The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

The Lonesome Art of Don Siegel


Think of it this way: If our life is full of reconciliations and trade-offs great and small; if it's really marked by the things we settle for, rather than those we aspire to, then no artist in American Cinema made a greater exploration of that principle than Don Siegel; born on this day in 1912.

Like most of this country's great filmmaking voices, Siegel built the house of his art upon the foundation of genre cinema, yet always infusing it with a dimension of drear reality, an everyday torpor and absence of charm that just missed the shores of ugliness and sleaze. The Dramatis personae of Andre de Toth's or Phil Karlson's movies may have dwelled in the harshest corners of human motivation, but Siegel's characters wouldn't travel to the worst in themselves without a good, hard shove by events outside all control. In a Siegel film, it was always just the way things were. This is an approach to storytelling which has virtually disappeared in the face of gleeful postmodernist pursuits (which admittedly are not without their charms), and for me it grows more conspicuous through its absence with every passing season; hence this small tribute to Don Siegel we offer you today.

My thanks to the great Jeff Duncanson of Filmscreed for letting me know what day it was!

2 comments :

Vanwall said...

I would watch almost any Siegel film - they are a genre unto themselves, with so many memorable mean scenes, and a few thoughtful ones, as well. Escapism has never been done better, and with never even close to as much flair.

swac said...

Crap, wish I'd known about this sooner...now where'd I put that copy of The Lineup...?