Invitation to a murder

by Dean Kyte

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In this brief poetic essay, Melbourne writer Dean Kyte explores film scholar Vivian Sobchack’s concept of ‘lounge time’, the chronotope of film noir, comparing the experience of the typical noir protagonist picking up the femme fatale in a cocktail lounge to his own experiences of playing ‘bar game’.

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Lounge time is a ‘liminal social space’, a limbo where the secular acquires, via the gloss of the sexual, a patina of the sacred. In the chapel of the cocktail lounge, with its soft lighting (softened further still by the fog of cigarette smoke and dulled edges of drink), the social rituals of pickup transform an ordinary bar into a site like Walker Percy’s ‘wonder’, a place the noir man and woman were not in before they met, nor any place they will be in après cette rencontre—c’est-à-dire, la scène du crime.

I’ve felt it myself more than once, this quality of lounge time, at bars and pubs when sex seems imminent (and immanent) enough to touch. It’s an eerie ambiance where the extension of space becomes consubstantial with the temporal dimension, and ordinary, slightly tawdry surroundings are transformed, made exotic by the rare encounter with the erotic. Ennui makes the noir man a ripe rube for this brief encounter with the exotic erotic, and the familiar tools at the ritual of chasing away ennui, the chalice of glass and the censer of cigarette, are eager assistants at the epiphany of transsubstantiation, casting an aureole of precoital mystery around the noir woman, who condescends, in her own ennui, to allow herself to be seduced.

Lounge time is such a ‘peak experience’ for the men of noir, the place they recur so often to in their flashbacks and confessions, because it was the one moment when it seemed as if their bad luck had broken and they had found in this place—le bar—which had delivered them no good luck before, the shining penny, the sure thing, in the prospect of this étrangère they had not yet slept with.

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released October 20, 2021
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Dean Kyte Melbourne, Australia

Dean Kyte is a writer, artist, filmmaker and flâneur.

He is the author of five books and two collections of short films.

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