Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Report From France PLUS A Great Article In The Arkansas Times

We're having an incredible time in France. I've done a few events with the great Ben Whitmer (PIKE and CRY FATHER), who, it turns out, is as cool as he is talented. We did an event at a Paris bookshop, then I headed to Montpellier to do some presentations while Whitmer was dispatched to some other town to do the same. Then we met up in Lyon for the huge Quais Du Polar festival where we got to meet readers and hobnob with literary lights from around the world. I sat on a panel discussion, had a solo event that was shockingly well attended, and signed books. Then we headed back to Paris for a party with booksellers last night. The level of organization here between publishers, booksellers, and readers is incredible. I know of nothing like it in the states. The reception that I've gotten here quite frankly has me stunned. It's been so warm and effusive. We sold out of my books at the festival, and I found out that I'm on the bestseller list for independent bookstores. I mean, what the hell is going on?

I'll report back and post some more pictures here when I get back to Chicago. For now, though, I wanted to post the OTHER best thing that's happened to me in the last week, this great article in the Arkansas Times ("Jake Hinkson's Arkansas Noir") by Matt Baker. I've never gotten much coverage in my home state, so it's really exciting to get such a nice write up.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

7TH HEAVEN (1927)

There's something so incredibly pure about the romanticism of Frank Borzage that his films become, at least for me, impossible to resist. When you watch a movie like 7TH HEAVEN, you're watching a filmmaker in complete command of his craft. That he is making a romance about the transcendent power of love is, in some ways, of secondary concern for me. Perhaps another way of saying this is that while I don't believe in the transcendent power of love in the way that Borzage did, I do believe in Borzage.

7TH HEAVEN is based on a play by Austin Strong, and the screenplay and titles were written by Benjamin Glazer, H.H. Caldwell, Katherine Hilliker, and Bernard Vorhaus. It tells the story of an impoverished young prostitute named Diane (Janet Gaynor) who lives with her abusive sister in the slums of Paris. She is rescued from this plight by a sewer worker named Chico (Charles Farrell), who takes her to his bird's nest apartment high above the city. Soon they fall in love and are married, but Chico is drafted into service in the killing fields of WWI. Will he return to her? Can even death itself keep them apart?

A film like 7TH HEAVEN is at once wholly artificial and deeply real--which might be a good description of the Borzage aesthetic. It is artificial in the sense that it is every inch a silent film, a film of big broad gestures and big broad emotions in both the acting and directing. The set design and cinematography are impressionistic. Even by the standards of the silents, though, the film unfolds in a world of fantasy. Despite the backdrop of WWI, there is no hint of the literary modernism that came out of that war and informed much of the literature that dealt with it.

Yet the glory of Borzage's film is that it makes the unreal real, makes the plainly artificial deeply believable. It is a movie about dreamers who are desperate to escape the unbearable realities of poverty and war. The key to understanding it is to understand that their dreams, their romance, is more important to Borzage than those grim realities. Near the end, Chico is killed in the war. Yet he returns to her, born again in shafts of bright white light. It is pure fantasy, and I mean both the "pure" and the "fantasy." What is real here is the yearning, the desire to be free of the dirt and pain and sorrow. 

Chico is a proud atheist, but he finds spiritual (and bodily) redemption in his love with Diane. I don't think Borzage is trying to make a theological statement here--there's no reason to think he actually believed that love could bring the dead back to life--but he is clearly making an artistic statement. He was the screen's great romantic. Modernism be damned. 

The central performances of Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell are glorious. They were the perfect screen couple of their day. She was tiny, pixish, and fragile--yet somehow indestructible as well. (The scene where she finally fights back against her abusive sister is surprising in the furor of its violence.) He was tall and handsome, masculine yet entirely vulnerable. (He breaks down crying from fear when he discovers he has to go to war, an unthinkable thing for a screen hero to do in our macho age.) They are such products of their era, not simply in their acting but in their bearing and being. He's more beautiful than she is, and she has a scrappiness that makes her a particularly earthy angel.

Of course, like all silent films, 7TH HEAVEN is not for everyone. It is so far removed from what we think of as a movie today, it's essentially a different art form. It's part fairy tale, part light show. It is beautiful, though. Beautiful, deep and true.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Very happy to say that my essay collection The Blind Alley: Investigating Film Noir's Forgotten Corners is now available in paperback!

Here's some nice stuff some very cool people have said about the book.

“Jake Hinkson is the Roger Ebert of film noir studies. His stylish prose bristles with memorable insights and the kind of fun only a true movie lover can bring to the table.”
Ed Gorman, co-founder of Mystery Scene and winner of the Anthony Award for Best Critical Work for The Fine Art of Murder

"Newcomers to noir and connoisseurs alike can both revel in Jake Hinkson's riffs on the subject. He brings to the films a wealth of insight, valuable context, and—most vitally—real passion and a sense of fun. It was a privilege to publish many of these pieces the first time around, and it's a pleasure to read them again in this smart and savvy collection."
Eddie Muller, author of Dark City and president of the Film Noir Foundation

“Even though it is hard to believe that there are any dark corners left in the study of classic film noir, Jake Hinkson in The Blind Alley manages to shine light into a few of its more obscure niches with perceptive and entertaining studies of character actors like the redoubtable Art Smith, unrecognized femme fatales like Peggie Castle and Joan Dixon, as well as taking on neglected social issues in noir such as lesbianism and unwanted pregnancy.”
James Ursini, author The Noir Style and editor of the Film Noir Reader series

“Jake Hinkson’s concise, highly readable essays cover the wide waterfront of film noir, offering insightful new perspectives both on monumental films like Double Indemnity and Touch of Evil and overlooked figures such as Peggie Castle and Norman Foster.  A must-have collection for every student of this eternally fascinating genre.”
Dave Kehr, author of When Movies Mattered: Reviews From a Transformative Decade

“In The Blind Alley, Jake Hinkson ventures down some of the darkest and most unfamiliar back streets of film noir. A knowledgeable and passionate tour guide, Hinkson illuminates neglected corners with insightful essays on noir’s treatment of subjects from religion to childhood, lesbianism to the “crisis pregnancy.” Incisive profiles of overlooked figures—Norman  Foster, Richard Quine, Tom Neal, Mickey Rooney—rescue their contributions from the shadows while revealing lives often more noir than their films. The Blind Alley is especially to be treasured for its loving tributes to women who never quite had the careers they deserved, but who left their indelible mark on noir, among them Peggie Castle, Martha Vickers, and Thelma Ritter. For the noir fan, delving into this collection is like opening a box of extra-dark chocolates.”
Imogen Sara Smith, author of In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond The City

“If you want to learn more about film noir, read The Blind Alley. Jake Hinkson is like a literary Reed Hadley. His lively, informative essays comprise an essential voiceover tour of the characters and foibles of film noir.”

Alan K. Rode, author, Charles McGraw: Film Noir Tough Guy and Sit On The Camera, Pant Like a Tiger: The Life and Films of Michael Curtiz

Thursday, March 12, 2015

French Book Tour

To my new friends in France: 

I have the announcement and dates for the French tour. I hope to see you at one of these stops.

Vous pourrez écouter Jake Hinkson samedi 28, à 11h30 à la Chapelle de la Trinité puis à 14h pour l'enregistrement public de l'émission Mauvais Genre de France Culture, au Palais du Commerce, Salle Ampère.

Jake dédicacera également son roman sur le stand de la Librairie Passages pendant le festival.

Jake Hinkson sera l'invité du Festival Quais du Polar et participera à une tournée en librairies. Vous pourrez le rencontrer :

- le 25 mars à la librairie L'Arbre à Lettres située rue Boulard à Paris.
- le 26 mars à 19h à la librairie Sauramps à Montpellier.
- du 27 au 29 mars au Festival Quais du Polar de Lyon
- le 31 mars à la librairie La Machine à Lire de Bordeaux
- le 1er avril à la librairie Calligrammes de La Rochelle
- le 2 avril à la librairie M'Lire de Laval
- le 3 avril à la librairie Obliques d'Auxerre

Monday, March 9, 2015


THE DEEPENING SHADE got a nice write up in Bill Crider's column--Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered--in MYSTERY SCENE. To wit:

"When a collection opens with quoations from Ingmar Bergman's WINTER LIGHT and Theodore Roethke's "In A Dark Time," you know you're in for a stroll on the dark side. That's just what Jake Hinkson provides in THE DEEPENING SHADE. Hinkson's work is raw and violent and powerful. "The Serpent Box" is all of that, but you won't be able to look away. Hinkson can also be savagely funny in the midst of the horror of a story like "Microeconomics." Some of the 15 stories included here have been previously published. All are memorable."

Friday, March 6, 2015

RIP Albert Maysles

Albert Maysles died yesterday at the age of 88. Every cinephile sooner or later comes around to the series of groundbreaking documentaries that Albert did with his brother, David.

We're such a GREY GARDENS (1975) household that our cat is named Little Edie. (Also, well worth watching, is the companion film THE BEALES OF GREY GARDENS which was compiled from footage the Maysles shot while making the original film.) I think the Maysles Brothers' most underrated film, though, is the great 1968 SALESMAN, which follows struggling door-to-door Bible salesmen. It's one of the greatest films ever made about American capitalism, a document of the ways cut-throat corporate greed insulates itself within the Trojan Horse of a think-positive public culture. Watching increasingly desperate salesmen try to wring a dollar out of cash-strapped housewives by preying on their religion and their fears of the future is fascinating and heartbreaking in equal measure.

May have to rewatch SALESMAN tonight.