What I'm about to write is not based on any intensive study (I wish it were), but Cain's novel seems a pulp distillation of late-19th century naturalist fiction by the likes of Zola, Hardy, and Norris. The conventions of the protagonist locked by fate, biology, sometimes even genetics, into an unstoppable trajectory triggered by base instincts (lust, survival, greed) stems from these authors' literary rebellions against Victorian moralities. I saw U-TURN a few weeks after teaching Renoir's film of Zola's LA BETE HUMAINE. The similarities are striking, above and beyond the basic noir plot of an unstable, luckless antihero interjected into the life of a murderous central couple, with a background of incest. U-TURN's Greek chorus character, the blind beggar played by an unrecognizable Jon Voight, lectures on the "animal inside man," the "bete humaine" which in naturalism/poetic realism/noir cancels out redemptive spirituality. Most important, Stone's making a ferocious, exuberant plunge into the genre's tar pit of fate and bestiality following the commercial failure of a string of ambitious socially conscious masterworks (I'm a fan of NIXON, a film that got Stone-walled on SCREEN-L winter before last) recalls Renoir's no-holds-barred wallow in naturalism following the collapse of the Popular Front, and with it, Renoir's hope for a united front against fascism, anti-semitism, and capitalist greed in late-30s France. Stone, who has never shrunk from autobiography, appears to relish putting himself and his protagonist through a private Vietnam of noir conventions that is as senseless yet as logical as the travails of the ticking genetic timebomb Gabin played in Renoir's film. If Nick Nolte had played a New York Times editor* rather than a real estate shark, the autobiographical link would have been clearer. BTW, have the reviewers busy comparing LA CONFIDENTIAL to CHINATOWN noticed that Penn's last line in U-TURN is a paraphrase of the famous ending words of the Towne-Polanski-Nicholson pastiche? Dennis Bingham Indiana University Indianapolis * I'm referring to the score of anti-Stone articles the NYT obsessively commissioned in the years following the release of JFK. On Mon, 6 Oct 1997, Lang Thompson wrote: > U-Turn is the latest variant on the basic story of The Postman Always Rings > Twice. Does anybody know if Postman is more or less the origin of this > drifter meets doublecrossing couple plot? (I mean the book since none of > the film versions are anywhere near as good.) > > Lang Thompson > http://members.aol.com/wlt4/index.htm > > ---- > To sign off SCREEN-L, e-mail [log in to unmask] and put SIGNOFF SCREEN-L > in the message. Problems? Contact [log in to unmask] > ---- Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the University of Alabama.