Monday, January 19, 2009

Review #10 - The Maltese Falcon

What I'm Reviewing: A Talkie!
Talkie Title: The Maltese Falcon
Year: 1941
Director: John "Gandalf" Huston
Main Actors: Humphrey "Frodo" Bogart, Sydney "Saruman" Greenstreet, Peter "Gollum" Lorre, Mary "Woman" Astor
Movie Poster:

I was originally going to review the long-awaited, critically acclaimed "Hotel For Dogs". Unfortunately, they wouldn't let me into the cinema where it was being shown. Apparently you can't wear a newly skinned dog's hide during a screening. Something about the smell of meat-rot. Of course, this is ridiculous; they allow die-hard Star Wars fans to watch their favorite movies while dressed as a filthy Gamhorrean, so why can't I, a die-hard fan of dogs and hotels be allowed to express myself as a very large Pekinese? Reader, brace yourself, I'll tell you why. The entire entertainment industry, ever since the foundations of MGM, has been being run from the underground by a certain cultural group that we've all become a little too sympathetic towards. I think you know who I'm talking about here. No? Here's a few hints. They enjoy wearing little hats on their heads, playing with candles, for each and every one of them Saturday is a sacred day, and they are notorious cheapskates.

That's right. Hollywood is run by CHILDREN.

"Go sort my pokeemann cards"


How Convenient.

So instead of my in-depth look at Hotel For Dogs' layered satirical approach towards animal rights, I'll instead be looking at The Maltese Falcon, one of a few films I've watched recently in the comfort of my own child-free home.

I should mention that my child-free home is also a glue refinery. I highly doubt this will skew my interpretation of the film, as glue fumes are only classified as semi-toxins in Quebec.

The Maltese Falcon, of the film noir genre (what we know today as the blaxploitation genre), is a sweet, family tale about a guy named Sam Spade. Sam and his partner (whose name I've forgotten) run a taxidermy business. One day, a lady and trained falconer named Miss O'Shaughnessy comes in with her bird. Sam's partner looks into the falcon's eyes only to realize that the falcon has been long dead. The sudden realization of the mortality that binds us all gives him a heart-attack. The rest of the movie shows the progression of the partner's slow-paced funeral. Peter Lorre plays the sullen janitor while Sydney Greenstreet plays a diabetic but dedicated social worker who helps Sam Spade come to terms with his partner's death and with his own role as a father of three. The falcon acts as a sort of metaphor for the black enamel-coated brevity of human relationships paired with the long lasting golden triumph that is evolution. The movie ends with a roaring rendition of the German national anthem.

The cinematography in this movie, is to say the least, haphazard. The cinematographer of Falcon must be photophobic as almost every scene is darkly lit and highly contrasted. Sure, maybe it would work if it reflected the harsh polarities of truth and dishonesty inherent in the characters themselves, but that theme was nowhere to be found in this movie (here's a better movie for this theme). If you're going to make a family movie, light it properly. I'm thinking thirty 400 watt halogen light bulbs all aimed from different angles; or "Disney-gripped" as some call it. Cinematography 101: there should be NO visible shadows anywhere, especially none on the actor's face. With the lighting from The Maltese Falcon, I could not see my hand in front of my face and I wasn't even in the movie. I still cannot see my hand.

Bogart's performance in this movie earned him the nickname "father of the year", and it shows. His isolated reclusive nature coupled with a promiscuity that never quits is, to me, what all real fathers should strive for. I know that when I have children, I'll be making every decision as if I'm Sam Spade. With this in mind, I will always catch them lying, for I shall treat everything they say as a lie, especially the phrase "I love you, father". My only response will be "The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter, eh?".

Astor's performance as the falcon-toting-femme-fatale is more or less so-so. One thing she could work on is her prettiness (one of, if not the most, important factors for an actress). Maybe in future movies she'll work with my criticism and "take her clothes off", as we say in the industry. It's a known fact that all movie executives respond to naked ladies. I wonder why...

They love naked ladies, but ironically, they're strictly anti-cootie.

The supporting cast do wonders for the movie. Especially the falcon, puppeted by Jim Henson. Interesting bit of trivia, the original falcon has been preserved and is on display at Warner Brothers' Studios. Jim Henson is also preserved, but being a puppeteer he is hidden from the public eye in a small box underneath the hawk.

As for the writing, the dialogue is a blend of culturally layered anachronisms and crude jabs at pre-industrial Denmark. Be forewarned viewer, this movie is FILLED with dialogue and it's the kind you have to listen to. When I was finished sitting through this, I had to go outside, grab an old man and yell thirteen curse words at his face. When I realized I was actually talking to a gnarled oak tree, I kept on with my rant. there is NO, I repeat, NO swearing in The Maltese Falcon. This makes the movie A) similar to a night with your trenchcoat gun-carrying grandparents, and B) boring as a loaf of old shit. Curse words are my anchor to real life, and there weren't enough in this movie.

I shall indulge in a thought experiment. At one point, Sam says to a policeman: " Haven't you anything better to do than to keep popping in here early every morning and asking a lot of fool questions? ". To which the cop quickly retorts, "And gettin' a lot of lyin' answers!". Sam then replies with a subdued "Take it easy". Now imagine the same scene if it had ended with Sam saying "FUCK! I am so fucking asspissed that I'm going to shit in your fuckin' Damn!"

That, my friends, is the kind of line that dreams are made of; the wet variety only dreamt by real studio executives.

TOTAL STAR JUDGMENT: 2 and a half stars.

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