Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The Big Sleep (1946)
Movies generally had stories and a rounded ending those days and keeping you glued was the litmus test. This is a tasteful thriller with a liberal punctuation of murders and infusion of sizzling romance. The plot has too many twists and turns and I basically followed it as a roller coaster of pungent dialogues, every line a punch line with a double entendre. American crooks, gangsters and cops never smile and the humor is dead-pan repartee. Guns seem as much needed an accessory as cell phones today, and gunning down a guy an unpleasant but unavoidable routine. With those quaint cars and blackmail demands in grands of dollars, the well dressed goons with hats worn at rakish angles are lovable and nostalgic. The shadowy, misty, trasluscent camera work is black and white to which noire is aptly suited.
Bogart, who I know only from Casablanca, is able to fill the movie with his trademark persona and mannerism. His walk is ponderous and deliberate like a rhinocerous, as he loosely dangles his arms from side to side, the hat aslant. Unhandsome, short, he is the quintessential ordinary guy, everyman's idol, rough carved and hiding a heart that is chivalrous, as decent as is practicable for a sensible man of this world, a boozer on and off the screen. He must have been the guarantor of a movie's box office success.
Among the mysteries you are left dangling with is the meaning of the movie's title.