At the start there is always someone watching from an upstairs window. Later, she will die in a fall down a picturesque staircase. He is not in those scenes. The cars are all 1940s models. Was that a streetcar passing? That bell? That is his tobacco-thickened voice reading the black-and-white voiceover script about his uneventful childhood. How much of history is conjecture? A memory of nuns. “What is black-and-white, black-and-white, black-and-white?” A nun falling down the stairs. Fourth grade. Eighth grade, Agnes, his first classmate with breasts.
There have been more flashbacks in the script of late, more pointless backstory, characters he can’t remember. Also editing tricks, like faces in a crowd of people dead from earlier episodes. He had long hence ceased looking for a through-story; each segment was one-off. There are only so many possible plots. Sometimes his is just a supporting role. At first, he had welcomed the location shoots—new places, different food. They usually went south, palm trees and such, exotic whores. Only later did he come to prefer his familiar routines.
Remember when the credits came first, not last? And you could walk out after only three minutes, after your name had flashed past on the big flat screen, out onto the Times Square sidewalks, where the real show, the next show was happening, the west wind wicked down the 42nd Street canyon. His anonymity came from looking like everyman. But the women all looked like themselves alone, no matter how hard they tried to hide behind their mascara and lip-rouge masks. All leading ladies, intent at some level of leading you on, back to the primal.
He had never used doubles. Even in corpse shots he played himself. The scenes where the morgue doctor pulls back the sheet so the witness, a woman who barely knew him, can nod and say, Yes, that’s him.