A life in the lucid watching of films demands that many choices be made and parts of self discarded. Probably no such choice is so fundamentally religious as the choice of a preferred Sherlock Holmes.
The character of Holmes is singularly important in matters of evolution, both the evolution of film and the notion of evolution itself.
While vast sections of the US drift away from science and evolution today, in Victorian England precisely the opposite was happening. Until that point, science was largely a matter of observation and deduction of local, abstract laws. Darwin changed all that, at least in the areas of science that were most fully populated. He provided a grand theme that brought sense and logic to matters that previously seemed arbitrary.
All of a sudden, a whole society woke up to the possibility that everything, every thing, every action could be explained if only observed sufficiently closely and from the right angle. Holmes was invented as the character that did just that. His sidekick was the man of the "older" science who was both constantly amazed at the new vision and diligently recorded it.
Meanwhile, at the very same time, fiction was being reinvented in three ways: stories were being serialized in hundreds of "magazines" so recurring characters could exist, indeed the value was primarily in those characters; popular theater was reinvented in London and stories were expected to adopt theatrical conventions; and finally, the "detective" story was devised.
In the detective story, the reader entered into a game with the writer to see who could stay enough in the future to pull the story forward. Each tries to outwit the other, using the rules of logic, meaning science, meaning (in those days) "Darwinism."
Our man Holmes filled all these.
Later, movies came along and for a period there was a tussle within the medium to determine its influences. The detective story in particular became a battleground; somewhat independently, the detectives became less theatrical. Into this mix was inserted the Basil Rathbone Holmes, a pleasant man who wanted to see justice done an ordinary policeman at heart but with extraordinary skills. His sidekick was transformed into a buffoon to suit British comic necessities.
Since then, we have had all manner of quasiHolmses, most notably in the several Hercule Poirots.
Lucid cineliteracy requires that you use one of these as your baseline, only one as the cinematic archetype. This choice will say more about you than you will ever want made public, as it reaches deep into what you actually believe (as opposed to what you purport).
I choose this Holmes. It has problems of course, the chief one being the baggage of the stories. Doyle's stories just aren't good material for film, and any deviation takes us from the historic fundamentals. But that aside: this Holmes is not an ordinary man. He doesn't give a whit about justice, or even punishing the criminal. He cares only to occupy his mind with following the threads of a problem, a scientific problem.
This Holmes is capable of friendship, but not of courtesy. He is quick to resort to drugs. He is high-strung and bipolar. Above all, he represents a non-mechanical being, swallowing a mechanical cosmos.
I adopt him because he is all these things, plus the creative team has preserved the excesses of the Victorian era: they the Victorians believed (as we do not now) that human motives are rational, and they insisted that their "detective" act not as a character in a book, but as in a Victorian play.
That's what we have here, and it is my historical touchstone. Fie on Suchet's Poirot and Burr's Perry Mason!
Only this gives me access to the keyhole through which I can discover the intimacies of noir.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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