Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Night Moves. A

Arthur Penn's best film, Night Moves, is a nearly perfect one. The movie came out in 1975 when detective thrillers were generally elaborate and convoluted and consequently aggravating. The problem was that the characters never seemed very fleshed out (Chinatown excluded), while the plots were beyond comprehension. Then you see a film like Night Moves and can't help but rejoice in the suspense of its plot and the quiet, slow way it goes about developing it. At times it seems as if the movie has completely abandoned its story to focus on the characters, but then you realize that all of the seemingly random details are in connection to the film's big reveal. Gene Hackman, in arguably his golden era as an actor, is the investigator hired by a wealthy actress to find her missing daughter. The movie's set-up plays a lot like the old film noirs of the forties (you'll see echoes of The Maltese Falcon in several places), but it quickly changes into something far different, something very natural and real. Penn develops Hackman's character to its fullest and simultaneously uses his investigative skills to explore a variety of other people, all interesting and unique. If one were to see the beginning and the end of Night Moves they might assume it was just another wild seventies thriller. But it's what Penn does in the middle that puts the movie in a distinct class. This is one of the great films, like Chinatown, though perhaps better. Any lover of the classics can't pass this one up.

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