Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Private detective films:

I love a good mystery. Whether it’s a book or a movie, it’s by far my favorite genre. I recently ran across a movie blog called Tipping My Fedora which gave a list of their choices for “the top 20 private eye movies” ( The library owns 4 of their picks they are definitely 4 good ones. Of course, there are also a couple of titles that I would have put on this list, for example, The Late Show with Art Carney and Lily Tomlin and the comedy TV series Bored to Death.

The Big Sleep (1946)
This is the classic adaptation of the Chandler novel even though the Michael Winner remake from 1978 is more literally faithful. produced on a bog budget, the second classic pairing of husband-and-wife team Bogart and Bacall works like a charm even if the original story and characters have been largely filleted and generally mucked around with. More of a comedy than a thriller, but great fun just the same. From the novel by Raymond Chandler.

Harper (1966)
The classic PI genre gets a glossy 60s makeover in this hugely entertaining movie with a cast to die for and some fine dialogue by William Goldman from the first of Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer series.

Night Moves (1975)
Quite possibly the most oblique film on this list, and quite possibly the most powerful precisely because it is wants to be impenetrable. Gene Hackman is the detective investigating a missing person in the Hollywood community who gets involved in a deadly smuggling case – this is a highly sophisticated look at the genre which delights in not giving anything away – its closing image, of a boat going round and round in circles perfectly sums up a film full of questions and no easy answers, though everything you need is in fact all in plain sight.

Brick (2005)
It would easy and not entirely inaccurate to simply summarise this indie sleeper hit as a teenage slacker re-telling of The Maltese Falcon but this is also a beautifully made film with Joseph Gordon-Levitt truly impressive as the smart college student who sets out to solve the death of his girlfriend amongst the rich and wealthy California youth. Their tribal world of secret linguistic codes and brutally hierarchical cliques is just as enthralling, and potentially dangerous, as the mean 1930s streets of Hammett and Chandler – a minor classic.

If you haven’t seen these films stop by and pick them up. Check out the rest of the “Tipping My Fedora” list for more titles to request from another library.

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