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Jim Thompson looms “Large” from beyond the grave.

Jim Thompson looms “Large” from beyond the grave. (photo)

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One of the more intriguing items in today’s round of development and production updates is the laconic Twitter update from Production Weekly noting that “Lunatic at Large” — a story written by Jim Thompson and Stanley Kubrick in the ’50s, the manuscript lost for decades, then rediscovered in 1999 — is moving forward into production, with Scarlett Johansson (vamping for her femme fatale role in “Match Point” and now presumably arriving at her logical showcase) and Sam Rockwell, who is, if nothing else, a good default choice for the role of “lunatic,” although the central mystery of the film is determining which one is a former axe murderer recently released from a mental institution. It’s surely the least expensive unrealized Kubrick project to make (less so than, say, the Napoleon movie).

Jim Thompson is commonly slotted as a pulp noir writer, which is slightly off the mark: it’d be fairer to say that he’s the first neo-noir author. Thompson started writing a little later than the writers that defined noir — Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Cornell Woolrich, Raymond Chandler et al. — and his defining moments spread from the ’50s to the ’70s. The great adaptations of those other writers were all done by the early ’50s, henceforth only to be revisited in strikingly revisionist ways — Bob Rafelson’s sexually explicit redux of Cain’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” Robert Altman’s faithful-in-spirit but defiantly postmodern subversion of Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye,” Truffaut’s jokey reworking of Cornell Woolrich in “Mississippi Mermaid” and so on. But you could argue that Thompson — who didn’t make it to the screen until his 1956 adaptation of Lionel White’s “The Killing” — is only now being served with the brutality and tenseness his work deserves.

04142010_coup.jpgConsider that despite the fact Thompson wrote screenplays and TV episodes through the ’60s, he didn’t get adapted until 1972’s “The Getaway” (which he felt was bowdlerized). The truly major Thompson films followed: Bertrand Tavernier’s 1981 “Coup de Torchon” (a truly mindblowing piece of goods, with Philippe Noiret running around a French Senegalese colony killing people for pragmatic reasons), the 1990 version of “The Grifters” (one of the few plausible retro-noirs, but with non-self-congratulatory female nudity), and the reportedly brutal “The Killer Inside Me.” that’s hitting the U.S. in June. More so than the writers he’s lumped in with, Thompson’s main focus is frequently violence and action rather than paranoia and atmosphere.

That’s not a knock on the other writers (I’m a Chandler partisan myself). But it’s finally Thompson’s time to shine. Other noir writers are so steeped in their time that filming them is a question of revisiting, revising and subversion, while Thompson’s work can be filmed straight-up. Only now are we catching up to the true grimness of his work.

[Photos: “The Killing,” MGM/UA Home Entertainment, 1956; “Coup de torchon,” Criterion Collection, 1981.]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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