Monday, October 18, 2004

Cable Catch-Up: Judex (1916)

Louis Feuillade’s silent movie serial has it all. Tortured backstories. Secret identities. Forbidden love. And kidnapping after kidnapping after kidnapping. I’m pretty sure there was one in all twelve episodes.

Feuillade’s LES VAMPIRES has a more dreamlike intensity and a memorable villain in Irma Vep. But JUDEX offers an abundance of narrative rewards. Each episode is self-contained, but fits into a larger story about three families and the tragic history that binds them together. Plus Musidora, the actress who played Irma Vep, shows up to practice more skullduggery.

I watched all six hours, doled out over the course of three weeks by Turner Classic Movies. It’s not the ideal way to screen a serial. I’d prefer to see one installment per week, the way it was meant to be seen. But I’d have to buy the DVD to do that.

Book: Potshot, by Robert B. Parker (2001)

On our last trip to New York, Rosemarie and I were on our own for dinner one night. We prowled the streets around Union Square looking at restaurants. Rosemarie asked me what I wanted, and after some thought I said, “A hamburger, medium well, with blue cheese. And a beer.”

She looked at me, then used her PDA to find a place offering such a repast within walking distance. (L’Express, if you’re interested. A little noisy, but it did the job. And it’s open all night.)

Sometimes you get a craving for a very specific taste. It happens to me with Parker’s books. The mood comes over me, and I have to check in with Spenser. In this outing, he’s hired to clean up the Arizona town of the title. He rounds up Hawk and a few other tough guys he’s met in previous books to do the job. “It’ll be like THE BIG CHILL,” as Spenser puts it.

It’s fashionable in some circles to knock Parker, this series in particular. A sameness has set in, critics will say. He’s not as good as he used to be. Susan Silverman is actively annoying.

All that may be true. And I don’t care. Parker writes with an ease that other novelists would envy. And his books satisfy, like a good burger cooked to order, chased with a cold beer.