would be enjoyable even if you weren't also having fun noticing all the other movies that have cribbed from it since (Ocean's Eleven, The Italian Job, The Heist...). Doesn't have a commentary track, but the production notes are terrific, and Criterion amazes yet again: this is the THIRD disc of theirs I've seen that contains an interview with Jules Dassin, and it's a completely different interview, with almost no overlap with the other two (on The Naked City and Night and the City). Just plain heaven for crime movie fans.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous films noir said...

Hi. Dassin's last US film was Thieves Highway (1949).

4/03/2008 1:00 AM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

You're correct, of course, and it never even occurred to me to look it up. Now I'm curious as to how that happened. The story he consistently tells is that he does Naked City, gets put on the blacklist, and needs to cross the Atlantic in order to get some kind of gig that prevents the studio from firing him outright. That becomes Naked City. And after that, he says, he simply never got work and never came home. I guess he was exaggerating a tad.

4/03/2008 7:38 AM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

Oops. I mean, of course "That becomes Night and the City, he gets put on the blacklist..."

Man, I wish you could go back and edit these things.

4/03/2008 7:39 AM  

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