Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Listened: "Night Film" by Marisha Pessl

Listened: Night Film by Marisha Pessl, 2013, Overdrive donwload.

Pretty damn excellent.  The reader's work is award worthy.

Several years ago investigate journalist Scott McGrath was writing a story on the ultra-secretive film director Stanislas Cordova.  McGrath received an anonymous phone call from a man saying he used to be Cordova's chaffeur and that Cordova was up to something with children.  McGrath reported this, on national television no less, and was disgraced when Cordova's lawyers ripped apart the anonymous caller angle and accused McGrath of fabricating the call.

Fast forward five years and McGrath is divorced and living off his life savings from magazine articles and book sales.  Cordova's daughter, 25-year-old Ashley, commits suicide by jumping from a building.  McGrath is still angered over the debacle from before.  McGrath is convinced Cordova has been up to no good and abusing children while squirreled away on his remote, 400 acre estate in Northern New York.  McGrath starts looking into Ashley's death.

McGrath starts tracking Ashley's last movements around New York City before her suicide.  McGrath teams up with a 19-year-old coat check girl - one of the last people to see Ashley alive- and a 25-year-old drug dealer who knew Ashley when they were teenagers.  Cordova's secrecy and rumors of his activities keep coming.  Talk of black magic.  Talk of child abuse.  Talk of Cordova's cruelty, manipulation, artitistic temperament.  Talk of Ashley's brilliance, her magnetic personality, her fear and anger for her family.

Black magic.  High end prostitution.  Cordova's rabid and equally secretive fan base.  Cordova's incredibly effective horror films - are they real?  Did Cordova kill one of his wives?  Did Cordova force his son to continue filming while his hand bled after his fingers were accidentally severed? Who is following McGrath, is Cordova out to get him?  Did Cordova join a local satanist group in Northern New York and make a deal with the devil?

1.  Neat mix of fiction and true stories.  Pessl makes up stories of Cordova and Hollywood that sound real and are reminiscent of Hollywood tales I have heard.  Shades of Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, and others.
2.  Secrecy and rumors combine and widely split.  Rumors grow on their own as bits and drabs of information are released or discovered.  The rumors split far away from the truth and are fed by subjective interpretation or "facts".  The only people to talk to McGrath have their own issues and troubles.  What they see is only a part of the whole.  The story of three blind men and an elephant applies.
3.  My summary does not do the novel justice.  Pessl injects a lot of secrecy and dread into the tale.  There seem to be hidden forces at work but McGrath is a practical man and resists such nonsense.
4.  SPOILER Cordova is a mysterious figure who only appears at the very end, and in silhouette.
5.  Pessl could have really written herself into trouble here.  She creates Cordova as a brilliant artist.  An Oscar winner whose films are terrifying and constantly dissected and analyzed.  Pessl had to create a story, plot, and other characters who could live up to Cordova and she did so.
6.  A blurb favorably compares Pessl to Gillian Flynn.  I agree.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Megan highly rec. this also. Have it on reserve at my library.

Gerard Saylor said...

Pessl really sucked me into the story.