Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Night Moves" (1975) - Movie Review

Movies are about reactions. Love, hate, pain, nostalgia, anything resembles the human gets lighted up. Sometimes it is nothing, I mean not even dislike or hate but a simple plain nothing. You did not mind the film but did not devote yourself to it either. “Night Moves” might fit that bill. May be it is the mood I was in or may the tone of the film, it fell right on that spot. As the credits rolled up with a boat circling drowning plane and a murdered girl, it is poetic and cold.

From the mid seventies, this picture is nostalgic in the costumes and attires of that period. That includes a twisty music by Michael Small. The bass guitar funks out the melody when there is an expectation in the plot twist. The story begins with Private Investigator Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman). He works in Los Angeles which means he would end up with a film celebrity somehow or other. Here it is Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward). A moderate celebrity to be precise, passed over her prime period has called in Harry to find her sixteen year old daughter. Apart from drowning herself in alcohol and looking a lay in the men she meets, Arlene has little motherhood left to find her daughter. Harry does not mind as this has been the soul which has running his engine of life.

Harry has a personal life which has departed its emotion from what we witness with him. His lovely wife Ellen (Susan Clark) is having an affair with Marty (Harris Yulin) and he goes directly to Marty than to ask Ellen. Their marriage appears to be hardly functional because there is a deadness in the space between them. Harry does confront Ellen but only delays and avoids the barren truth that it might be over for these two. His case takes him to Florida Keys and there he meets his assignment Delly (Melanie Griffith) her step father Tom Iverson (John Crawford) and the voluptuous Paula (Jennifer Warren).

The major part of the film is the set up for the final twenty minutes of helplessness for Harry. Harry’s past life is a professional foot ball player and he has jumped to a complete different domain. What made him drive to this occupation is unknown but he likes clues and tracking them. He is not great at it but he is good at it. He has muscle and maturity that he can wait the waiting out. He takes as it comes and when the free spirited and tempting Delly runs around naked and inviting danger, he simply stays put. There is a kindness in his presence and that takes the time for any one to reach out for him.

Delly does reach out after a dreadful experience underwater which would become the turn of events the rest of the film. “Night Moves” though deprived of any real sense of feeling for me, is a film out of sorts for the times when the change in the film tone were either extreme like European films or dumbed down in the silly action films. This film directed by Arthur Penn lies in between and produces a rhythm of caution in its execution. It is patient and things happen so fast in the final twenty minutes that you wonder whether we are missing something.

Gene Hackman carries the weight for a character haunted by some unsettled memories and dealing with a marriage break up through his job. Hackman provides a common man doing a job which has only been glorified or animated by the Hollywood. Here his job appears simple, lot of travel, meeting new people and let things fall than to chase. Yet the hollowness in the work is not because of the extending time but the people he crosses.

It is one of a kind film. It does not say much and it does not move fast. It paces through as a normal day and moves crazy as an episode of “24” though with more sense than the TV series. Strangely it does not invite an emotion from me and it ends with a haunting note which weird might it sound, is not haunting enough. Its dark territory need more time to get a feel for it but may be I am cold hearted. Still the problem I see in “Night Moves” is that it places its tragedy without an empathy but wants it though.

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