Sunday, September 11, 2011


A response to the  AbsoluteWrite September Blog Chain prompt, the painting "Nighthawks" by Edward Hopper.

What is it about all-night diners in the American conscious? True, Seinfeld made the diner into the hub of the universe, for several self-absorbed, obnoxious New Yorkers. And true, diners were the original refuge for the travelling family, off to see the country. But the all-night diner, that's something else. It's a place of solitude for the downtrodden, the defeated, the lonely, the deeply flawed.

Hopper's inspired canvas captures that identity boldly, with nothing more than a diner, an empty street, three patrons, and a soda jerk. We look at the simplicity of the scene and we know that the man whose back is to us is a loser, that he has nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to do it with. And we know the couple seated across from him are something more than that, or something much less. The clerk, for his part, is either one of those types who never shuts up, or one those who takes a perverse pride in keeping his counter clean...and usually annoyingly wet.

Hopper's painting likely was inspired by cinema, and in turn has now--itself--inspired the same. But whether or not it inspired the movie or scene I'm about to mention, I cannot rightly say. Still, when I see the painting, these are the first things that come to mind. The movie? LA Confidential. The scene? Why the Night Owl killings, of course (for those unfamiliar with the movie, the Night Owl is a diner that is the scene of a late-night bloodbath).

The movie, of course, is classic film noir. It oozes sex and corruption, no one is clean, no one is exactly what they seem to be (and James Ellroy--the author of the book the movie was based on--deserves much credit for this, despite not participating in the production). Made in 1997, it could just as well have come from the 40's or 50's.

I see Hopper's painting and I absolutely know what's coming: they're all dead, the hooker and her married john, the dirty ex-cop with too many secrets, and the hapless clerk. Look, they're all there, and a couple of friends as well...

The Blog Chain (check 'em out):

orion_mk3 - (link to this month's post)
BigWords - (link to this month's post)
robeiae - (link to this month's post)
pezie - (link to this month's post)
Ralph Pines - (link to this month's post)
Cath - (link to this month's post)
AbielleRose - (link to this month's post)
Darkshore - (link to this month's post)
dolores haze - (link to this month's post)
Alynza - (link to this month's post)
pyrosama - (link to this month's post)
xcomplex - (link to this month's post)
lufftocraft - (link to this month's post)


  1. I watched LA Confidential again recently and you're exactly right, that Hopper's 'Nighthawks' could easily be a scene from that or other noir films. It's a bloodbath waiting to happen.

  2. You know what else is very "Nighthawkish"? Bladerunner.

  3. Very interesting on the connection to LA Confidential. I've actually never seen it. I'll have to add it to my To Watch List.

  4. It's a fabulous movie. Kim Basinger and Russell Crowe, in particular, have standout performances.

  5. I'm adding it to my list of 'to sees' as well.

    Great commentary! You've put to words what so many people who've seen this picture know but can't quite put their finger on.

    Oh and the soda jerk? I agree partially with you, either he talks to much or he is a keeper of secrets, always listening and storing the information without seeming to do so. A librarian of gossip, so to speak. A snitch.

  6. Gossip works pretty good, too.


  7. I like your take on the photo and you eloquently stated what most of us think of after looking at it, "they're all dead, the hooker and her married john, the dirty ex-cop with too many secrets, and the hapless clerk." Exactly

  8. Ah, a nonfiction response! We haven't seen one of those in quite a while; kind of refreshing. I personally think of Dark City and Chinatown when I see that picture (what a double billing that would make!).

    As an aside, the captcha wanted me to enter "favalambs" to get the comment approved--now there's an entirely different kind of neo-noir dinner scene!

  9. Alynza: thank you!

    nonexistent: Chinatown works, too. I'm not a big Dark City fan, though.

    And I do have a nice Chianti...