~post by Stephanya
To read Marisha Pessl’s literary thriller Night Film is to fall into its world head-long. The twisted tale revolves around infamous, reclusive cult film-maker Stanislas Cordova. When his beautiful, enigmatic daughter Ashley commits suicide in a squalid New York City warehouse, it sets off a chaotic and entirely bizarre set of events.
I love odd, challenging films and many times over the course of the book, found myself wishing that Cordova’s clandestine and down-right dangerous films actually existed for my viewing pleasure. But, alas, while Cordova feels like a fully-realized human being on the page, he and his films remain fictional. As sad as this makes me, however, it’s true that not everything in Night Film is fictional.
As a director, Cordova is meticulous and obsessive about detail. Like an orange fruit being an auger of death in the Godfather films or Hitchcock always making a cameo appearance in his films, Cordova relished inserting little trademarks into his films. For example, every time a close-up shot of a long-extinct Murad brand cigarette is glimpsed on-screen, the next person seen will be “marked” and his or her life will never be the same. Cordova loves these cigarettes so much that even though the brand has been defunct since the Thirties, he spares no expense buying up the world’s supply from tobacco collectors.
Cordova’s long-time assistant says, “He liked the caramel smell, the gorgeous packaging… but he especially liked the way they burned. It’s like nothing else. There are hundreds of shots of it in the films. The smoke spirals through the air like it’s alive. ‘Like a swarm of white snakes were struggling to be free,’ he once said to me.”
Intrigued, I did a Google Image Search for “Murad cigarettes” and was rewarded with a wonderful feast for the eyes. The Murad packaging, with its exotic maiden reclining between two statues of what appears to be the Egyptian funerary god Anubis, is indeed drop-dead GORGEOUS. Not only that, but the advertising for Murad is equally gorgeous, all of which I would like poster-sized to hang in my house. If you own any Murad ephemera, do feel free to send me some, care of BookPeople. In the meantime, enjoy these specimens, which I submit for your perusal.