“I was misinformed”


And what in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?

My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.

Waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.

I was misinformed.

William Goldman in “Which lie did I tell” quotes this Casablanca dialogue and then comments on its elegance, depth and style. Then he writes this amazing paragraph: (emphasis his)

“The character of Rick, of course, is very old - he is the Byronic hero, the tall dark handsome man with a past. Most movie stars - actors, not comedians - have essentially all played that same role. And they have to always face front, never turn sideways -
Because, you see, there’s nothing to them. Try to make them full, try and make them real, and guess what? They disappear.”

and further:

“Hollywood heroes must have
mystery. (....) the more you expose that character to the sunlight, the more he starts to fade.”

Is Goldman right? I think so. Perhaps the greatest gift a movie hero offers us is validation of our suspicion that there is mystery to our lives which even the fullest biography or psychological analysis can’t reveal.

Indeed the allure of the “I was misinformed” is all around us - and not only on screen but also as the source of charisma of many earthlings we meet along the way.

An example of the “I was misinformed” turned into a two hour long film parable (one of my favorites) - “The man who fell to Earth” directed by Nicholas Roeg from the script by Paul Mayersberg (based on the novel by Walter Tevis)


Crisp, gripping and gloomy.

"The Ghost Writer" written by Robert Harris and Roman Polanski,
directed by Polanski

So does “The Ghost Writer” follow "Chinatown"?

Clearly the narrative technique has changed. The “camera talk” does not celebrate the events as much as it did when describing the ordeal of J.J. Gittes. The staging moves faster, is more compressed and more ... well nonchalant. This seemingly more casual approach again delivers the Chinatown truth about evil of the world. This time in an updated 21 Century way, mixing sophistication with in your face signals. The strong ones for example build the opening scene when the empty car on the prom is repeatedly “marked” by visual clues.

Polanski and Harris adapting the novel punch up the emotions every step of the way. The decision to move an empty car on the prom scene up front shows the problem instead of talking about it, which in the novel happens later. The ending of the film is a visual representation of the potentiality existing in the novel’s last paragraph. The entire final sequence of the film adds up to the character of the Ghost making him much more interesting. In short, the master storyteller when translating a novel into the screen makes the story and the hero stronger.

Is Polanski concerned with the things that jumped at me during the read? The verbalized reflections on the difference between the reality and its media representation achieved in the novel through the helicopter scene do not interest him at all. Yet, the bitter commentary about the difference between the reality and its media presence is telegraphed beautifully a scene later when Lang delivers a statement to the crowd of journalists. This short public persona of Lang when compared with his private presence speaks volumes about political truth. That’s clearly the way to address a serious “socio-psychological” issue if one has secured services of Pierce Brosnan.

Others do great work as well. Somebody wrote that in this flick Polanski and McGregor channel Kafka. Seems like a very perceptive comment.

Yes, a grumpy gardener from the "Chinatown" and the Harris novel has made it into the film. This time he appears with a new twist on his absurd work. With the exception of the final shot Polanski does not quote “Chinatown” directly. Instead he and Pawel Edelman spice up their visuals with comments on futility, madness and hopelessness that reign on this crazy planet of ours.

Because their work is so delicious I do not care that the novel-lifted plot is actually an outrageous (and I hope rather silly) Google advertisement. I guess within the “film noir” genre it has to be presented with a straight face, even though Harris himself calls his novel “satirical”. “The Ghost Writer” is still a great movie entertainment.