RARA-AVIS: Marlowe and Crew at the Movies

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 09 Dec 2007

On Dec 8, 2007, at 2:35 PM, rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com wrote:

> Actually this week Robert Ebert reviews Farewell My Lovely in his 4
> star Great Movie reviews. Here is a sampling of his praise for
> Farewell, and I agree with everything he says.

Actually, that's a thirty year old review. And while I can see the attraction (hell, I like the film too) of FAREWELL (another remake that doesn't suck), I've always felt it's more a tribute to the genre than a contribution. Mitchum is great in it (as are several of the other performances) but it's a performance that's thirty years late -- although they use his age well. And yes, the film is, as I've said before, well crafted, but it too often feels like the fussy period piece it is, unlike, say, CHINATOWN.

Mitchum's moral exhaustion, though, is a nice complement to Gould's in THE LONG GOODBYE, as if by the seventies, after the crash and burn of sixties idealism and the stench of Watergate and Vietnam, we all knew Marlowe's maintenance of his rigid code and notions of honour would inevitably eat away like cancer at a man's soul. There's nothing really comparable to Powell's brashness, Bogart's randy flirtatiousness, or Montgomery and Garner's insufferable smugness in either THE LONG GOODBYE or FAREWELL MY LOVELY, and I don't think that's coincidence. In the last thirty years or so, the P.I. has become increasingly gloomy and resigned; even more ineffectual than Marlowe or spade ever were.

The Pope may scoff, but I think of the two films as sharing a common theme. Fortunately, one has fedoras in it so we can tell them apart.

And the beat goes on. Certainly, since FAREWELL MY LOVELY, there have been several (but never enough) private eye films worth seeing.

I'd throw in NIGHT MOVES (or did that come just before?), MEMENTO, TWILIGHT, THE LATE SHOW, THE TWO JAKES and GONE, BABY, GONE as some of the great P.I. films we've had since then. And interestingly, only one is a period piece, although they all pay heed to the past and the traditions of the genre in various ways. And they all are more-or-less downers.

It's also worth noting that only one is actually based on a book.

Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com

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