Sovereign, Deadly, Perfect



 I finished Marisha Pessl's new novel Night Film a couple of days ago and its still lurking around my mind today. It starts out as a very sharp, almost procedural mystery story in the vein of Jo Nesbo or Stieg Larsson -- a disgraced investigative journalist looks into the suspicious death (presumed suicide) of Ashley Cordova -- enigmatic piano prodigy and daughter of one of the most controvercial film makers in the world, Stanislas Cordova. 

The narrative winds through the investigation adding more characters and slowly developing the protagonist, Scott McGrath while also taking you down the rabbit hole of the bizarre and dark world that the Cordova's inhabited. I don't want to spoil the book, but it takes some surreal turns in subtle ways that keeps you questioning what is behind all of the mystery -- this all comes to a head in the nightmare-like climax -- and then comes crashing back down to mundane reality near the end...and finally sort of drifts back into the dark for the final scenes (At first I was a little put off by this ending, but its proved to be pretty haunting and has really grown on me). 

I highly recommend it for mystery and Gothic literature fans -- its set in a contemporary and fairly dark New York City, but its not as gruesome as the a fore mentioned author's work; the Cordova family is a pretty facinating update on a lot of gothic tropes. 

I had expected the book to be more of a conversation about film making, particularly horror and cult films, as Stanislas Cordova -- the shadowy figure behind most of the action in the book -- is described as a psychological-horror film director with an incredibly devoted and secretive cult following whose films are only shown at clandestine screenings held literally underground.But the book doesn't try to make him an analog to any real directors --

Aspects of his character are revealed through anecdotes that resemble stories and rumors about real filmmakers like:  Lynch, Argento, Polanski, Herzog, Hitchcock, Orson Welles and Erich Von Stroheim.His movies are vaguely described, but sound like a kind of mash-up of the psycho-sexual crime aspects of Argento's early films with the surreal aspects of Lynch and Cronenburg with a little Keith Anger thrown in for good measure.

-- which in retrospect is for the best. Its hard for me to really believe a filmmaker would have this kind of almost religious influence over people world wide in the real world, but it makes for a pretty fascinating character. Leaving him larger than life and never fully explored and revealed also fits with the themes about  mystery and "the shadow" that adds depth to life. 

Great read --

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