September 12, 2006 [Hollywoodland]

I lean toward Hollywoodland in my declining years a little hard of hearing: I thought it was the sound of Philip Marlowe's shoes trudging along a mean street with a dead man--"heavier than broken hearts" as he says somewhere--tied to his ankle with a blue cape, Superman's.  Private eye Louis Simo (a man who could not fly like a bird, but in Adrien Brody's capable hands--and in his amazing profile--certainly seemed to be one) also leans toward the bad things to gaze into the middle distance where George Reeves, also weighted down by his Superman costume, strums his blue guitar and bids adios before accepting a final naked kiss punctuated by a splatter-pattern, over and over.

And the song he sings--the tune that comes out of Ben Affleck's affable but uncertain face--is straight out of Chinatown.  Simo (a name as silly as "Gittes") has also been a bit slow on the uptake, and taken chains to the face--not as bad as a slit nose, but close--and been beaten down by not only the tawdry details of the case but his own complicity in the mess he's stirred up. And Louis, like Nicholson's Jake, is sapped into sleep, rest for the weary at last--until the phone rings again and he winces and touches his wounds and slogs on.

But there's a difference between the two movies: for Hollywoodland, parenthood is not the croaking ecstasy of a sick old man, not the problem, but the solution: Simo watches his son burn his Superman costume, and to unlock the mystery of that failed adoration he follows Reeves into the dead man's cipher-blank life--where he finds Clark Kent--the costume that Bill discusses so eloquently in Kill Bill, Superman's disguise.  And Simo's pity for the hidden man is matched only by his own urge to have something more than a secret identity--the "private eye"--but to become a father to his son, and even a friend to the dead Reeves--maybe even his alter-ego, the two of them Clark Kents snatching the eyeglasses from their faces and trying to go home to someone who loves them, a child--or, for Reeves, a woman, Toni Mannix--Diane Lane once more channeling Gloria Grahame, tough but wise, who tells Reeves, "Nobody ever asks to be happy later"; but Reeves may have asked, and may have waited too long. Simo, patiently approaching his son little by little, seems willing to accept the wait--some reconciliation that bests poor Reeves' oblivion.


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