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Lit and Film: Noir for the Summer of Covid-19

Thu, October 1, 2020 @ 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

$50 – $80

8 sessions
via teleconference on Zoom • participation code with registration
Sliding scale admission for teleconference

Continuing in the MEP LITERATURE GROUP summer tradition, we will once again delve into Noir genres– but with a twist! Starting August 6, we will read four books and watch the movies that are based on them. Please join us for four books with the four movies that resulted from them.

BOOK 1 Odd Man Out /F. L. Green 
F.L. (Laurie) Green’s novel was published in 1945. It followed upon wartime action by the IRA in Belfast, in consequence of which Northern Ireland undertook its first and only execution of an IRA member, 19-year old Tom Williams. In the novel, an IRA plot goes horribly wrong when its leader, Johnny Murtah, kills an innocent man, and he is gravely wounded. Odd Man Out is Green’s most significant novel.

MOVIE 1 Odd Man Out /Carol Reed • AUGUST 20
Takes place largely over the course of one tense night, Reed’s psychological noir, set in Belfast, stars James Mason as a revolutionary ex-con who leads a botched robbery. Injured and hunted by the police, he seeks refuge throughout the city, while the woman he loves searches for him among the shadows. Reed and cinematographer Robert Krasker create images of stunning depth for this fierce, spiritual depiction of a man’s ultimate confrontation with himself.

BOOK 2 Clean Break /Lionel White • AUGUST 27
“… none of them are professional crooks. They all have jobs, they all live seemingly decent, normal lives. But they all have money problems and they all have larceny in them.” In the opening chapter, Lionel White sets the stage for the main protagonists of the story: Marvin Unger, court reporter; George Peatty, a racetrack cashier and his bored wife, Sherry; Randy Kennan, a cop distracted by huge gambling debts; Mike O’Reilly, a track barman, regularly bets and loses half his earnings; and Johnny Clay, just out of jail, and who has come up with the plan to steal the earnings fromthe Canarsie Stakes. Creating diversions becomes necessary, including knocking off the favourite in the race (animals lovers beware…).

MOVIE 2 The Killing /Stanley Kubrick • SEPTEMBER 3
Stanley Kubrick’s account of an ambitious racetrack robbery is one of Hollywood’s tautest, twistiest noirs. Aided by a radically time-shuffling narrative, razor-sharp dialogue from pulp novelist Jim Thompson, and a phenomenal cast of character actors, including Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Timothy Carey, Elisha Cook Jr., and Marie Windsor, The Killing is both a jaunty thriller and a cold-blooded punch to the gut. And with its precise tracking shots and gratifying sense of irony, it’s Kubrick to the core.

BOOK 3 Down There /David Goodis • SEPTEMBER 10
Once upon a time Eddie played concert piano to reverent audiences at Carnegie Hall—now he does honky-tonk in a Philly drunk-dive. But then two people walk into Eddie’s life—the first promising Eddie a future, the other dragging him back into a treacherous past. Down There (bookretitled after film to Shoot the Piano Player) is a bittersweet and nerve-racking exploration of different kinds of loyalty.

MOVIE 3 Shoot The Piano Player /François Truffaut • SEPTEMBER 17
François Truffaut is drunk on the possibilities of cinema in this, his most playful film. Part thriller, part comedy, part tragedy, Shoot the Piano Player relates the adventures of mild-mannered piano player Charlie (Charles Aznavour, in a triumph of hangdog deadpan) as he stumbles into the criminal underworld and a whirlwind love affair. Loaded with gags, guns, clowns, and thugs, this razor-sharp homage to the American gangster film is pure nouvelle vague.

BOOK 4 Friends of Eddie Coyle /George V. Higgins • SEPTEMBER 24
Elmore Leonard said that The Friends of Eddie Coyle was the best crime novel ever written, though Higgins hated being classified as a crime writer. According to Leonard, “He saw himself as the Charles Dickens of crime in Boston instead of a crime writer. He just understood the human condition and he understood it most vividly in the language and actions among low lives.”

MOVIE 4 Friends of Eddie Coyle /Peter Yates • OCTOBER 1
In one of the best performances of his legendary career, Robert Mitchum plays small-time gunrunner Eddie “Fingers” Coyle in an adaptation by Peter Yates of George V. Higgins’s acclaimed novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Directed with a sharp eye for its gritty locales and an open heart for its less-than-heroic characters, this is one of the true treasures of 1970s Hollywood filmmaking—a suspenseful crime drama in stark, unforgiving daylight.

We will attempt to watch together. Those who watch the film on their own are of course welcome to join in the discussions following the films as they are presented.