Thursday, November 22, 2012


 “I have two friends in the world. One is a cat, the other is murderer.”

An edge on the seat private eye mystery thriller set in 70’s Hollywood genre revisionism by Robert Altman. It begins so brilliantly and has terrific control over the pace in the middle, where the film failed to mark its point. The only thing I hate about the film is its abrupt ending which in my opinion too improbable and unlikely. It all begins with cat and ends with cat. A chain smoking wisecrack Private eye Philip Marlowe’s pet pussy is hungry and she wakes him at 3’o clock midnight. He went out to get her favorite cat food. But she’s smart pussy and isn’t duped by different brand. An uninvited friend knocked Marlowe’s door same night and Marlowe helped him driving him from LA to Tijuana. When he turned back to his penthouse in the morning, the trouble is there awaiting him and it entraps him into mess one after another. First victim was his friends wife then his friend’s suicide followed up by an intriguing investigation case and his sudden encounter town’s notorious hoodlum. The film gets murkier and comic and times but more than a smart ass detective, Marlowe here is an outsider, almost a stranger chartering into unfamiliar water leading into one after another unpredictable affairs and circumstances.

The film surely has taut adapted screenplay of Raymond Chandler’s novel but Altman took too much creative liberty in adaptation of original novel. Altman’s version initially refers the original part exactly as per the book, but shifted many things in the progression of case. There’s lot of deviation and it got rid of many characters and introduced the characters which are not there in the novel. The gangster Augustine is absolutely an idea of Altman’s brain and not Chandler. Even the ending is quite strange and antithetic and Altman changed it from the one in the novel. Altman’s version is not as hard boiled as early Hollywood noir starring Bogart. He pushed the conventional elements, made it more contemporary social satire than fifties America and he almost made Marlowe a kind of loser instead of hero who’s unable to get himself fit into shifting seventies. He’s unable to focus amid more violent, eccentric and morally bankrupt modern world where from neighbors to a close friend everyone is either dubious or weird and so out of his known world.

But it’s really interesting to watch Altman’s version for more than one reason. It has brilliant beginning and gritty middle part. Elliott Gould is just awesome and irreplaceable as Marlowe or maybe a Marlboro man referred by Sterling Hayden in the film. And Hayden is once again done terrific act as Hemingway look-a-like beast husband Roger Wade. It surely has intriguing and bizarre twist and unpredictable characters and represented the face and phase of seventies shifting America with an eye of social criticism where all those smart private eyes of the yesteryear era seems fumbling misfits.

Worth a watch without fail.


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