Arthur Penn's "Night Moves"
October 1, 2011 9:27 PM   Subscribe

[Arthur Penn's Night Moves] does belong to a traditional, indeed obsolescent genre, but the distance it keeps from it (not an ironic or critical distance, just a distance) is such that genre-related expectations become irrelevant. Most of the time, the story line seems to meander aimlessly, taking in extraneous material, doubling back, going round in circles (the aimless is deceptive, a smoke screen obfuscating the complex, rigorous organization of an exceptionally well-structured script). The "mystery" aspect of the plot is dealt with in the most peculiar, topsy-turvy manner, withholding not the solution of the problem but the problem itself until the very end, when, in a dazzling visual tour de force, both are conjured up almost simultaneously. - Jean Pierre Coursodon

... perhaps the film's major virtue, the free, evocative play of poetic imagination. It runs throughout the film, elusive but unmistakable, transmuting matter into moods, weaving dreams out of the ordinary. An intensely introverted picture, Night Movies is at the same time vibrantly attuned to the realm of the physical, to shapes, textures, colors, motions, to the elements, all of which become dreamlike reflections of the inner world. No one sensed it or put it better than Penelope Gilliatt: "I don't remember any other film that so freely moves, like a sleeper's imagination, among the realms of air, land, and water."
posted by Trurl (19 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

That's all I'm going to say. Great movie that very few have seen. So those who have, please find a way to not blow it for the vast majority who haven't.
posted by philip-random at 9:40 PM on October 1, 2011

Saw it on netflix instant recently. There were some odd, and intriguing things about it. Harry seems somewhat adrift, bouncing from situation to situation, something of an anachronism as a gumshoe at the start of the computer era. Usually these types of films are about the old guard being unable to adapt to change, but Harry seems to have no trouble and seems very comfortable with morally ambiguous situations. Far from being disturbed by a world "with no easy answers" he seems to thrive in it.

I also don't get the feeling of dread and sense of dehumanization I get from other 70s detective films. Most notably Pakula's films.

It is is on on instant so watch it, also watch one of Hackman's other great films of that era, The Conversation.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:58 PM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed the essay, but that whole site is new to me, and looks to be filled with treasure. Thanks for posting.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:09 PM on October 1, 2011

Sorry, I was referring to the Senses of Cinema site (yay for sibilance).

On to the next links!
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:11 PM on October 1, 2011

Wow that sense of cinema site is pretty awesome. Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:43 PM on October 1, 2011

Hackman as the stolid but perpetually outmatched investigator; Melanie Griffith as the underage femme fatale; James Woods as the weaselly grifter who's in over his head: not many movies are as perfectly cast as this one was.
posted by Rangeboy at 10:49 PM on October 1, 2011

Thanks for posting; one of those films clinging to the underside of my corpus callosum that I have never quite gotten around to watching. Dang the 70s were great for film.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 12:21 AM on October 2, 2011

Thanks for posting - the movie and the links look fascinating. I also found a great Ebert essay on Night Moves that I thought was an interesting read.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:22 AM on October 2, 2011

So those who have, please find a way to not blow it for the vast majority who haven't.

If you're concerned about spoilers, you'd be better off not reading any of the links. Because they involve discussions of the plot and as such, give away multiple plot points.

And if you haven't read the links or seen the movie, what have you got to discuss here anyway?

Better to just leave. Now.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:29 AM on October 2, 2011

Wow that sense of cinema site is pretty awesome.

Yes, I've just Instapaper-ed a fistful of stuff from their archive, including:

- "Cocksucker Blues: The Rolling Stones and Some Notes on Robert Frank"

- "Lulu in Rochester: Louise Brooks and the cinema screen as a tabula rasa"

- "Notes on Some Limits of Technicolor: The Antonioni Case"
posted by Trurl at 3:01 AM on October 2, 2011

Just watched this again for the first time in about a decade. It really doesn't make much sense plot-wise but it's still such a great '70s movie.
posted by octothorpe at 6:16 AM on October 2, 2011

I spent some time trying to find a copy of Cocksucker Blues years back, all I could find at that time were ebay auctions of VHS dubs. It is probably on bittoreent by now.

I swear I saw am Sam Spade movie set in the 70s, he spent most of his time befuddled and horrified by all the things his neighbors were doing. I think it starred Donald Sutherland maybe? Am I imagining this?
posted by Ad hominem at 11:41 AM on October 2, 2011

Was it The Long Goodbye? Elliot Gould as Spade?
posted by pxe2000 at 11:47 AM on October 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I remember that Elliot Gould picture. Has anyone seen, Farewell, My Lovely? Robert Mitchum picture. I can't really remember anything about it but I have a vague sense that it was a pretty good movie.
posted by nola at 12:09 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks, That seems like it! Didn't realize it was an Altman film. And it is actually Philip Marlowe, that explains why I couldn't find it searching for Sam Spade.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:11 PM on October 2, 2011

Never seen it and it is unavailable from netflix. Seems interesting because it is set in 41 featuring Mitchum, who is much older by now, who was practically synonymous with film noire before his pot bust. I gotta see it.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:22 PM on October 2, 2011

Wow, I really just read that whole excerpt thinking it was referring to the shitty Christopher Lambert movie Knight Moves.
posted by albrecht at 4:10 PM on October 2, 2011

I have to say the resurrection of a film like Night Moves seems to be, at least partly, attributable to being streamable on Netflix.

And I'm the biggest Altman fan ever, but really, Night Moves is so much deeper than his Long Goodbye.

I still have my original ticket stub to Cocksucker Blues. Saw recently from a torrent, I think.
posted by victors at 5:05 PM on October 2, 2011

Just caught this recently. Nice 70s film, the kind that could never be made today, except as an intentionally ironic throwback to 70s film. The world is just too different these days. The budget is obviously miniscule, the direction is workman-like and visually unimpressive. Gene Hackman is an anchor, but much of the acting is pretty wooden and obnoxious (though part of that is due a fairly egregious amount of looping--probably another low budget reality. I can't stand when dialogue is obviously looped, it sucks the life out of any good acting.) The real star of the film is the script, which is in fact quite dense and impossible to figure out the first time around.
posted by zardoz at 12:42 AM on October 10, 2011

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