One thing I love about Matt Weiner is his willingness to explore different versions of Mad Men; he can make individual episodes over as film genres, and has not hesitated to do so.
Functionally, I think this started in Season 2, although one can say Season 1 started with Billy Wilder, because The Apartment was such a huge influence on the creation of the show.
So Season 1, perhaps especially Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, constitutes a Billy Wilder movie.
- Episode 2.09: Six Month Leave revisits Billy Wilder. It pulls together a lot of things we know from Wilder movies; male bonding with an angry undercurrent, the overlap of professional and personal, drunkenness, and a nightclub setting straight out of Some Like It Hot.
- Episode 2.10: The Inheritance is Weiner’s Hitchcock movie. It very specifically combines Rebecca and Rope, but really, it’s all of Hitchcock in a sweeping overview, and this is why I’d call it a genre rather than a specific homage to a specific film.
- Episode 2.11: The Jet Set, is an Antonioni film (only better).
- Matt talked about the Kubrick influence in Episode 2.13: Meditations in an Emergency. I have to say it doesn’t leap out at me.
- I’ve thought it over and decided Episode 3.03: My Old Kentucky Home is a Fosse movie. There’s a lot of Cabaret in there: The singing and dancing as society crumbles around you, the young people struggling to find another way. Slattery in blackface, Roy Scheider saying “It’s show time!”; not so far apart.
- Episode 3.05: The Fog is Douglas Sirk. I’m not an expert on Sirk, but I’m hearing it from all sides, so I’m going to trust you all.
Which brings us to this week. And after saying holy shit about a dozen times, I’ve gotta say: A Tarantino movie, Matt? Really? Holy. Shit.
At first I was thinking John Carpenter (who made a movie called The Fog, just by the way). The flying blood. The night terrors. But it’s more Tarantino, to laugh like that about it, and to mash so many other films together: Lawn mower and evil doll, and to spray blood like it’s part of the decor. To throw back his head and say “Yes, I am cutting off a foot! Because I can!” Even the title is Tarantino; building a reference to an actual, horrific event into a joke phrase is exactly the right sensibility for him. And the guys all sitting around in their t-shirts, which is both funny, and a visceral reminder of what happened, is surely Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield.
Not that having a foot cut off isn’t rich with symbolism. We certainly see Sterling Cooper, from Cooper and Sterling themselves on down, made lame by “the machine” (PPL). Lane being tortured by some really evil fucking bosses. This is a company, a group of individuals, screaming footless to an uncaring world. And not that the foreshadowing wasn’t elegant, from last week’s off-screen incident showing Lois, always a bit numb of the brain, incapable of operating a machine without causing an accident (scarf caught in the copier, and everyone laughed). And Roger’s bizarre story about his father being buried with only one arm”but at least it was manicured!
So is that what we’re getting? That the blood and the gore and the personal devastation matter less than the manicure, than keeping up appearances? Tarantino would love it.