Archive for Ligeti

An Odyssey in Pieces: The Dawn of Man, Day 2, Day 3

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Science with tags , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2019 by dcairns

As the sun rises slowly in the east… we fade up pic on a slumbering prelapsarian primate, and simultaneously we fade up a nice, creepy bit of Ligeti on the soundtrack. I don’t know that Ligeti had been used in a movie before, certainly not a mainstream one. He was so off-the-beaten-track that Kubrick didn’t even bother to clear the rights, perhaps assuming that all composers found in the “Classical” section must be safely dead. Ligeti successfully sued, not just for the unauthorised usage, but for the tampering done to his work, particularly at the film’s end.This music is the first “man-made” artificial sound we’ve heard since earthfall, and it accompanies the appearance of the Monolith, the first “man-made” artificial object we’ve seen, not counting Saul Bass’s MGM logo and the credits. The first shot of it is surprisingly matter-of-fact: the towering intruder doesn’t even break the horizon line, being tucked neatly into the landscape so it seems less tall, less celestial, than later. A follow-up shot lets it touch the sky, and it appreciably grows in grandeur. I guess Kubrick is onto a slow build-up thing here — certainly he would have thought about whether we should initially see the slab standing out against his front-projected African skyline.

The composition, importantly, is an exact repeat of a wide shot already used at least twice. And this n’t laziness, it’s the clearest way to make it evident that SOMETHING HAS CHANGED in this timeless desert.I do wonder, realistically, if the ape-men, who have apparently not figured out how to use a rock to hit a tapir (or another ape-man), would really be that curious or freaked out by this new, but obviously inert object. But possibly it’s already doing whatever it is it does to their brains. Certainly the view of the sun cresting its upper side seems significant later.

Chimpanzees can use sticks to get ants out of holes. But they don’t think of picking up rocks and bashing each other’s heads in, so far as I know. Though they do get into murderous battles, and they do sling poop at each other. The real evolutionary breakthrough may be in MANUFACTURING tools, seeing an object and being able to imagine it changed and newly useful.

Still, Kubrick & Clarke’s vision is very persuasive as it unfolds. Our primitive ancestors calm down and are next seen pottering about amid bones and tapirs. A transition achieved by a straight, sharp cut, which runs clean through the soundtrack too, severing Mr. Ligeti’s choral freakout with Godardian abruption. That kind of musical cut was undreamed-of, I believe, before JLG and the nouvelle vague, and it points up the fact that this is the possibly greatest needle-drop soundtrack of all time.And Moonwatcher gets an idea. Kubrick signals this by cutting to the sun-on-monolith shot he used earlier — so this is clearly a mini-flashback as the sun would have moved on from this position. It signals a switch being thrown in Moonwatcher’s brain. I remember when I first saw the film, I’d read a plot synopsis beforehand — I wish I hadn’t! — and I was looking at the screen wondering, “How are we supposed to KNOW the monolith has implanted a thought in the ape-man’s brain? Today, it seems perfectly clear to me.The impossible low angle of Moonwatcher smashing up old bones was shot on an elevated platform outside the studio, with buses going by in the background, according to Arthur C. Clarke, who calls it the only time Stanley went on location. The reason being, presumably, that such an angle, if attempted on a sound stage, would have shot past the top of the front projection screen. Anyway, we get some really funky editing to Also Sprach Zarathustra, along with the slomo — the tapir falling over in a fleshy wobble-tumble (HOW did they make the poor thing do that?) is cut in twice in a way that’s always surprising, and the editing becomes more fragmented exactly as Moonwatcher’s boneyard does. The first closeup of M’s arm with clutched thighbone shows him raising the instrument to strike, but in the second iteration the arm is already raised and descending, despite having been seen at ground level, smashing, one frame earlier. It’s the kind of aggressively discontinuous action cutting Peter Hunt brought to the cutting of the Bond films.

It’s also the great Eureka! moment in all of cinema, and the exception to Billy Wilder’s rule that you should never show a character’s face as he’s having an idea.Keith Moonwatcher.

Now the ape-men all have bloody handfuls of meat and are munching away contentedly. The tapirs continue to graze around them — they can’t adjust, all at once, to the fact that their previously passive bipedal friends are suddenly going to kill and eat them. They’re going to be extinct soon.And so is the neighbouring tribe, judging by what happens next. Although these guys at least have the sense to run away when one of their number is clubbed to mulch. So, gifted with the ability to hunt more effectively, our fore-fore-forebears promptly use their extraterrestrial superpower to commit hominidcide. Great. As a kid, I definitely didn’t catch on to the harsh judgement Kubes was passing on his own species.The pace has increased — we no longer fade gently to black between scenes. Night falls, demonstrated by a single sunset, and then it’s abruptly daylight again and the big monkey ruckus is kicking off, Moonwatcher and his droogs confidently moving in on Billy-Boy’s gang for a Bedrock rumble.

Moonwatcher throws his weapon triumphantly in the air. And Arthur Clarke, in The Lost Words of 2001, describes being on hand, with the buses going by in the background, when Kubrick got the idea, just after he’d filmed the bone-smashing montage. “The shot was repeated so many times, and Dan [Richter, as Moonwatcher] smashed so many bones, that I was afraid we were going to run out of wart-hog (or tapir) skulls. But eventually Stanley was satisfied, and as we walked back to the studio he began to throw bones up in the air. At first I thought this was sheer joi de vivre, but then he started to film them with a hand-held camera–no easy task. Once or twice, one of the large, swiftly descending bones nearly impacted on Stanley as he peered through the viewfinder; if luck had been against us the whole project might have ended then. To misquote Ardrey (page 34), “That intelligence would have perished on some forgotten Elstree field.””

(Robert Ardrey is the author of African Genesis, a source text Clarke drew upon for the Dawn of Man stuff.)I can’t decide how to treat the famous match cut from bone to spacecraft. If I make the next chapter about the Blue Danube sequence, I risk chopping the cut into two sequences and missing what’s great about it, which is the way it unites them (cuts are really joins). So I’m inclined to devote an entire post to it…

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2001: An Odyssey in Bits #1

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , on November 28, 2018 by dcairns

(So, OK, there’s an overture — a bit of Ligeti used as build-up — played over a black screen for a minute or so before this shot.)

Hello! I thought I’d blog my way through 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and see if I can surprise myself with any fresh discoveries.

Kubrick was prone to speaking of his films being based around “non-submersible units” — “give me six non-submersible units and I’ll make you a film!” Suggesting he may have been confusing films with pontoon bridges, possibly. But 2001 really is based around big cinematic set-pieces, and Kubrick’s rejection of the theatrical act structure adopted by Hollywood and most other movies is significant. It ties him into the sixties art cinema of Fellini, Antonioni, etc. I’m not quite clear who first developed the more abstract, musical or free-form patterns we see in art movies of the time…

Anyway, after the Ligeti we get Richard Strauss, Also Sprach Zarathustra, and a sunrise in space. In fact, a simultaneous planetrise and sunrise.Sunrises are important in this film. See how many of them YOU can spot.

The FX still hold up, partly because they’re beautiful as well as convincing. This one arguably is a little flat — a shame they couldn’t have made moon more dimensional. There is a slight feeling of the rostrum camera about the movements. It’s the authentic BRIGHTNESS of the sun that makes it feel more real than cut-out animation — the bit of lens flare that will appear just before the main title really sells it.The big crescendos and cymbal-clashes on Kubrick’s name and the title are almost too much — I don’t think anybody laughs at 2001 except for the zero-G toilet instructions and some of the late Douglas Rains’s lines, so they get away with it, but really… you must have a healthy ego to put your name up there at this exact moment in the music. It’s good showbiz though, clearly.Reading the contemporary critics is a little dispiriting. They seem so determined not to be amazed. Like they all drank their sense of wonder to death long before. Those words “sense of wonder” may have been overused to death also, but they really apply here. The film does allow room to wonder — your questions have a good chance of being worth asking. I think I may have first heard the expression around the time of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, and in that film, there aren’t really any questions that’ll make you think. There’s mystery — what are the aliens up to? — but no useful answers present themselves. Stealing and returning aeroplanes and small children, swooping about, implanting images in brains… they’ve come a long way just to fuck with us, it seems.

Kubrick’s aliens are less whimsical. It seems they have a definite end in mind. They are playing a long game. But does it work?

Tune in next time…

The Private Eye, Like Some Strange Balloon…

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2017 by dcairns

Robert Montgomery’s film of LADY IN THE LAKE, from the Raymond Chandler novel, is so notoriously unsuccessful in its use of subjective camera as a narrative device (throughout the film, apart from the first shot — even the opening credits seem to be a POV shot) that there doesn’t seem to be anything new to say about it, unless we try to situate the problem elsewhere, invent or discover ways in which the approach ISN’T misguided and distracting, or just wallow in the weird effect the film produces. I’ll concentrate on the last option, with maybe brief stabs at the other two.

Montgomery would do a better job by far with RIDE THE PINK HORSE, his follow-up film, based on an excellent novel by Dorothy B. Hughes who also wrote the source book of Nick Ray’s IN A LONELY PLACE. But LITL is so obviously dysfunctional it’s pretty surprising it was released at all, in this form. I guess Montgomery really had clout at MGM. It’s pretty obvious to me that the film could be at least partially rescued by the addition of shots of Montgomery as Philip Marlowe, cut in as reactions and for key lines, allowing better control of pace and reduction of some of the more egregious performances. Of course, this would mean jettisoning the unique stylistic raison d’etre, but studios rarely had any problem with messing up a director’s vision if they thought it made a more commercial version of the story.

Opening titles: surprisingly Christmassy! And the final title card lifting away to reveal a waiting handgun is a nice little joke.

Montgomery’s piece to camera: he stresses the need to watch all the characters carefully and look out for clues, so the movie is really treating this as a fair-play mystery story, a guessing game, and the choose-your-own-adventure visual style fits this, I guess (except we don’t get any choice). When Hawks made THE BIG SLEEP he kept the book’s form, in which Marlowe appears in every scene, acting as our eyes and ears in a far less literal way, since he correctly decided that the audience needed access to all the same information as the detective in order for the plot to work. But, unlike Montgomery, he obviously moved past this a little, since he would later declare that plot didn’t matter, and the movie ended up, after reshoots, with a notoriously confusing, labyrinthine narrative. This kind of rethink is exactly what Montgomery doesn’t seem inclined to consider, sticking to his one big false good idea.

First Person Pooter: Marlowe goes to meet a publisher. In this radical reinterpretation of the character, Montgomery plays Marlowe as a man who has a slow and ungainly manner of opening doors. Every door in the film causes him to pause in apparent befuddlement, seek out the door handle with a slow tilt of the head, and then reach in awkwardly from as far to the side as possible, as if his arm were not attached to his body but instead coming in from somewhere to the side of him. Elliott Gould’s revisionist approach in THE LONG GOODBYE has nothing on this.

Now we get the first dialogue, and the novelty value swiftly wears thin as we see what we’re up against. The sexy secretary seems to change mood rather rapidly — which might make sense if we had some visual cue from Montgomery. Monty the director being Monty the actor’s worst enemy, he keeps his mug offscreen and can’t resist a cheap joke by having the camera crick its neck following the sexy secretary as she leaves the room. LADY IN THE LAKE, filmed with the wonder of Ass-Cam, the new miracle process! (The sexsec is Lila Leeds, whose career was ruined when she was busted for smoking dope with Robert Mitchum.)

Here we meet Audrey Totter, who is acting for two. The mercurial mood-shifts are fully in effect, with sudden, startling shifts in demeanour — flirtacious, then furious, then back to flirty. Maybe this is what being autistic feels like. I can see that her face is doing all kinds of weird stuff, but it doesn’t seem to mean anything.

This Marlowe is a dick, and not just in private. I don’t recall him being this smug, self-important and narrow-minded in the books. Without getting to see him being cool, he somehow just feels seriously obnoxious. Maybe inhabiting his celluloid shoes is revealing to me how much I secretly hate myself. Maybe accepting him as this cool, morally-superior knight in shining trenchcoat is impossible if he’s just Linda-Blaired his neck off to watch a cute girl leave the room. I want to someone to slap Montgomery’s camera, or his face, or both.

First Person Totter: One great long scene with Totter, made draggier by the Marlowevision approach, is followed by yet another, and the use of the word “yet” as in “yet another” feels entirely justified even though this is really only scene two. After struggling through the door, Marlow receives another info-dump from the lady who is now his client.

One gets used to Ozu’s technique of having characters speak into the lens pretty quickly, I think. Partly because everyone underplays and instates a kind of low-key naturalism that suppresses any discomfort. The weirdness in this film is augmented and revivified every time a new mug comes into the shot. Now Marlowe glides over to see Dick Simmons, and after the usual trouble ringing the doorbell, manages a stilted interview. Maybe the reason none of this is enjoyable — I can’t even be bothered looking for clues or trying to guess what’s going on — is that while watching Bogart irritate everyone gives us huge vicarious pleasure, inhabiting the source of irritation is uncomfortable, an obnoxious sensation of being hated by a series of anxious hams.

Still, at nineteen minutes exactly, someone finally punches Marlowe (in the forehead!), and the camera sways about, going out of focus and sinking to its geared knees as a kind of ominous male voice choir thrums on the soundtrack. Just as with Chandler’s prose, Montgomery’s visuals perk up markedly whenever the narrator loses consciousness.

The Bay City Gaolers: we awaken in the hoosegow. The camera blows smoke at a cop. No idea when we got the chance to light the cigarette. I think we’ve possibly been awake since before the fade-up, which feels confusing. Now we meet Lloyd Nolan, a proper detective actor and the most welcome face imaginable at this stage. Now, for the first and last time in cinematic history, Marlowe will be taunted and bullied by a cop, and we will be on the cop’s side. Marlowe being braced by the authorities plays better than most scenes so far, since there’s more than one person for him to talk to, and the actors have someone real to bounce off of (each other). But when the scene fades to black with the cops staring angrily at Marlowe, I did wonder if he’d lost consciousness again.

Through the Looking-Glass and What Marlowe Found There: Marlowe wakes up as he approaches another door. Apparently gaining in confidence, he shoves it open without bothering with the handle. More bulging-eyed looks from Totter. Once, more, the camera nearly unscrews itself from the tripod following the sexy secretary around. Marlowe contemplates his black eye in the mirror. A shame there isn’t behind the scenes footage of the camera staring at a big window pretending to be a mirror, with Totter haring around next door to looking-glass-world to act in a duplicate set in which everything is mirror-reversed. Except not quite — there’s a transition hidden so perfectly it can’t be spotted, so that Marlowe can pan directly from the reflection to the real Totter by his side. Neatly done.

The Private I: Now Montgomery as storyteller returns, talking directly to the camera (himself?). This seems a more stilted and interior way of covering the next sequence than a simple shot of the guy driving to the countryside would have been. Plus, we then get another two-hander with the wretched Totter, in which Montgomerycam explains what he just did, which we didn’t get to see. This may all be due to the same budgetary limitations which stymied Welles’ use of subjective camera in the planned HEART OF DARKNESS. I’m just saying that the effect is unfortunate.

BTW, while it’s impossible to regret RKO’s tight-fistedness, since it gave us CITIZEN KANE, I can see Welles’ HOD working a lot better than Montgomery’s LITL. The Conrad novella (which also stars a Marlow, come to think of it) has a morbid, ominous, incantatory quality which would fit nicely with long tracking shots and the alienation we get from not being able to see the protagonist. Everything which seems unfortunate in the Montgomery could be imagined working eerily in the unrealised Welles. The remorseless, steady pace (like a boat on a river), the necessity of long takes, the weirdly distanced affect, all would belong perfectly within the range of techniques Welles would show himself to be a master of.

Laugh, and the Camera Laughs with You: Yet another scene with Totter. Marlowe laughs sardonically in this one, and it’s a disappointment that the lens doesn’t jiggle up and down when he does so. Totter better turn out to be the villain in this movie or else Marlowe’s treatment of her is really going to be unforgivable. he’s already insulted her at every turn and leered at her secretary, now he wakes her up at 4am, insults her some more, laughs sardonically and doesn’t even have the courtesy to jiggle his lens

Lakey Lady: now, the plot does some serious thickening. Chandler plots often display a problem for adaptation — too many characters we never meet, who turn up as corpses, possibly even offscreen corpses. Truffaut praised Hitchcock for avoiding stories that give rise to that unwelcome sensation of “Who are they talking about again?” David Mamet, in his typically surly fashion, goes further: “Any time two characters are talking about an absent third, the scene is a crock of shit.” (Mamet goes too far, but not by much.) The trouble with LITL as a job of adaptation (credited to Steve Fisher — Chandler wrote a 195-page draft, but it’s never been used), is that it’s nothing BUT these kind of scenes / crocks of shits. Here, the lady is never seen, and neither is the lake.

Dramatic Reversal: But we do get Montgomery playing a scene with Totter and her stand-in, who has to mimic her movements exactly to look like a reflection. This stuff is fun enough, in a distracting way. Cocteau may have been taking notes. When he made ORPHEE, he couldn’t afford to get photographically reversed versions of the prints on Eurydice’s bedroom walls, but Montgomery has managed it here. The largesse of MGM.

The Not-So-Thin Man: Another scene, another doorway, another hammy woman. Jayne Meadows talks nineteen to the dozen and comes off like a maniac, but it’s Montgomery’s grating deadpan delivery that makes this feel still like a cut scene from a video game. After she’s gone, Marlowe climbs the stairs which, even with a “hidden” cut halfway to help him along, takes fucking ages. One expects to catch Montgomery’s reflection and discover he’s gained 300 lb. He’s making heavy weather of these stairs. Midway he starts whistling to pass the time. A little later, I started whistling too. A clock chimes. Yes, it is getting on a bit, come to think of it…

Marlowe reaches the top landing and slowly looks left and right. What we need is a pretty girl walking across frame to make the pan go faster. Finding a clue, he manages to squeeze both hands in front of his lens for the first time. His fat right hand and his thin left hand. The monogrammed hankie says AF, convincing me that the killer must be Allen Funt. The Candid Camera Case.

Bullet holes in a shower screen! The killer seems to have etched a crude rendition of a face with his bullets, as a kind of grim calling card! We’re looking for a man bearing a strong resemblance to an owl. Perhaps it’s Maurice Chevalier.

Late to the Party: Marlowe crashes a Christmas party at Totter’s publishing company and everyone stops their celebrations to stare at him. Maybe he HAS gained 300 lbs, or maybe it’s his mismatched hands that makes their eyes bulge. Then we go into the boss’s office for some tense dialogue played with Christmas carols as counterpoint, a nice idea. But these three-handed scenes with one corner of the triangle replaced by the camera are starting to remind me of the alarming TV play in FAHRENHEIT 451, the immersive, interactive extravaganza I call “What Do You Think, Linda?” With Robert Montgomery in the role of Linda.

The Totter romance, never a very convincing subplot (Marlowe makes her apoplectic and we don’t blame her) seems to definitively end, with Totter humorously veering out of shot to make way for Monty-cam’s vast bulk as he aims himself cautiously through another succession of doors. On the way out, he gets hired by a new client, Totter’s boss. Totter was angling to replace his wife. Now he wants his wife cleared of this murder and suggests framing Totter for it, which makes Marlowe mad. But he agrees to find the missing wife, whom we haven’t met. Gee, maybe she’s the lady in the lake.

Assisting the Police with their Iniquities: Marlowe meets the cops again at the house with the difficult stairs and the corpse in the shower and Montgomery, in a fit of madness, decides to play this scene with the vocal inflections of comedian Gilbert Gottfried. I guess he figures he’s the director, plus we can’t see him, so he can do as he likes. It’s Liberty Hall! A coroner arrives. Coroners are always fun in films noir. This one asks where the customer is, and is it a man or a woman, and expresses disappointment that it’s a man.

Marlowe now noises up Lloyd Nolan (he’s irritated everyone he’s met), who repeatedly slaps the camera,causing little jolting pans. I’d be happy if this kept up until the end credits. “Now I’m getting somewhere,” says Montgomery, and for once I agree. He’s getting whiplash. When he punches back, the cops put the bracelets on him — on his mismatched wrists. Since Marlowe’s arms always seem to belong to two different guys, I’m picturing a remake of THE 39 STEPS here, or THE DEFIANT ONES. Two men, handcuffed to himself.

The cops try to give the camera the third degree and Nolan, already having suffered the indignity of being punched by a movie camera, now gets kicked by one. The police chief takes a call from his little daughter who wants to recite ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas over the phone. And does so. While we watch, unable to even hear her. For a detective, Marlowe is remarkably incurious as he doesn’t even look idly around the room while this endless business is going on. After this, Marlowe annoys the police chief so much he releases him, a nifty trick. Fighting crime with the power of irksomeness.

Falling Between Two Tables: Slipping into the press room, the camera makes a phone call, so we get to look at the corners of two tables and a discarded hat for over thirty seconds. The craziest moment in the film, and my favourite. In the next scene he’s called back, and this time we get to look at Audrey Totter waiting for him to finish the call, which is more conventionally sensible, though Marlowe for some reason holds the mouthpiece in front of his eye. Then she leaves and we get another great shot of the mouthpiece and a door, which maybe Marlowe is figuring out how to open. These odd moments, when the film seems to have been abandoned by all its inhabitants and makers, are the only genius things in it. Montgomery is on the verge of a whole new kind of cinema, only actors keep wandering into shot and spoiling it.

Not At Home: The phone call sends Marlowe to a fresh interview at a fresh house, where he has to manage to ring the doorbell (Damn these sluggish, mismatched hands of mine!) But those strange shots of tables and doors have had a lasting effect. Now, Montgomery’s camera, drunk with power, is feeling liberated in a way the Germans never dreamed of. Supposedly talking to a seated woman, the camera decides to give equal weight to an empty chair and a corner. Exciting stuff. I think Montgomery wants us to feel the absence of the missing girl. But the missing girl could only either be in the chair or in front of the corner, if she was present, not both at once. I’m picturing a brace of missing girls instead. Maybe that’s the point.

Cargate: Some elaborate, effortful, but interesting business as Marlowe gets into his car, easing himself behind the wheel with all the nimbleness of a 35mm camera, as ominous music invades the soundtrack — it sounds like Ligeti, which is amazing. (It’s by David Snell and/or Maurice Goldman.) There follows the most avant-garde car chase on 1947, maybe of ever, a wacky stargate that almost justifies this whole film, climaxing with a smash-up, and Lloyd Nolan pouring whisky on the lens.

Talk is Cheap, Whisky Costs Money: Montgomery now takes over the narration again, telling us direct to our faces what happened next, but only for a moment. Marlowe escapes being arrested for drunk driving by punching a passing drunk unconscious and letting him take the rap instead. The eerie chanting music now accompanies Marlowe crawling around injured in front of a sign reading ZIPPO LUBRICATION, giving little pained gasps. The film is really picking up. The droning continues as the image keeps swimming out of focus and giving little dips to black as Marlowe crawls in the dirt towards a phone booth. That’s entertainment! This is the real stuff, as Werner Herzog argues in JULIAN DONKEY BOY. And just think, at the end of all this Lynchian abstraction, another subjective camera phone call! I’m in heaven.

Noscarface: Rescued, Marlowe regards his ravaged features in a hand mirror — in fact, he has barely a wee skelf on him, as we say in Scotland.  Subjective camera kiss from Totter — that never works, Plus, she’s such an ennervating performer in this. This recovery sequence develops into a strange Christmas day idyll, with Marlowe gazing at Totter through puffs of smoke he exhales, more choral music (gentler now) and Scrooge on the wireless. I don’t recall if the novel was this festive, maybe it was. Peculiar writing: Totter turns off the radio when the play ends, and says “And then when I was sixteen I had to go to work.” We’re forced to imagine she was telling her life story, paused to allow a play to be broadcast, then picked the story up where she left off, almost in mid-phrase. Unlikely.

Then the plot picks up again. Montgomery tries something risky when Totter has Marlowe repeat a phrase, and she moves her lips in time with the words. With no on-screen Marlowe, it kind of looks like she’s dubbed with his voice. But they just barely get away with it, partly because Totter’s perf has calmed down a bit.

Hairface: Marlowe finally meets the woman he was hired to find, and has a lengthy conversation with the back of her head. Not sure why Montgomery didn’t use reflections in the shop window, but again, I like the oddness. We start to suspect that there is nothing to this woman but a mass of hair, like Cousin It. Maybe that’s the solution — It did it. Finally we get the face, the big reveal, and Jayne Meadows holding a gun on us like the last shot of THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY. Marlowe recaps the plot, hoping to get her to monologue until the cavalry arrives. In fact, Marlowe disarms her himself, with a queer bit of speeded-up action. Meadows doesn’t seem like she ought to need accelerated motion, she acts in a kind of time-lapse, rattling off her lines as if they’re being typed in her head.

Then Nolan arrives and punches Marlowe to the floor, where he spends the next ten minutes. I wish Montgomery had the nerve to film the climax of his film sideways, the way it would look to a man lying down. I guess Marlowe must be on his back, propping himself up on his elbows. But it’s less visually interesting.

Rescue! Hurried happy ending! Montgomery talking to the camera again, then Totter comes in and we get to see them looking directly at each other for the first time in the film. We have about five seconds to judge if they have any chemistry together and then —

FADE-OUT.