“L.A. Confidential”, the book written in 1990 by James Ellroy or “L.A. Confidential”, the film directed by Curtis Hanson?
Curtis Hanson delivered a lovely moment of American neo-black cinema in 1997, with his film adaptation of the novel by James Ellroy, believed to be unsuitable for the big screen, as its universe is overflowing with parallel characters and stories.
The reconstruction of Los Angeles in the 1950s is superb, the atmosphere is sublimely rendered and Jerry Goldsmith, already at work on Chinatown, delivers a perfect score.
Yet, the plot of the book is simplified to the extreme, and the ending is even changed.
So let’s go back to James Ellroy. The American author who has transformed a childhood trauma into an obsessional creation.
Born Lee Earle Ellroy in Los Angeles in 1948, he lost his mother in 1958 – slaughtered without the murder ever being solved. This major trauma would mark the beginning of a long descent into hell, including school expulsion poverty, and a series of poor choices including substance use. In the backdrop of this major trauma also comes a birth, the birth of writer James Ellroy, at 30.
“L.A. Confidential” is certainly not Ellroy’s first novel, but this novel, inserted in what is commonly called the “L.A. Quartet” – which brings together “The Big Nowhere”, “L.A. Confidential”, “The Black Dahlia” and “White Jazz”- is a perfect illustration of Ellroy’s obsession with Los Angeles in the 1950s and 60s, tainted by the foul breath of crime and corruption.
“L.A. Confidential” is a full-blown, dense, abrupt novel in which three cops, who sovereignly despise each other, intersect.
A fake war hero turned ambitious policeman, the brilliant Ed Exley spares no effort, no strategy, no low blow in order to advance his career because he is in great need of symbolically killing his great father cop.
Bud White, who has a different intelligence – and more of the practical type – is an aggressive cop, a real brute obsessed with male violence against women since he saw his father kill his mother.
Jack Vincennes is a police officer haunted by the manslaughter of an elderly couple, seeking redemption through the impenetrable channels of television and tabloids in search of gossip about celebrities and their deviances.
Each of them carries a heavy secret, like everyone in this putrid Los Angeles.
Each swims in very emotionally-troubled waters and floats in a morality strife with fuzzy and shifting borders. They will have to cooperate to investigate the murder of six people in a city restaurant. Their investigation will uncover a criminal organization responsible for the sale of elicit drugs, murder, corruption, pornography and prostitution.
We are spared nothing in this book: the universe is dark, very dark. The atmosphere is heavy, very heavy. The style is consistent: dry, compact, lively. James Ellroy mixes fictional characters with real characters, and his rendition of Los Angeles in the 1950s is made with surgical precision.
The human race is without humanity. Pessimism prevails, drowned in the mists of alcohol or amphetamines that everyone ingests to stay upright, if not stay alive. The three protagonists seeking a possible horizon, a path of redemption at the height of their own (lack of) courage. The horizon, the path of redemption, sometimes looks like a semblance of justice, sometimes like a woman.
This series of photos immediately reminded me of Hollywood in the 1950s, and therefore the universe of the “Los Angeles Quartet”. But my version is much more cheerful, and I can assure you that no photographer was murdered during this session.
March 20, 2020
Vintage dress and earrings – Ania Kropacz ring – Prada heels – Dior belt
At the Lancaster hotel – Paris