Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Maltese Falcon

Clearly the most evil man in cinema history...
Considered a cornerstone of the film noir genre, The Maltese Falcon really is a very good film, rightly held up as one of the best films of the 1940s. Starring Humphrey Bogart as Private Eye, Sam Spade attempting to find the eponymous Falcon from Malta, a bejeweled golden hawk. Featuring all the traditional noir features, black and white cinematography, duplicitous and shady characters and a femme fatale, this is probably the best place to start for film noir newbies. So for the love of God, don't listen to these chumps from the DVD rental site lovefilm:
A tedious so-called classic (It isn't tedious for a start. And it is a classic. Whether you like it or not, that is what it is)
Quite how The Maltese Falcon is included in the American Institute’s top 100 is beyond me (Then I imagine lots of things will be beyond you...). It’s simply a typical 1940s hardboiled film noir (The fact that it was one of the first has obviously escaped you), populated by characters explaining the plot and their actions to each other (There is a little of that, but not too much. And anyway, that is just what films did back then. You can't apply modern movie techniques to films from 60 years ago). Humphrey Bogart plays Sam Spade, a cynical and smart-assed private directive, who quickly irritates with his tough talking wise guy routine (He only irritated you. I found him quite likable really.), as well as his habit of continually explaining the plot (It was 1941. People didn't go to the cinema to guess what was happening. And he didn't do it that much anyway, just a sort of summary at the end is all I can recall. But if you don't like that, then never watch a Poirot...). If you like watching plot heavy stories (What's that even supposed to mean? The plot is somewhat essential to cinema. Unless it's a sketch film of course...) with minimal character study, then The Maltese Falcon may appeal, otherwise stick to film noir classics Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity. (Those are both very good films, but why you like those and not this, its forefather, is beyond me. I suppose your opinions are worth far more than every major film critic in the world are they? Piss off.)
Well, I'm calm again. Let's move onto the next crudtastic review:
 Dreary. Just one room after another. (This is clearly a lie. They go outside on more than one occasion...)
Sorry to be the only person in the world who isn't bowled over by this but I was disappointed and bored (You're not the only one. Unfortunately. Just look at your fellow idiots either side of you...). I normally love Bogart and black and white film (This always sounds like a racist saying he isn't racist because he had a black friend...) so what was wrong? (Oh please tell me what no other critic has found...) Well, the direction (Is excellent. Most feel Huston should have at least been nominated for his direction...) and the plot (It's a good plot...) and the plot and the plot (I heard you the first time you know...). It just doesn't MOVE (It does you know. They start out in his office, then they go outside, then they go to his house...). It seems to be Bogart holding forth in one room after another (They go outside on at least four or five occasions). Office, hotel room, office, hotel room, office (They go to his house too)..... When I woke up halfway through I had to go back to find what I had missed. (Then you've hardly given it the best of chances, have you?) Well, nothing really. Just Bogey holding forth again and again still. The 'baddie' is obvious from the very start. (Well there's more to the film than just who did it...)
It was brightened up a lot by the appearance of Sydney Greenstreet at the end who was a wonderful actor and made it interesting at last (He was there from about middle distance actually... Are you sure you rewound it back far enough after you fell asleep?). But the ending was awful (No it wasn't. It worked with the dark tone of the movie. SPOILERS ahead, by the way. I thought I should point that since he didn't...). A cheap looking, soapstone, fake statuette and not the marvellous jewel encrusted gold statue of legend (It was lead actually... And it was supposed to be a fake...). The very dated 'message' of the story is that a truly great hero is 'strong' enough to turn his beloved over to justice and puts his principles before his love for a woman (There wasn't really a 'message'. And any message is whatever you want it to be. I would say that, if anything, Spade gave her up to stop the cops arresting him... Besides, she was a cold, manipulative murderer, who felt little remorse for ending a man's life.). Oh, good. That's just what every girl loves. (It's also unoriginal, Alexandre Dumas used this theme in 'The Three Musketeers' (Woo-fucking-hoo. If we include the whole history of the human race, just about everything has been done before...)). So whilst many people will profess to love this blindly because it's a classic and shows Bogart at his most handsome it just didn't work for me. (I didn't love it blindly. I just feel it is an excellent movie, with a complex plot and characters, as well as a superb atmosphere. Don't tell me why I like this film, you know nothing about me.)
Here's one more to finish us off, I'm just too good to you all:
The Bad Guy's Good Guy (Ah, you're suggesting that anyone who considers Spade a good guy, must be a bad guy. Nice.) 
Perhaps it shouldn't come as a suprise that this, the directorial debut of John Huston, and the film that broke Humphrey Bogart out of the 'B' Movies, should be so damned *dark* (There's nothing wrong with that you know...)... after all, it *is* considered the first real film noir. With Dashiell Hammet's hardboiled novel as its source material, "The Maltese Falcon" certainly lays out the cinematic foundations for the the genre: mean streets, trigger-happy heroes, dark shadows and duplicitous dames. (Pretty much fine so far...)
Still, the sheer nastiness of Bogart's Samuel Spade is jarring to the modern viewer (Maybe to some naive child-man. But I would say that he is far less shocking than he once would have been. We're used to anti-heroes), probably because of the way he pokes all our politically-corrct sore-spots (He doesn't really. This was 1941. That's what people were like.). From the opening scene, in which Spade and partner carve up rights over an apparently distraught woman who walks into his office pleading for help (You mean to say that men don't do that now? Pull the other one mate.), Spade is consistently misogynist (1941), amoral, money-grabbing, (That's the whole point of the character. He'd be rather boring otherwise...) brutal (He's not that brutal. He never kills anyone, and doesn't even carry a gun), mendacious (Oh no! He doesn't always tell the truth! Nobody does that anymore!) and mean (He's nicer than almost everyone else in the film). And as we proceed through the labyrinth of schemes, crimes, deaths, danger, and deception surrounding the eponymous Falcon, there's very little to redeem him-- not even competence: for the treasure, when it arrives, practically falls into his lap. (So? Can people not be lucky in films anymore?)
None of this is to deny some innovative filmmaking from Huston, a charismatic performance by Humphrey Bogart, entertaining weirdness from Peter Lorre and some unmissable character acting from Sydney Greenstreet (Well, at least you're right with those). But "The Maltese Falcon" is a uncomfortable viewing today (It really doesn't, you oversensitive nincompoop), centering as it does on a noir anti-hero with none of the scruples, neuroses or hidden soft-sides that are obligatory for the post-modern tough guy. (THEY AREN'T FUCKING OBLIGATORY! There are lots of modern anti-heroes that are far more brutal than Spade. Batman for instance. Stick to watching Disney animations. Obviously not the old, racist ones. But the anything from 1995 ought to be safe enough for you...)
I hate people so very much...

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