Ace in the Hole

Ace in the Hole (1951)

Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole is a pretty good example of how Language Poetry works—how it’s performed on the Screen for an audience of moviegoers—in the sense that “closure” is constantly postponed, dragged-out, promulgated by every in medias res means as long as possible—capitalizing on the suspense for fun & profit—stage-managing all media venues for support—playing with the nuances of suspended animation—playing out the narrative-less narrative for as long as possible—keeping the victim captive for as long as you can—seemingly victimized by events beyond his or her control—irrational mysterious forces that are supposedly beyond human control—captive to the long drawn-out deadly denouement that makes Ace in the Hole the culmination of postwar gangster film noir—beyond Asbestos Jungle and The Big Combo—homogenizing the hoodlum huckster into a seemingly innocent newspaperman—not just looking for a Story but creating one out of the blue—creating a No Exit scenario like Bunuel’s dinner guests in The Exterminating Angel (1962)—trapped people who can’t even if they tried escape from the apartment that imprisons all of them—who when suddenly for some reason are permitted to leave—end up trapped the same way in church—where they’ve gathered to thank God for their salvation—only to find themselves trapped again once again unable to Escape—a nihilistic Theme handled even in more detail by Euro-exiled Billy Wilder—with more in-depth analysis of 1) closure-less, 2) depthless, 3) plot-less, 4) perspective-less, 5) suspended-animation script and neo-narrative—rarely seen or permitted in Hollywood back in the Fifties—with Kirk Douglas as the wandering minstrel reporter who wanders into a small event-less ho-hum has-been Arizona town—getting a job for the local newspaper—bored with himself, bored with world, bored with just-the-facts journalism—cynical as Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry—persuasive to the point of Snake Oil Artist—political hack—wizard of oz behind the curtain pulling the levers of perceived power & influence—the power behind the throne—pulling a constellation of characters into a plot-less plot of his own creation—a Bunuel Exterminating Reporter of Nonsense News—working, writing, getting, inventing a Story for his own who-knows-what reasons—to satisfy his own inner demons & doubts perhaps—Intelligent Designer of his own Fake Logos—in the beginning was the Fake Word—and the Performance lasted all week long etc—not just to sell Newspapers or Bibles or Network Ratings—but more for the Big Time Thrill of it all maybe—the ultimate Authorial Ace in the Hole—the ultimate game of Language Poetry—composing in the constant present—starting new all over again for the next rube generation—appropriating, transgressing, deconstructing, playing the Parataxis Poker Game to the hilt—recreating the paradoxical No Exit routine better than Bunuel, Sartre, Becket or Coen Brothers—the meaningless plot-less closure-less story-less neo-narrative—that keeps the Night of the Living Dead going—seducing the lackluster characters of the sleepy-eyed tired eventless non-happening little town—like Jan Sterling disillusioned wife of the victim trapped in the cave-in—caught in a tape-loop of despair & ennui—married to a man she never did love—Clompity-clomping down the rickety outside staircase of her husband’s dumpy dreary Curiosity Shop gas-station greasy-spoon dead-end dive by the side of the road—Douglas guilting Sterling to stay by her husband instead of taking the next bus out of town—pulling her into his nefarious orbit of dragging things out to create a Story—in a storyless-story without any ending or resolution or Aristotelian aesthetic pleasure in beginning-middle-end resolution & typical upbeat Hollywood Zippity-Do-Dah moviegoing enjoyment—concentrating instead on developing as long as he can the obviously fake plot complications—keeping the hopes up for the victimless victim—keeping the suspense going & plundering the distraught pain & suffering that gathers all the sycophantic voyeuristic curious sicko audience-goers drawn to the carnivalesque closure-less sideshow plot—Douglas’ cynical postponement & procrastination of the media foreplay without climax—the denouement that never seems to happen—the sullen made-for-profit three-ring circus performance—that Douglas the media wizard has pulled out of his magic hat—convincing even cynical disillusioned loveless heartless shabby down-and-out Jan Sterling—to play the unlikely role of faithful wife worried sick over her beloved trusting husband trapped deep in the Magic Mountain looming over the dingbat diner doodling there by the side of the highway—while in the ongoing melodramatic Ace in the Hole non-event—Douglas plots & schemes to perfect the plot-less plot even better—making the No Exit scenario even more exit-less—denying the victim any simple sane safe way out—stalling to frame the storyline just right—infusing it with more money, time & coverage—more rubes, more attention, more classless characterization, more charlatans in disguise—playing God by blowing breath into the breathless Bijou matinee plot—giving it artificial respiration breath-by-blowjob-breath—Douglas has no shame or sense of whatever—the performance is everything—like a gilded whore Diva craving the limelight—like Gloria Swanson standing up gesticulating in front of the silent screen projections—of her own Norma Desmond dreams of comeback—sucking in William Holden—another smirking scriptwriting fool—into the Language Poetry racket—at the heart of Miss Lonelyhearts Inc—the Sunset Boulevard Silver Screen Scenario—flashing up there on the Silver Screen—Kiss of Evil and Out of the Past—coming your way soon—at your local dumpy Bijou Theater—isn’t that the name of the game—reliving again for better or worse—the Out of the Past that never ever seemed to get Here & Now—the There that was never There nor would it ever be Here or There or Anywhere—like Gertrude Stein said about Oakland during her American tour—pushing her Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas—lecturing at Berkeley and Beverley Hills and other Ace in the Hole venues—populated by the Living Dead denizens of the American Purgatorial Present—the Double Indemnity Moment that always backfires with Bad Seed love—the spineless do-nothing Man Who Wasn’t There plot—perhaps best left alone anyway—since once the Film Noir fatalistic chain-of-events gets going—there’s no stopping it for rhyme or reason—it’s like a Language Poet riding the Tiger of Language across the River—what’s stopping the Tiger—from reaching around & biting—the Language Poet deeply succulently exquisitely in the Ass?

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