2 January 2011


Filed under: Fiction, Movies — ktismatics @ 9:50 am

[A few years ago a cinematographer friend and I started talking about making a short film together. I put together a few ideas for screenplays, and we even agreed on which one to shoot, but we never actually got started making the movie. Several of the ideas I wrote up as scenes in a novel I was working on at the time. Here’s one that stayed an orphan. At the time it seemed like such an obvious story that somebody must already have written it and that I had unconsciously stolen it.]


A priest is in the confessional. He lifts the screen to talk to the sinner, whom the priest sees only in silhouette. The guy confesses to robbing a church. The priest offers absolution and assigns penance; the forgiven sinner goes away. The priest opens the screen on the other side of his little booth to talk to the next penitent. Awhile later, somebody rushes in to tell the priest that the church has been robbed. The guy had confessed and received forgiveness before, or maybe just after, committing the crime.

Sometime later:  a guy confesses to rape. The priest forgives, the sinner goes away. A minute later a scream:  someone discovers a bound-and-gagged woman, clothing torn, lying on the floor of the confessional. The rapist was confessing while in the act of perpetrating the crime.

Third time: the priest recognizes the voice immediately. The guy confesses to murdering a priest. The priest understands:  it’s going to be me this time. The priest engages the sinner in dialogue. The sinner believes he has no control over his actions, that his crimes are inevitable, and he wants to be forgiven in case he’s shot and killed while escaping the scene of the crime, so he can go to heaven.

(I’m not sure how this one ends yet. It could end just as the guy is confessing to murdering the priest. Confession doesn’t work this way in the Catholic church anymore, so it’s sort of retro. )



  1. I’m not sure how this one ends yet.

    The priest opens the little hole in the wall and gives the sinner a deep blow job, in order to save his life.


    Comment by parody center — 2 January 2011 @ 7:12 pm

  2. That’s not bad, pc, though I’m not sure why the sinner wouldn’t just kill the priest anyway. I was thinking you could either play it straight as a mini-noir, or else play out one or more of the parodic possibilities suggested by the setup.


    Comment by ktismatics — 2 January 2011 @ 9:44 pm

  3. That’s a really dumb movie idea – it’s been done before so many times… Surely, watching movies all day should give you better ideas than that, John – like getting a real job and supporting the family.


    Comment by Stephen Clark — 2 January 2011 @ 11:35 pm

  4. Eloise was that the voice of God, or the voice of the Devil? You must make your choice NOW.


    Comment by parody center — 3 January 2011 @ 5:37 am

    • In case you didn’t get my mail, what made you delete the blog again? Hi John, some good new writing you’ve been doing in the neo-noir mode.


      Comment by du Rififi cine-musique — 4 January 2011 @ 7:21 pm

    • You mean why did I stop posting and shut down comments awhile back? I was trying to get myself back into fiction-writing mode, and I found myself persistently thinking about posts and comments and replies — obsessed with the blogs, you might say. I started up again when I felt like I had found more of a groove on the fiction. I’m still prone to distracting myself, but lately I find myself thinking about the novel even while I’m doing other things, so that’s a good sign.

      Thanks for the encouragement on the neo-noir, Rififi. I’ve never seen the film, but I just requested it from the library.


      Comment by ktismatics — 4 January 2011 @ 7:46 pm

    • actually no, i was being a bit boorish, and replying to Dejan’s post. He closed down the bleug today, as usual with no warning, and it’s pretty sad business when it looks that weak. Especially since there was lively and inventive stuff going on. Probably because I knew all the possible angles (can one say ‘parameters’) of the TortureTainmentPlex he was operating, so there wasn’t anything left to do after outing Michaela (so paranoid he thought I’d interfere with his job, which is just lunatic. It’s not my problem she’s such a nervous nell…)

      No, I knew why you’d stopped bleuging, and decided to leave you be with NB, because you are a good duo, and I tend to start going on and on.

      Now that I’m here, though, have your seen ‘Rififi’ of Jules Dassin? Now that you’re getting the feel of the noir (only caveat: A lot of people think ‘noir’ is basically over, and it’s sort of interesting that in your stories one doesn’t really imagine any computers, but maybe they’re set way back in old periods, you can tell me. But that’s why only fragments of ‘Black Dahlia’ work even in the book, and ‘Mulholland Falls’ from 1994 is the same. Although Nick Nolte very tough in that), ‘Rififi’ is really a great masterpiece of its kind, and has the best robbery scene (in great detail, it may last 40-50 minutes) I’ve seen. Marvelous French actors and actresses with big faces and personalities.


      Comment by rififi du cine-musique — 4 January 2011 @ 8:20 pm

    • sorry, I see you already said you hadn’t seen it and have requested it. I think you are really going to love it. Have you seen it, NB? (I’ll try to be goddam civil…)


      Comment by rififi du cine-musique — 4 January 2011 @ 8:21 pm

    • When I checked in at the Parody Center earlier this evening the discussion seemed lively. Odd.


      Comment by ktismatics — 4 January 2011 @ 9:00 pm

    • It’s probably just the only move that can be made at a certain point, in that it gives more total control than intervening or using comments moderation. At least he allowed it to get to the finish line this time, and by this morning some of the ‘Valve’-type writing was going on, with the American ‘jocks’.

      So was the Steinway in The Pianist chapter sometimes a grand or always an upright? Ho Ho. I once had a brand-new Steinway upright, and they still make them, but they’re not big sellers when you can get a Yamaha or some other sort of decent baby grand for the same price. Pianos in lounges and bars are often beaten to death and never tuned, unless it’s a posh place, in which case it’s usually a grand that’s maintained pretty well. But the piano bar is maybe even more a dwindling attraction than cabaret. I can’t even imagine that new ones are ever opened, but they might be in some business park resorts, as in the sort Ballard wrote about in the 90s novels. It’s a peculiar thing when the techie types make large sums and then spend them on oldish things, as when Bill Gates bought that Da Vinci (I think) manuscript. I was also once at a show house on the East Side which had a room by Gates’s French designer, and was for Gates. It had an extreme Sadean quality in some ways, and something of the end of 2001 (when the Keir Dullea character is alone with his steak), a giant round mirror of silver. Designed to be cold as ice, and was. DeLillo pointed out in Mao II this interesting thing I’d have never thought of: That very rich people are always buying new houses and furnishings, etc., but are never intimate with them nor give them much thought the way homeless in shelters are at all times; they go through them not even like clothes, but rather like packaged food packages, throwing them away without too much thought once they’ve found something better.


      Comment by du Rififi cine-musique — 4 January 2011 @ 10:09 pm

    • The post excerpted two different passages involving two separate pianos: first the Steinway grand at a private residence where a lewd party is underway, second an upright at a Rik’s Cafe. It is the same pianist in both scenes. I didn’t realize Steinway made uprights, though of course there’s a lot about pianos I don’t know. I believe that earlier mention is made of the cafe upright’s being in tune. Let me check…

      “Well yes, of course,” Rik replied offhandedly. “You would like something as you wait? No: I shall choose.” She set the menus on the table and glided toward the bar. Surprisingly, the piano was in tune, its keyboard eagerly responsive to the long fingers of the foppish middle-aged fellow who with casual but assured virtuosity was rendering an abstract and intricate yet insidiously subversive piece. Rik brought a pitcher of sangria and filled three glasses. She took a long swallow from one, then refilled the glass. On her way to the kitchen she set the glass down on top of the piano. Still playing, the pianist glanced toward Stephen and nodded gravely. Stephen sipped almost furtively. When he had been a real businessman he would never have drunk more than a single discreet glass of wine with lunch. To hell with it, he thought.”

      Since this is to be an exceptional cafe perhaps its upright should also be exceptional. If the occasion arises later in the narrative maybe this old piano will prove to be a Steinway. Because of the neo-noir atmosphere a piano lounge fits right in. Of course this Rik isn’t Humphrey Bogart, and this pianist isn’t Sam, and this piano might not play As Time Goes By or serve as a hiding place for letters of transit to Lisbon, but they are meant to occupy that same mythic space.

      The rich guy’s house with the Steinway grand: apparently its outfitted primarily for parties. The homeowner has many houses; this is the mountain retreat, occupied only rarely, like so many of the places in Vail and elsewhere up in the Colorado high country. So the party house should be furnished in that impersonal luxe/tech aesthetic you describe.


      Comment by ktismatics — 5 January 2011 @ 7:24 am

    • I think a neo-noir would most often have a grand piano, but now I see where my confusion was. I thought it was 2 different pianos, but was 100% sure. They came rather quickly on each other. In NYC, we still have the occasional little cafe with a crummy spinet by Kimball or Baldwin, and this is a drear kind of thing. The noir cliche probably most likely is a Baldwin or Steinway that looks fairly shiny with a pianist-singer in a tux or a girl looking polished and singing low. And these pianists are often gigolos indeed, with capped teeth and aging. They still have a few of these in LA (more than here) in Malibu and Bel Air, and the cliche in movies goes back at least as far as the 50s for that sort as well, as in Novak/K. Douglas ‘Strangers When We Meet’, and the places are always very spacious and a little tinkling piano comes through. Not that Steinway uprights don’t exist, but they’re indeed uncommon.


      Comment by du Rififi cine-musique — 5 January 2011 @ 12:29 pm

  5. Well Stephen, it sounds as though you’ve watched even more movies than I have if you’ve seen this idea done many times before. Can you cite any titles? Or maybe it’s a sort of arche-story that resides in everyone’s unconscious: we think we must have seen it before, but we’ve always-already known it.

    Voice of God/Devil — this suggests an alternate story development. So the guy comes into the confessional and asks forgiveness for killing a priest, we see the panicked look on the priest’s face, and then “CUT!” says a Voice from the sky. “For the sin of derivative hackneyed storytelling I damn you both!” The floor of the confessional is a trapdoor: both priest and sinner slide screaming into hell.


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 January 2011 @ 8:57 am

  6. …we see the panicked look on the priest’s face


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 January 2011 @ 10:28 am

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