31/12/2011

2012

Tous mes voeux pour cette nouvelle année à vous et à vos proches; puisse-t-elle vous apporter tout ce que vous souhaiter... et vous épargner le reste.

I wish you and your family and friends a happy new year, complete with everything you may want and more.

30/12/2011

Juger un DVD à sa couverture

Un cinéphile aime les films - beaucoup, passionnément, à la folie. Et ceux qu'il aime vraiment très fort, ceux qu'il veut avoir chez lui pour les regarder à volonté, il les achète en DVD (ou en Blu-Ray, s'il est à la pointe du progrès)

Et de fait, il faut vraiment avoir envie de voir un film pour acheter un DVD - car les éditeurs ne font vraiment rien pour rendre leurs galettes numériques attractives en tant qu'objets.

Un exemple suffira. Voici l'affiche française originale du film de Delmer Daves, Les Gladiateurs:



Et voici maintenant la couverture du DVD. Attention les yeux!



Bon, je suis bien conscient que ce film s'adresse à un public réduit (à une époque où un film est un "classique" au bout de vingt ans, 1953 c'est carrément la préhistoire) et que Fox ne va donc pas dépenser des sommes folles en packaging, mais tout de même...

La situation n'est pas beaucoup meilleure chez les éditeurs dits "cinéphiles" genre Carlotta ou Sidonis. Même si l'on n'y trouve rien d'aussi hideux que la monstruosité ci-dessus, le packaging reste au niveau du service minimum, avec le plus souvent une simple photo du film, plus ou moins bien choisie.

J'en entends déjà m'objecter que le contenu est beaucoup plus important que le contenant, que les petits éditeurs susdits font sur le plan de la restauration et des bonus un travail formidable dont les majors feraient bien de s'inspirer, et qu'il vaut mieux un bon film avec un packaging pas terrible qu'une nullité dans un écrin de luxe. Je n'en disconviens pas. Mais tout de même. Si le contenant a si peu d'importance, pourquoi s'en embarrasser davantage? La VOD donne le même résultat, et elle prend moins de place sur les étagères. Que diable, j'aime les films sur un support physique, et j'ai envie que ledit support anticipe sur le plaisir de la vision, le prépare en quelque sorte. Et ce genre de choses fait très moyennement envie.

Those Damn Amateurs

Michael Sims on amateur detectives:

"This tradition goes through Miss Marple and Murder She Wrote — that amateurs would have this arcane, genius talent as if they were musicians or mathematicians or something. It's a hilarious idea if you stop and think about it."

Well, not really. The amateur detective appeared at a time - the nineteenth century - which saw many instances of amateurs/outsiders outwitting the professionals. Darwin was not a biologist. Pasteur was not a doctor. Early egyptologists/archaelogists like Maspero or Schliemann were self-taught. The idea that an amateur detective could challenge and outperforming the coppers thus made sense, especially given everyone's low regard for the official police.

Romanticism was also a key influence, with its notion that the Poet as some kind of a superman who can feel and see things invisible to mere mortals. Dupin is as much an embodiment of that ideal (and maybe more so) than of reason. Same goes for Holmes who, for all his professed rationalism, looks and behaves much like your standard romantic.

Of course in our highly specialized and less than romantic times, the whole stuff sounds, in Sims's words, "hilarious". But looking absurd now doesn't mean it was absurd then.

29/12/2011

Who's Better? Who's Best?


It's a testimony to how priorities in the genre have changed that hardly anyone is compiling lists of the "greatest detectives" anymore - though Sherlock Holmes is routinely assumed to be the greatest of them all. Since most modern sleuths are more remarkable for their personalities and predicaments than their ratiocinative skills, the exercise would be pointless.

Besides, evaluating the "greatness" of a detective is way trickier than seems firsthand for lack of an universal system of measurement. Every fictional sleuth is the greatest one in his own universe, being ideally and uniquely suited to solve the problems he is submitted. Ellery Queen's cases are not the same as Dr. Fell which on the other hand are different from, say, Philip Marlowe's and we don't know whether they could switch successfully. Neither can we be sure that Sherlock Holmes could solve the murder of Roger Ackroyd, or Hercule Poirot would escape from Cell 13. Only by having them all existing in a same universe and investigating the same case could we eventually work out who's best.

So in the end when making such lists we're not listing "greatest" detectives so much as those whose exploits most impressed us - and it might then be more helpful to specify which particular "performance" owes them their ranking.

Using this system, who would be your ten favorite detectives?

28/12/2011

Chamber Music - Soul Rebels Brass Band

Resolutions for 2012

There are only three, but they're major ones:

Finally overcoming that damn reader's block.

I read so little this year - so little mysteries that is, for I read a lot of comics, the only things not falling from my hands - that for the first time in memory I can't compile a Top 10 - and naming a best book of the year would be meaningless given the low number of candidates*. I sincerely hope for 2012 heralding a return to form.

Blogging on a more regular basis.

Obviously my reader's block didn't help me posting more often. But then it's a historical/theoretical blog, not a journal of my reads, so that excuse doesn't (quite) hold water. In 2012 I'll try to achieve a post at least every two weeks, come what may.

Poster davantage en français.

Je suis français et, à en croire les statistiques de ce blog, un certain nombre de mes lecteurs le sont également. Il serait donc logique que je m'exprime davantage dans notre belle langue. C'est donc mon troisième objectif pour la nouvelle année.

Easier said than done, but who knows...

* Still, if I was to name the best mystery I read this year, the honour would go to Albert Harding's "Death on Ravens' Scar". I know nothing of this author and Internet seems not to know much either, but it's an excellent book with a very good plot and equally good setting and characterization. Too bad Harding apparently never wrote anything else.