KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (8)

By: Luc Sante
August 8, 2017

One of 25 installments in a series of enthusiastic posts analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite neo-noir movies from the Sixties (1964–1973).

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POINT BLANK | d. JOHN BOORMAN | 1967

Point Blank is a condensation of a condensation, boiling down the already bare-bones The Hunter by Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake), the first installment in the series of novels he devoted to the brutally efficient professional thief Parker. Here he is called Walker, and he is played by Lee Marvin, who embodies both the cold efficacy and the human concealed within.

There is not a wasted frame in Point Blank. All those items that often squander precious real estate in movies — atmosphere, character development, motivation, back story — are brutally pared down to essentials. The first twenty minutes set up the premise: Walker has been robbed of his share of the take in a job by a close friend, Mal (John Vernon), who has used the money to buy back his place in a shadowy Organization; Walker’s wife, Lynne (Sharon Acker), is also involved until she is killed, and she has a sister, Chris (Angie Dickinson). Much of this is conveyed through stylized flashbacks and flash-forwards, many just a few frames in length. Walker’s courtship of Lynne is a literal mating dance with a silent chorus of fishermen; it looks like a soap commercial. Walker’s and Mal’s reunion (they had been service buddies) involves their two heads reconnoitering across a sea of bodies; it looks like a beer commercial.

When Walker sets out on his payback mission, the sound of his steps down a hallway persist past the shot — it goes on for maybe thirty more seconds, but you can’t help but hear its echo throughout the rest of the picture. And the rest of the picture is a machine. In the quest for his money, Walker identifies, shakes down, and takes out executives located incrementally higher on the Organization’s totem pole, until he reaches the void at the top. These stages occur in a used-car lot, a psychedelic nightclub, a mobbed-up hotel, an office building, the L.A. River, and an executive’s vast ultramodern house in the Hollywood Hills. There, Walker and Chris undertake their own mating ritual: she attacks him, beating ineffectually on his unmoving chest, then runs through the house turning on appliances while he follows impassively, turning them off. Only after that can they take to a bed.

Primal, savage, undeceived by the modern world, Point Blank still looks more modern than most of the movies made in the ensuing fifty years with vastly more advanced technologies.

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KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Series Introduction | Kio Stark on THE KILLERS | Alix Lambert on BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | Judith Zissman on ALPHAVILLE | Mark Kingwell on HARPER | Lynn Peril on BLOW-UP | Devin McKinney on SECONDS | Drew Daniel on BRANDED TO KILL | Luc Sante on POINT BLANK | Gordon Dahlquist on LE SAMOURAÏ | Alice Boone on LE CERCLE ROUGE | Brian Berger on COTTON COMES TO HARLEM | Adrienne Crewe on PERFORMANCE | David Levine on THE FRENCH CONNECTION | Dan Fox on GET CARTER | Melissa Gira Grant on KLUTE | Brandi Brown on SHAFT | Kaleb Horton on FAT CITY | Peter Doyle on THE GETAWAY | Sarah Weinman on HICKEY & BOGGS | Annie Nocenti on BADLANDS | Josh Glenn on CHARLEY VARRICK | Gary Groth on THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE | Lisa Jane Persky on THE LONG GOODBYE | Mimi Lipson on MEAN STREETS | Sherri Wasserman on SOYLENT GREEN.

MORE MOVIES at HILOBROW: KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: 25 neo-noirs of the Sixties (1964–1973) | James Parker’s BOURNE VARIATIONS series | Alix Lambert’s SÉRIE NOIRE series | Jacob Mikanowski’s SCREEN TIME series | Josh Glenn’s SHOCKING BLOCKING series | Joanne McNeil’s ALL MY STARS series | MORE: including dozens of HILO HERO items on movie directors and actors.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.

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What do you think?

  1. Spot on about the sound of Marvin’s shoes on the airport floor – whenever I see a mention of the film, or something brings it to mind, I hear that sound – it’s the film’s actual theme music. One other piece of percussive musicology – someone with a good sense of humor and a lot of patience re-edited the scene where Dickinson wails on the impassive Marvin so that it “performs” the score of Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music.”

    The film also does something really interesting in flattening space. I remember a variety of shots where Marvin seems like a two-dimensional cut-out pressed between panes of glass – behind the screen of a door, or up against the green sheet of an ocean wave. That’s not the only visual mode – plenty of sharp diagonals receding into space in that LAX hallway, or by the Los Angeles River – but those two-dimensional shots turn Marvin into an axiom of the comic strip.

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