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Author Topic: My problem with Eve's death  (Read 23611 times)
Don Rogers
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« on: December 01, 2006, 03:24:59 AM »

[This is copied from my post on the IMDb board, before it evaporates altogether. Modified 12/10 to restore formattiing lost in translation.]

The first person killed in the movie is Noodles' girlfriend Eve. She comes into her darkened apartment and tries the light switch, which doesn't work. She then makes her way over to her bedside lamp, which also won't turn on. She tries tightening the bulb; this works.

She then notices something odd: a couple of dark brown spots on her sheet, next to her pillow. Pulling down her bedcover, she discovers something ominous: the outline of a man, drawn with bulletholes in her mattress. She barely has time for this to register when the silence is shattered, as a man smashes a photo of her boyfriend with his pistol. It turns out that there are three gunmen, they are looking for the boyfriend, and they aren't nice at all. After questioning Eve briefly but roughly, one of them screws on a silencer and summarily shoots her twice in the chest, killing her.

This scene is similar to the slaughter-of-the-innocents scene near the start of Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. It is well paced, immediately and effectively setting up a suitable mood of danger.

And yet... On second viewing, there is something faintly ridiculous about it. That bullethole outline -- there are over 80 gunshots in the mattress. (Go back, hit Pause and count.) The outline is well-drawn, for a dot-to-dot, and the shots line up neatly, about four inches apart each. Presumably one of them has gotten good at this rather exotic craft form, or perhaps he brought along a pre-drawn paper pattern. That way, they could all chip in on the project, which must have taken several minutes, at the very least, to execute.

And when they were done with the outline, after working unnecessarily in the light, making needless noise, wasting dozens of bullets, and pausing to reload who knows how many times, what had to happen next? That's right: They had to make the bed. You can almost imagine the dialog:

"Ooh, won't she be surprised when she sees this?"
"I'll say. Very ominous, this is."
"Yes... quite chilling. You did a marvelous job with the head."
"Well, it was your good idea."
"I always say, an idea is only as good as its execution."
"This is better than the jack-o-lantern we shot a picture into, the last time."
"Ooh, yes, so much better. That was messy, wasn't it? This is so much... neater. Oh, no need to tuck in the edges too tight."
"Right. We want her to be able to get the full effect right away."
"Now we put the pillow right... here..."
"And we're done. You guys go get into your hiding places, while I unscrew the light bulb."
"Don't you just love surprises?"
"And isn't it nice that Mr. Minaldi lets us express ourselves creatively on the job?"
"Ooh, yes. But wait, s-h-h-h, I think I hear someone."
[Giggles]

« Last Edit: December 10, 2006, 03:42:32 AM by Don Rogers » Logged
cigar joe
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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2006, 04:33:08 AM »

80 seems an excessive number 20-30 maybe.....

I always thought it a bit goofy too

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Juan Miranda
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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2006, 05:40:37 AM »

It's a fair point, but is it any less elaborate than breaking into a stable, killing a horse, cutting off it's head, sneaking into a guy's bedroom with it and placing it under his bed clothes, re-arranging then to look like nothing is out of place, and doing ALL this at night in such silence that you are never detected and there is even a guy sleeping in the bed?

Sometimes the dramatic effects a director is looking for don't bear too much scrutiny. And anyway, the images of meanace that the bullet outline creates is not only aimed at the character of Eve, it is actually aimed at us the viewer.

On Eve it is there to make her scared enough to answer the fist line of dialogue in the film without hesitation. "Where is he?"

On us it is there as yet another of the slightly Surreal images Leone so often enjoyed using to disorient his audience, and I for one so often enjoy watching.

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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2006, 04:16:54 PM »

nice reply and you convince me that it is "dramatic effects" a la Leone. I'm easy, lol  Wink

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« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2006, 10:31:38 PM »

it was the opium my good friend.  Grin

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Don Rogers
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« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2006, 08:54:51 AM »

If it was the opium, as you say, then perhaps Eve was never really shot at all, am I right? (Really, why would they, and let Moe live?)

If it was really the opium,  then the first thing that Noodles fantasizes about in his drugged haze is the brutal murder of his girlfriend. Of course. No wonder he's smiling.

If it was the opium, why isn't Noodles present at the scene? If I remember correctly, he is present in all of the 1968 'drug delirium' scenes. I don't know, maybe I'm egocentric, but I hardly ever dream scenes where I am not present.

This would be the 1933 opium binge in which Noodles correctly anticipates 60's car models, the single most recorded Beatles tune, the Frisbee, psychedelic art (OK. I'll give you that one), hippie hairstyles, television newscasts, the popularity of Kate Smith, and that tilted-O LOVE sign. What have I missed? (I gotta get me some of that opium.)

BTW, it really is close to 80 bulletholes in the mattress, not the 'more reasonable' 20-30. Like I said, if you doubt me, you have a Pause button, go count 'em for yourself.

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« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2006, 09:03:37 AM »

I'll take your word for it (on closer to 80) this is not a film I watch all that much, but the impression I got was what I said, its a strange sad melancholic film on a subject that I'm not as into as Leone's Westerns.

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« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2006, 09:04:38 AM »



Sometimes the dramatic effects a director is looking for don't bear too much scrutiny. And anyway, the images of meanace that the bullet outline creates is not only aimed at the character of Eve, it is actually aimed at us the viewer.

On Eve it is there to make her scared enough to answer the fist line of dialogue in the film without hesitation. "Where is he?"

On us it is there as yet another of the slightly Surreal images Leone so often enjoyed using to disorient his audience, and I for one so often enjoy watching.
This answers the problem about as well as can be done. There's life, and then there is cinema, and rarely the twain shall meet.

But as to life, notice this nice bit of psychological truth: when asked the question, Eve, although prepared to speak her heart, doesn't tell the men what they want to know. Rather, she voices her concern for Noodles, whose safety is uppermost in her mind. It's actually touching, the fact that she demonstrates her love just before being killed. We don't know anything else about Eve at that point, but, because of this expression of concern brutally silenced, we are genuinely saddened by her death. This is deft work. Thanks, Stuart Kaminsky.

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Don Rogers
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« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2006, 04:10:48 PM »

As effective as it is, another structural problem with this scene is that it suffers by the inevitable comparison to the 'slaughter of the innocents' at the beginning of OUATIW.

In OUATIW, the scene shockingly and indelibly marks Henry Fonda's character, Frank, as an all-time villain -- the worst of the worst -- brilliantly playing against his career-long association with heroic parts. In OUATIW, from this scene on there is no doubt who the audience rooting against.

In OUATIA, by contrast, Eve's murder is carried out by three goons who turn out to be relatively minor characters. Of course one of them is soon knocked off by Noodles, and I think the other two get killed too in the course of the film, but for story purposes they are just interchangeable, anonymous thugs. Also, though she obviously does not deserve to die, Eve is not clearly an 'innocent' in the same sense as the young McBain son.

Even after two viewings, it's not even clear to me who the thugs are working for -- Frankie Minaldi, I am told -- or why they are after Noodles. Are they in on the plot with Max? Apparently not, from their rather sanctimonious grilling of Fat Moe. (I mean, how exercised can they be, really, about one gangster killing his partners, as they appear to believe Noodles did? After all, they are working for the same Frankie Minaldi who earlier arranged the murder of his 'brother' Joe.)

There are other obvious questions about these three hoodlums' motivation, that the screenplay never bothers to answer. Are they after Noodles' money stash? If so, why not torture Fat Moe for the key directly? When they don't immediately get any useful information out of Eve, why don't they torture her, the way they do Fat Moe? For that matter, why kill Eve, but let Fat Moe live?

And if it's really such an outrageous violation of the underworld code to kill your partners, then why does Max go 35 years without being punished for the murders of Cockeye and Patsy? Don't tell me that he rose to become Secretary of Commerce without being recognized by any of his fellow mobsters.

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« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2006, 06:57:44 AM »

They're definitely working for Frankie - they can be seen in the background of the scene with him and Joe.

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Don Rogers
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« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2006, 02:29:21 PM »

Noodles is in that scene too. That doesn't mean he is working on Frankie's orders at the time of Eve's death. It seems to me the killers could just as easily be taking orders from Max (who is also in that scene). Max has a much more obvious reason for wanting Noodles dead than Frankie does, at that point in the story.


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« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2006, 03:35:29 PM »

Then what the hell are they doing there?  Just passing by?

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Don Rogers
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« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2006, 10:16:21 PM »

It's perfectly safe to assume that during that restaurant-meal scene they are underlings of some mobster. If we work from just what they do in that scene (i.e., pretty much stay in the background), I think they might as easily be Joe's men as Frankie's. But I don't doubt you that at that point they are in Frankie's employ. Of course allegiances can shift, as Joe (and later, Patsy and Cockeye) could attest.

The last we see of Frankie, I believe he is hanging around the hospital where Treat Williams is recuperating. Why is he doing that? We don't know. What becomes of Frankie after that? We don't know. Treat Williams we see in a TV clip is still alive in 1968. Is Frankie also still alive then? We don't know. The thugs who shoot Eve -- who are they working for? In the absence of any real evidence, I think we don't really know that either.

We don't even know for sure that Max didn't kill Frankie before Patsy and Cockeye died. I admit, there's no particular reason to think so; but one reason good screenplays don't just let major characters drop is to prevent viewers from getting wrong ideas.

Maybe I can predict your response: Frankie Minaldi isn't really all that major a character -- it just seems like he's more important than he really is, because of Joe Pesci's later teamings with De Niro and Scorsese. To that I say, a) Raging Bull came out four years before OUATIA. More importantly, b): Even if I stipulate that Frankie is a minor character, that only worsens the screenplay's structural problems with Eve's death. If Eve is killed by three more-or-less anonymous bit players, whose boss (assuming that is Frankie) is just another minor character, that greatly diminishes the importance of her death, in plot terms.

« Last Edit: December 10, 2006, 08:42:28 AM by Don Rogers » Logged
SimRob
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« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2007, 04:22:15 AM »

I'll take your word for it (on closer to 80) this is not a film I watch all that much, but the impression I got was what I said, its a strange sad melancholic film on a subject that I'm not as into as Leone's Westerns.

Once Upon...The West is also a 'strange sad melancholic' film too don't you think? perhaps not as much as ...America, but still pretty strangely sad.

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« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2007, 05:11:57 AM »

Yes its (OUTITW) sad like going to the funeral of a loved one (The West), I perfer his Westerns, primarily because since I grew up as a kid in NYC I was all too familiar with the claustrophobia feel & pulse of the city. The wide open spaces & majestic vistas are more appealing to me.

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