Abandon Normal Devices Podcast
Abandon Normal Devices Podcast
Ep. 14 \\ Uma Breakdown and Johanna Hedva talk LA Noir Part 1

Ep. 14 \\ Uma Breakdown and Johanna Hedva talk LA Noir Part 1

Heavy metal, cult films and goth queerness. Part one of a conversation between Unseen Futures fellow Uma Breakdown and their mentor, artist, writer and musician, Johanna Hedva.

Welcome to episode 14 of the Abandon Normal Devices podcast. Johanna and Uma have a number of shared interests, including horror movies and a fascination with California as a location for occult, strange occurrences. 

They also have a similar aesthetic, defining as disabled goth queers whose complementary interests are bound up in big emotions and spirituality, as well as heavy metal and horror films.

Uma and Johanna’s artistic connection was cemented during Unseen Futures, and the bond between them is joyfully evident in the recording.

Please note that there is strong language used in this recording that some people may find offensive. 

Ruth McCullough 0:14

Welcome to Episode 14 of the Abandoned Normal Devices podcast and part one of a two part conversation between unseen futures fellow Uma Breakdown and their mentor artist and writer and musician Johanna Hedva. Unseen futures was our first ever artist led fellowship programme that ran from September 2020 to January 2023. Johanna and Uma have a number of shared interests, including horror movies and a fascination with California as a location for occult and strange occurrences. They also have a similar aesthetic, defining as disabled goth queers whose complementary interests are bound up in big emotions and spirituality, as well as heavy metal and horror films. Uma and Johanna's artistic connection was cemented during unseen futures and the bond between them is joyfully evident in this recording. At the moment, they're both producing pieces of work that are influenced by La noir which they refer to during the recording as 90s revival noir and speculative Los Angeles. Please note that there's strong language use in this recording that some people may find offensive

I literally can't wait to talk about that. I've got I've got some opinions on professional wrestling.

Johanna Hedva 1:30

You wanted to start to I mean, we can talk about whatever you want. Yeah, I mean, this is like for your benefit

Uma Breakdown 1:36

Well, I just wanted to talk about the kind of we talked about the stuff last time and I there's a few things that I kind of wanted to have a chat about one of these is this like Katherine Keenan studies and that more generally, what that means to like, like to use like the framework of like an actor's career and like the actors character, like and how that changes, but I am also very interested in I want to know about professional wrestling so we can come back to that because I finished watching glow a few months ago and it left a hole in my heart. So I'm like very much interested in wrestling now.

Johanna Hedva 2:21

Have you seen Dark Side of the ring? No. Okay, so that is like, the bad TV that I've been watching well sick last week with a cold. It's sort of like behind the music. But for wrestling. So each episode is like a documentary about somebody in the professional wrestling world and it starts like way the fuck back like like there's like an end You know, it's like murder, addiction, suicide, violence, abuse, like like tragedy. Everybody's dead. Everybody's dead. But it's kind of incredible. It's kind of an incredible show. You can't binge it. I mean, I tried to I binge like season one and that was like kind of left me feeling like even more unwell so now I'm like, kind of slow more slowly doing season two. But I can tell you just you know, and then we can totally do the actor like, like thinking about suing actors like because I also watch brand new cherry flavour and so I have Catherine Keener thoughts. And I also for blade, I was thinking the other day, I started to, like, do my little like, making my syllabus for LA Noir. Yeah. And, and I think I'm structuring my course with like, I'm going to do pairings where it's like, you know, this la noir film like Chinatown or Blade Runner or whatever. But you probably don't know this one. And then like pairing them together. So you have like a more canonical like well known popular movie, and then you have like a weird little, a weird little movie. So like, blade is absolutely on my list. And it's paired with the Terminator, the first one. Which by the way, I think the Terminator and Terminator two are like fucking great movies. I just rewatched Terminator two.

Uma Breakdown 4:26

Yeah, they're amazing. I mean, I completely forgot that it's like an LA movie. But like, in hindsight is so obvious because like the stuff about the canals is like a real architectural movie, like the shopping centre. And there's yeah, there's it's just all about this kind of like architecture, but yeah, the thing of the canals I don't think I've seen I've seen it like a movie since, but I've never seen like that turning up like and we talked the other week about the we talked a bit about the kind of Robert Moses and the kind of freeways in the changing landscape in LA, which seems to be a thing in the noir stuff, yeah, but so you

Johanna Hedva 5:05

might even put Terminator two as the one because that's where you get that really fabulous motorcycle chase sequence in the LA River, which is cemented. Right. And you have Eddie Furlong like, you know, like on his little dirt bike. yeah, and then they have that like, great little moment where they go to get fucking Linda Hamilton out of the mental institution. And that's a real house that is like the mental institution, California. It's called Pescadero State Hospital. So, yeah, I'm like, maybe it's Terminator two with blade is like the pairing for my LA noir film course that I'm teaching, in my mind

Uma Breakdown 5:47

Now so only, like I said, I didn't actually get to rewatch blade for our talk. But I did watch a seven, a seven minute YouTube summary. And it did remind me of like quite a lot of stuff in the film I forgotten that has Brad Dourif and at the time when Brad Dourif was

Johanna Hedva 6:02

Oh yeah he's so great. He's also one of like literally the best parts about that movie. He's not on screen for very long, but he's like, steals the movie.

Uma Breakdown 6:13

He's, yeah, he's really, he has one of those characters I guess there's like there's like a category of not quite leading men who perform quite yeah, not quite leading men. They'll often be the antagonist or something like that. So like people like in the mould of Christian Slater.

Johanna Hedva 6:32

Yeah yeah yeah

Uma Breakdown 6:34

yeah, that kind of, they're the sidekick. They're a little bit too edgy. I thought he was, yeah, him and like maybe like Sam Rockwell is another one who's a bit like that as well.

Johanna Hedva 6:45

Yeah. I mean, Grima Wormtongue I think is like the highlight of those Lord of the Rings movies. When when when he's like, in that coat? You know, he has that like black fur coat. And who is he talking to? It's in the second one, I think which is like the bad one.

Uma Breakdown 7:05

No no thats, wait a minute did I say Brad Dourif for Steven Dorff its Steven Dorff

Johanna Hedva 7:12

Oh, you said Brad Dourif.

Uma Breakdown 7:13

Yeah, it's not. Okay. So that's why that didn't make any sense. Right, no, no. So not Brad Dourif.

Johanna Hedva 7:19

Steven Dorff Steven Dorff, he is actually very hot in blade.

Uma Breakdown 7:24

Yeah, he just he was I don't think he really did much. He's in one of my favourite John Waters films. The one that's about Hollywood, about a kind of like, Red Army Faction group that's trying to fund an independent film.

Johanna Hedva 7:41

Demented? Yeah

Uma Breakdown 7:43

he's in that and I don't I don't know if he really got to do anything else other than

Johanna Hedva 7:47

I dont remember him in that at all. Oh yeah, Steven Dorff. That's right. Well he was in like some things in the 90s I feel

Uma Breakdown 7:57

Yeah, he very much like got eclipsed by other people that have played like similar kind of stuff. Like speaking with vampires. Like the guy from? From Morbius

Johanna Hedva 8:12

Like the guy in the underworld movies isn't he.

Uma Breakdown 8:15

Oh I nearly watched those with Kate whats her face

Johanna Hedva 8:19

You haven't seen them? I've not seen them. Well, let me just say all five or however many there are, are worth watching. But he's very, like, I feel like the character in that who's also like, kind of this like, they're like, he's like a pretty blonde. But not pretty enough. Scott Speedman. Yeah, that's right. Scott Speedman is like the Stephen Dorff of the underworld franchise.

Uma Breakdown 8:51

Right? Yeah. Yeah. So he, um, yeah. What we're talking about now, so, like, so you're pairing? So you have Terminator two?

Johanna Hedva 9:01

I have. Yeah, I have my list here. Right. But, you know, it's like, because I was thinking if you're teaching a class on, you know, these are my bizarre constraints that like I'm making up for myself, because if you're teaching a class, you have to do the basics. Like you have to show that you know, the cannon. Yeah. Because you could do a version of this class. It's like flexikan. And, you know, here's some shit you never heard of some like tiny tiny little independent film that like, like you could put like killer sheep on the LA noir list. Which is this kind of like very small experimental film, I forget the name of the guy. But it's like seven watts. It's like a kind of like African American poverty and La indie. But you know, but then you don't get to talk about Sunset Boulevard, if you do that so I was like trying to do these pairings of having like the big movie and then the little weird one that like you know yeah it's just a little twin or something like a dark twin

Uma Breakdown 10:11

Does Blade like does Blade have to be, would be different if it wasn't in LA because it's a Marvel movie which historically kind of like mostly done in like a New York or stand in for New York.

Johanna Hedva 10:25

I think it would really be different because the other one like I couldn't tell if I wanted to do like, blade. It's sort of got like a repo man vibe. Like I feel like there's some seedy grimy, sleazy 80s LA movies like to live and die in LA, I don't know if you've ever seen that it has like Willem Defoe, in his like earliest Hollywood role. And he plays like a very, he plays like a tormented artist who burns all of his paintings, and then starts making counterfeit money. And to be quite honest, he is like gorgeous. He's, like, young and beautiful and like big eyes and has like a kind of Cillian Murphy, you know bone structure, giving the bone structure. And, you know, he's kind of like, he's like dating this, like, you know, like, she's like a performance artist. Like, like, you know, he shows up backstage. And like to like please her he like buys her hookers and stuff like gothy, like, sex worker girls. So it's like kind of this like sleazy it's like it's like if shortcuts were goth.

Uma Breakdown 11:41

Oh my god. Yeah, I've heard of it. I've not actually seen it. This is a yeah, this is, oh.

Johanna Hedva 11:52

Look at like, like just google.

Uma Breakdown 11:54

It's Richard, its William Friedkin. Yeah. I didn't know. Right okay. Yeah, I should

Johanna Hedva 12:04

see like, like, just put Willem Defoes name in the to live and die in LA Google search and just like get into this like, like, like, like, that's what he, that this is 85, 84/85 and he like broke into Hollywood like this kind of person

Uma Breakdown 12:20

What's the, is it wild at heart? He's, is that, where's Wild at Heart set?

Johanna Hedva 12:26

That's a good question. Is it set in LA? I haven't seen that movie in ages. I should rewatch it, actually. I mean he. Yeah he looks so great in that movie.

Uma Breakdown 12:39

He's amazing with his teeth. He's the bank robber.

Because the thing is, right okay, so what I was thinking I think I was looking through some LA movies. And I was thinking of stuff like, what are my favourite kind of La movies and things like the Player are probably up there, as well. Yes. And then I started to think well, there's also like, Boys in the Hood. Thats a good one. And like, there's like the there's like the kind of theres like the low, low horizon LA movies, which are like Boys in the Hood. And like Repo Man and stuff, where it's big, it's like big open the kind of edges of suburbia, and kind of industrial stuff. And then there's like the kind of middle of Hollywood ones like the Player and I do think there's like these two kind of, just I haven't worked this out too much, but there's like two kind of architectural types of La whereas like New York movies are very much instantly recognisable. But there are these two kind of kinds and they feel like very different kinds of places. Obviously, I've never been to LA but it's interesting in that like dividing line of the two different kinds

Johanna Hedva 13:48

That's exactly right. Because there's some movies, like I'm putting destroyer on my list, that Nicole Kidman, Karyn Kusama detective, because there's some like there's very this like kind of edges of suburbia. Or like these weird like, the thing about LA right? Is it so sprawly so you can just like literally drive for six hours and you're still in LA. Like, just because like and then when you're out on those out, like kind of like when you're like an hour away from downtown or like a recognisable LA skyline and you're still technically in LA. That kind of shit can be really, it's like a very specific California architectural vernacular, it's like stucco. You know, it's like lawns, but they're kind of dead. You know, like American History X is a very good example of this kind of architecture. And I might even put that on the list like not to be like inflammatory but pair it was something like Boys in the Hood because it's very like, like because the gang life especially in LA was happening in those places. It wasn't happening like down town, where the skyscrapers are, it was like in these little neighbourhoods, and the neighbourhoods like you know, what's that other? What is that one? It's seven Inglewood. It's kind of new. It's done by a black filmmaker. It's not, it's like Sorry to bother you but from but in LA. Inglewood, how would I even Google?Inglewood movie? Inglewood is like the neighbourhood where the airport is. Movies set in Inglewood. Yeah. What's it called? Dope. Did you ever see that? Yeah, it came out in 2015. It's like yeah, it's like black punk band. Hip hip hop culture. Zoe Kravitz is in a there's like a drug dealer. And there's just like kids like kind of like what like on their bikes, like going around in Inglewood and Inglewood is like a neighbourhood, which by the way, I was just in to see a professional wrestling thing. 17,500 people, and I was like, I'm just gonna risk COVID. Because like, I want to be here so bad. But Inglewood is like, like, kind of at the edge of LA. It's like down where the airport is. It's like not the nice part that's by the beach. Yeah. And that's like a good example of like this kind of architecture you're talking about where it's just like a weird little neighbourhood. And it's probably not white, like dominated, It's probably not very posh, either.

Uma Breakdown 16:52

Yeah. Did you see snowfall? The TV show by, so John Singleton, who wrote Boys in the Hood did a TV series. I think it's like two seasons about introduction of crack. And it's set in LA. It has, I think it's got like, I think is the RZA in it. I'm pretty sure the RZA is in it. In one of the, I think, I've watched so many TV shows about crack. I'm trying to work out which one it is. But there's one I'm pretty sure it's this. Where RZA has this like him kind of dream almost a dream sequence kind of thing where he kind of develops the process of refining cocaine into crack. Yeah, it's really it's really good. But again, because of the architecture just there are lots of lots of those like, chain link fences. Yeah, and divided lots and stuff like that.

Johanna Hedva 18:02

Yeah, it's like shitty, like, like, like driveways with cracks in the concrete and like dead lawns and chain link fences. And you know what could also go on here even though it's a terrible film, but I think it's like kind of an interesting like, it was an interesting attempt at a lot of different things is White Oleander, which is like, from maybe the late 90s, early 2000s. It's Michelle Pfeiffer is like a poet who kills a man. Right? And it's told through the lens of her daughter, who then has to go through all these different foster homes, like in LA. And so the foster parents and the foster mothers it's like each is like in a different neighbourhood in LA. So there's like, like a very upscale Beverly Hills couple that takes her and then there's like a Russian brothel owner woman. And it's very like, like, I read the novel as a teenager and it like it ends, like the final line is like, I'll always know what time it is in California. It's just like California. It's kind of terrible, but like, maybe you want to watch it.

Uma Breakdown 19:15

What was it called?

Johanna Hedva 19:16

White Oleander. It's like look, Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger Robin Wright fucking and then Alice Loman as like the main protagonists.

Uma Breakdown 19:29

I'm trying to find it on her list

Johanna Hedva 19:33

It was an Oprah's book club book in 1999, White Oleander. And so White Oleander is are a kind of flowering tree that grows like weeds here and they're poisonous. And they're like literally everywhere. And so the whole I'm just spoiling it Michelle Pfeiffer poisons this man with a White Oleander. Like she makes like a tea or something

Uma Breakdown 19:34

Oh, okay, right. Okay, so 2002. Right.

Johanna Hedva 19:40

So it's like this certain kind of like white feminism. It's like a little edgy soap opera moment.

Uma Breakdown 20:11

Is it? Does it fall into? A friend of mine has a category of films, which is middle class white women drinking coffee looking out over the sea, while a murder has taken place. Does it fall in? Would it be that kind of film?

Johanna Hedva 20:26

I would say it's like she's drinking whiskey. Right, like it's a little sleazier. It's a little sleazier than that it's like because the whole thing is Michelle Pfeiffer's character is like, unhinged. You know, she's a poet. She's a murdering poet. So like, it's told through the eyes of her daughter and her daughter is like, like, gets really pissed. I can't remember if this in the movie, it's definitely in the book, because her mother is in prison, like for life or whatever. And at some point, these grad student feminists show up wanting to interview the mother. And the daughter is just like, you don't even know like, murder is not cool, you know, but this feminist grad students are like literary theory people. Yeah. So it's not so middle class like it tried to be a little bohemian. One thing I really remember vividly is a scene where Michelle Pfeiffer gets arrested for murdering the man. And she's like, being handcuffed and she yells out to the daughter, she's like, I'll be back in an hour. I just always thought that was such a nice little touch to have someone who's like literally going away for life. Be like, I'll be back in an hour.

Uma Breakdown 21:39

I think Michelle Pfeiffer does a lot, she did a lot of movies I kind of feel like could be in this like curriculum. I feel like there's quite a few

Johanna Hedva 21:52

Well Michelle Pfeiffer, Studies. Yeah. Is definitely worth ones while

Uma Breakdown 21:57

I was disappointed to remember that Dangerous Minds is not actually set in LA. Cuz I would have immediately assumed it was

Johanna Hedva 22:05

you know, this is where this is like the second time Dangerous Minds has come up in the last like week. And I was like, Oh right I have to rewatch that.

Uma Breakdown 22:19

Yeah, I don't even know if I've even seen it. I think it's a film that feels like it has such like an impact mainly mainly because of the music video. The weird kind of music video that's both like bits of, bits of the movie and like stuff that specifically shot for the music video. But LA, I've got two LA films that I was thinking of. One of them that is one that I really really love, which is What we do is Secret. Have you seen that? No. So it's just about, it's meant to be like a biography, a biographical film. This looks good. I can't remember who even made it. But it's really, it's a really nice film like for rock biography movies are not often as interesting as this and it feels like you could quite comfortably watch this with, whats those really nice documentaries? The one with the

Johanna Hedva 23:27

The history of Western civilization?

Uma Breakdown 23:29

Yeah, the history of Western civilization movies, it feels like it fits the same kind of tone as that and it feels like really nice to watch. It's really you know it's a really sad, a sad story, but it's like a really holds up as more than just, you know, if you care about this band that not many people care about. So sorry, cat cats finished being in here. And, oh

Johanna Hedva 24:01

what's the other one?

Uma Breakdown 24:08

the other one was, so Repo Chick.

Johanna Hedva 24:12

Oh Repo Chick. I've not seen it

Uma Breakdown 24:14

Repo Chick is, so it's the sequel. The sequel like 25 years after Repo Man. Wow. So it's 2009. Oh woah. And it's almost entirely shot on a small set with a green screen. And it's just really harsh, early digital. Like, if you like worse than if you watch like those those Michael Mann digital movies like Collateral or something like that where it's like this feels very jarring, it's like even more jarring. Oh wow. And really incoherent and feels more like something like Nowhere

Johanna Hedva 25:19

Huh that looks. I'm trying to find which one. Because I wanted to add to my list to like some of these, like, I feel like there's a version of things like that happen sort of later on like that are grimy and like kind of low budget or digitally shot or something. There's like a version of that in LA noir that's happening like in the late 40s and early 50s where it's kind of like shitty low budget Noir. Right. And they get like maybe they get somebody who used to be somebody to like be the like detective or the guy who's like hard up or something. But like one of them that I'm thinking of, I think is called Criss Cross. Is this the one in the trailer park? No, Cry Danger is the one in the trailer park. I think, that's right? One of them is set in a trailer park right downtown. Because back then downtown was not like an urban metropolis there were these weird like dirt lots where they would be like yeah, like a wooden Victorian house it was falling apart like right above the bridge or like a trailer park like right by Union Station. And so there are a few of these that have a similar, a similar kind of like scrappy and the plots are never good it's like somebody you know just got out of prison and like you know, needs to make money or something but there are several of these that are LA Noir-ey like Cry Danger is one Criss Cross is one. The other one I want to put on the list, it's like a kind of companion maybe to like, like maybe The Big Sleep because The Big Sleep is technically set in LA, the Humphrey Bogart movie, there is another much better Humphrey Bogart La Noir movie called In a Lonely Place. And the whole thing like there's this long, like, a sequence where they're driving out like by the, like by Malibu. And the whole situation, like the whole like movie is just that maybe Humphrey Bogart killed somebody. And there's like this woman who's in love with him. And the film is just her kind of realising that maybe he killed somebody and like, oh no, what to do? And there's a very famous line from it. We should just like spoil what is that line? Yeah. Okay. You want me to tell you the line? Yeah, come on. Because his name is Dixon Steel. And the line is "I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me" That's, that's really powerful. Isn't it beautiful? And I want to say that the book, the novel, I don't have it. I thought I brought it with me to LA but the book is written by a woman. It's like a Noir-ey novel written by a woman in like the 50s or 40s. And it has that line in it. And so then they made it into a Bogart movie. And it's like later Bogart and he's like a kind of like sick already. And like nobody liked it, because he's like a bad guy in it. He's not a hero. That's a great film. That's like a criterion film probably. Yeah, like a Mubi film by now. But it's a similar like, there's like this scrappy, shitty like low budget, they get somebody who's aged like Burt Lancaster would be in one of these that I mentioned. Dick Powell, like these kinds of guys.

Uma Breakdown 29:01

Yeah, those films are often like really, there often some of the most interesting things when you get people who are like very, very much on a downward slope, and they've not had that career revival and they're doing their very last weird last films.

Johanna Hedva 29:16

Well, maybe one of the best examples of that in this la noir category is Robert Mitchum and Philip Marlowe when he's like in the 70s and it's called Farewell my Lovely and he's way too fucking old to like do this. He should not be doing this. He's like totally like given up you know, it's sort of like end of life Marlon Brando who just had the like little finger in his ear and people would tell him the lines like, like on set, it's very that like Robert Mitchum is just like kind of sitting in each frame like God shoot me. And it's like, also one of these like suburban like he goes to like this woman's house like that scene I really vividly remember that's like made in the 70s also, and they like tried to make another Philip Marlowe film, and it like totally tanked. But that's a really good example of this and it's good it's a good movie like I recommend it. Farewell my Lovely

Speaking of Philip Marlowe, so The Long Goodbye is like probably my favourite noir film overall. Yeah this is on the list for sure

Uma Breakdown 30:20

And I'm trying to, I'm trying to think about this, I'm still having this thing about the kind of architectural kind of like thing, but I think it's like maybe not, it's not like a big sprawling LA it's like a small, it's a small little rooms and like close ups and stuff like that. I think it's a movie that's pretty much always inside like so it's the the scenes of like in his apartment and then my favourite scenes which is when he goes to the shop to go buy cat food. Yeah, yeah. And but being like a really small film, but I'm not quite sure where it fits.

Johanna Hedva 30:52

I think that the twin of that movie is obviously the Big Lebowski because they just tried to make like, they just tried to make the Long Goodbye, but like funny and I think they fucking succeeded, you know, like, good for them. Yeah. But it's a very similar, it's like you know, in that little Malibu beach community, you know, that is where Sterling Hayden lives in the Long Goodbye and it's where Big Lebowski ends up, like when he's like at that porn stars party, and then he gets kicked out and he has that great scene with the cop who's like, stay out of my beach community.

Uma Breakdown 31:23

My favourite bit in The Thing is when he does the Jeff Bridges is suddenly like, possessed by the spirit of being a private investigator. And he's I'm going to do something that's a private investigator thing. And Jackie Treehorn has left. And he goes over and he goes get the paper and he scribbles on the thing and the good thing and it's just like. Yeah. is it just like a huge dick? Its just a guy with a cock. Its just a guy with a huge dick. That's like one of my favourite things. So that kind of perfect kind of lead up and pay off. Yeah, I really, like, okay, so this is another thing. So the back of my mind, what we've been talking about is, and this comes back to Catherine Keener. There's very often the character in these movies. And it's a character that extends that Catherine Keener often pays which is the the artist on/off girlfriend, or the mentor, which she is, kind of is in Brand New Cherry Flavour. And I'm thinking that it's also just like Julianne Moore, in The Big Lebowski.

Johanna Hedva 32:34

Its also in the Player. Yes. The Player. It's Tim Robbins girlfriend who like lives in Pasadena and only wears white. And then she makes like stained glass arts. It's blue. No bra God, I just like, please with the no bra bring this back. Like because I just watched Terminator to Linda Hamilton no bra. Like the player, whoever that is. She's like Norwegian or something that woman.

Uma Breakdown 32:56

I'm tremember who it is in the player. But there's that and then, so I was going on this like, deep dive, going through trying to find what other stuff that I might have seen. Catherine Keener in that was not the like, Adaptation and things like that, and Being John Malkovich. And then I remember that she's in that she's in Johnny Suede. And she play, it's one of the first films that she plays, and she is that character. She's the she's the kind of Bohemian girlfriend. And I really, I kind of think this is like a thing that turns up and most of these like LA movies. And I wonder if this is like a part of the LA noir like the, yeah, sometimes they're tragic. Sometimes they're like Oracle like, Yeah, but that's like, yeah,

Johanna Hedva 33:48

I might, like this is a stretch. So maybe maybe it won't work. But I would maybe propose that was instantiated by Barbara Stanwyck and Double Indemnity even though she's not an artist. Right. It's like this guy, this insurance salesman goes to her house, and he's like, trying to sell her insurance. And she's like, oh, you know, well, I just really get life insurance for my husband, you know, just in case but let's not tell him. And then like, it's kind of like very quickly the guy I forget his name, who plays the main character, but he's like, wait a minute, you're trying to do something bad. Like he kind of like instantly has her number. And she is so cool. And so weird in that movie, like she's wearing an anklet. Do you remember this? Like she's, uh, can you like do my anklet for me

Uma Breakdown 34:40

I don't think I've ever seen Double Indemnity. I'm sorry. I feel like I'm trying to keep quiet about like how little of these films I've actually seen.

Johanna Hedva 34:48

Double Indemnity is fucking great because the whole situation is that like, she doesn't she doesn't say anything untoward. She does not give a femme fatale she just opens the door to her house, she said oh insurance great. Like, come on in and I'll make you an iced tea. Like she's like cute, you know? And then like he's sitting there on the couch, she's like, wait a minute, you want to murder your husband? And so there's this very, like, cool dynamic of like, where it first you think he's crazy? Yeah. And then you kind of like, like she like the way that Barbara Stanwyck unfolds this character is so is so great. And it's kind of a little like that, like the other version of this. So it's kind of a stretch to call her an artist, but like, she's just like, kind of strange and her big house. But like the other version of that that's not the artist is like, also as tragic. It's like the girlfriend who's like stuck in some kind of like, Postman Always Rings Twice. It's like this. Both of them the original and the remake the remake has Jessica Lang in this role and she's like the wife of an older Greek man or something who runs a gas station and she has to just make pies all day and she's just like in there with her like Bobby like making these pies and then Jack Nicholson like needs gas like shows up. The big sex scene that's like very famous it was like you know banned when it came out, the sex scene but it's basically like she just like throws all the pies off the table. And you know, that's like you really feel the pain of that because like the whole movie up until this point an hour and a half is her making us pies by hand. Not an artist but a baker.

Uma Breakdown 36:41

If it doesn't have to be an artist. This character doesn't have to be an artist because Catherine Keener plays I think plays often plays this kind of person I am quite interested in it's like typecasting these like, kind of a bit like, like, yeah, like so like a bit of a kind of a muse or like a kind of Oracle. Or like, but also like, like, if this character kind of isn't just about someone who's like an artist and maybe they can veer into like being like tragic. I feel like they don't just get used up in a narrative. They're not like a kind of just a device for the man lead to like, do something but like, so like coming back to The Big Lebowski. So Julianne Moore's character is not used up by the narrative things she uses. She's so iconic that character. And she's completely powerful and like controlled and it's like it's almost like there's another story that's never told and that this lead of a much more interesting story

Johanna Hedva 37:47

Is her name Maud? Yeah. That's right

Uma Breakdown 37:53

And I love it because shes got the, and she's very well supported by the guy from Naked. David Thewlis. Yeah. The video artist.

Johanna Hedva 38:10

Like, like, like they like laughing on the phone. Yeah. Like you know, talking about the Biennale, so fabulous. I just like I just love her so much when she's like, it increases the chances of conception. She's doing so little like yoga.

Uma Breakdown 38:28

Yeah. Don't worry, I don't expect you to be involved.

Johanna Hedva 38:32

Yeah, but no, this is true because the Oracle element is different than the like tragic like needs to be rescued but then will also kill you kind of character.

Uma Breakdown 38:42

Or dies because often in the Noir film, it's the girl or the woman that the male lead is trying to rescue and there'll be the tragic bit in beginning of the third act will be when they're discovered dead and they couldn't be saved. It'll be part of this thing of like, yeah, come back to like Blade Runner. It's like all that happens pretty much through Blade Runner is that failure.

Johanna Hedva 39:05

Yeah, for sure. Cuz that's right. Like Blade Runner has to be on here obviously, but I would I would pair Blade Runner with Strange Days. Yeah. And in Strange Days, like honestly, the Oracle character is like Angela Bassett. Like she's the chauffeur assassin.

Uma Breakdown 39:22

Yeah. And she plays she plays like the kind of Molly, Molly Millions kind of like, she's like the bodyguard, isn't she?

Johanna Hedva 39:29

Yeah, yeah, she's the bodyguard, but she also like kind of saves him a lot. And then she like gives him advice. And, you know, because Juliette Lewis needs to be saved in that movie. She's like the one that's having all the problems. The other thing that comes to mind, it's not a Noir, but I would just add it because it's an interesting, It's like a little it's like troubles. This is The Kids Are All Right, which is with Julianne Moore and Annette Bening has lesbian moms whose kids who are played by Mia Wasikowska, and I forget the name of the boy but one of them turns 18 and decides to find their birth father. They're like sperm donor. And it's Mark Ruffalo, who, whose house by the way. Have you seen this? It's like a fabulous hilarious comedy gig.

Uma Breakdown 40:17

I've not I've not seen it. No. Okay.

Johanna Hedva 40:20

The sex scenes between Julianne Moore and Annette Bening in this film are like, top five of all time. There's so funny. There's like this hilarious, they're so cute. They really do a good job. All the lesbian jokes are hilarious. But then like, it's very like, like Mark Ruffalos character like runs like a Silverlake restaurant. You know, that, like grows its own produce. And he and like, and like Julianne Moore is starting her landscape design business. And so he like hires her. And they filmed it all in this house in Echo Park that I actually know because I know the woman who owns that house. And this vision of LA is very, like, true to life. And Julianne Moore in this movie is also like the Oracle artist, because she's tried to do her landscape design. And she's like, they're like, you know, we could do second we could do fertile we could do Bougainville. Yeah.

Uma Breakdown 41:24

Is she the kind of like lead? Is this is a rare example of a film where it's about that character, rather than that character being someone who appears

Johanna Hedva 41:35

Hers is the one Yeah, like, like, like in the beginning. It's like her and Annette Bening are like equally build. They're married for 20 years. They're raising these children. They have a family. But then like, the thing kind of goes off the rails by following Julianne Moore's character, and she, like, tries to do her landscape design business. Confused about like, her sexuality, and I don't know, it's kind of a fabulous heartwarming, like, lesbian romantic comedy. Yeah. I would really suggest you watch it.

Uma Breakdown 42:11

No, I do.It's something that I immediately kind of like, yeah, I need to watch this. I'm, I'm, I'm trying to work out I don't really have like a kind of, like, it's I don't really have like a system for this. But I like organising stuff. So I have this thing of like these like different kinds of big, big horizon small horizon la movies and this idea of this character who's this Oracle and I try to think, Catherine Keener, Catherine Keener, Harper Lee in Capote. Oh, she's so fabulous. And she's not in it enough in a film that's full of wonderful performances. She's still and she does like a very Catherine Keener performance, which I can't even really nail down what it is. It's obviously very understated. In fact, you're very minimal kind of facial expressions and stuff like that. And actually, but somehow, like very, it's kind of often the character where they will say nothing and like you talked yourself into disaster.

Johanna Hedva 43:08

She's also like that in a nicole holofcener film. I forget what it's called. It's like, it's a really good movie. She's in a lot of nicole holofcener movie. She's in Lovely and Amazing, which is really great. But the one I'm thinking of is Oh, right. She's also the Land of Steady Habits. Did you see that? No. That's a really, is she in it? I thought she was in it. That's a really good, like little movie that went nowhere. Um, I thought she was in it. Maybe she's not in that one. It's not one of the ones nicole holofcener wrote herself. She just directed it. And it's adapted from a novel. And it's like, who's the main guy? He has like a, Ben Mendelsohn. See nicole holofcener gets all these actors that we're talking about. Like she gets like James Gandolfini. Yeah. Ben Mendelsohn to play the men and then like fucking like Julia Louis Dreyfus in a drama or like Catherine Keener or Francis McDormand. These kinds of people, Land of Steady Habits is really like Ben Mendelsohn is like in his 50s and he's divorced and he's like, trying to deal with his, like new life and family. And there's this fabulous kid that plays a drug addict. Like, like when I saw him for the first time, I was like, Oh, you're like somebody. But the other one was Kevin Peter that I'm thinking of it's called Please Give thats set in LA, set in New York, but she's this woman who has this kind of like, she's like having the like first world problem of feeling guilty when she walks down the street and how many homeless people are asking her for money. Yeah. And so she just gives them all this money. She like runs like in estate like a, she runs like a mid century furniture consignment shop so she's always going to like estate sales and she starts to feel haunted like that all these dead people who she comes in and like, buys their furniture or like haunting her. It's really good. It's a comedy. Oliver Platt plays her husband and there's this great scene where she's like rubbing cream on her elbows when they're getting into bed and she's like no matter how much cream I put on my elbows they're never soft, this is a fabulous film.

Uma Breakdown 45:35

which one is this? I started looking at the whole

Johanna Hedva 45:37

This one is called Please Give, Please Give

Uma Breakdown 45:42

I feel like I've missed out on some of these things, I did quite a bit of a like a detour. And I was like trying to remember like, I was like James Gandolfini is in his in a really good LA Film. And now I can't entirely be sure that it is a good film, but I do remember really enjoying which is Get Shorty, which is an Elmore Leonard adaptation. And it's often

Johanna Hedva 46:04

The friggin nineties.

Uma Breakdown 46:06

Yeah, it came out just after, it was like the second of John Travoltas kind of revivals after Pulp Fiction. That was where he gets to star is get shorty, which has got an amazing lineup of Rene Russo and James Gandolfini and Danny DeVito and Gene Hackman. But it hasn't really good. James. James Gandolfini is like a kind of stuntman, slash bodyguard he's like a bodyguard for a producer and he's really at it. That's like, that's the high horizon kind of LA and the other thing I thought about while we're talking because we keep talking about Juliette Lewis is Natural Born Killers which I think we've mentioned last time. Now it's that even set in LA?

Johanna Hedva 47:02

I can't remember, I mean I think there is some bits that are

Uma Breakdown 47:08

Oh, no, it's not I think it's I think it's not, it's like New Mexico.

Johanna Hedva 47:13

Yeah, because I was gonna say if it's like more like the desert and that's like another vibe like that's like its own. It's like a sub set. Like Three Women. You know, like where it's like California desert because I don't know I mean, if you're ever just like looking to have the like, existential minutes just drive the fuck out to that desert like in California like their towns called like Needles. You know?

Uma Breakdown 47:42

I'm kind of fascinated by that particular area or the areas like California where where Ross Robinson's studio is. Is that the guy? The guy that recorded the first Corn albums

Johanna Hedva 47:57

Yeah, there's that guy and then there's this other guy who does like the Queens of the Stone Age records out there. All right, yeah. Okay, I don't know.

And it's like he's got like the weird like, like skulls of bowls, aid and like that kind of shit. Like PJ Harvey you recorded shit it out there. By the way as another weird subset. I have been listening to Queens of he Stoneage lately.

Abandon Normal Devices Podcast
Abandon Normal Devices Podcast
Conversations and highlights from Abandon Normal Devices, an arts organisation devoted to promoting digital culture and new cinema.