Farewell, My Lovely Reviews
For years, I've billed Dick Powell ("Murder, My Sweet") and Humphrey Bogart ("The Big Sleep") as the best incarnations of hard-bitten Detective Marlowe ever to live on the silver screen, but now that I've studied Mitchum's portrayal in this 1975 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's "Farewell, My Lovely," I'm not as surlily confident. Powell and Bogart, handsome and relatively young at their times of embodiment, made Marlowe's romanticized misanthropy something of a charming quirk, not an overwhelming character trait. But Mitchum, 57 upon release and an unequaled film noir legend of the 1940s and '50s, captures the quintessential "seen-it-all" demeanor the previously mentioned masterpieces were missing - unlike his more celebrated counterparts, an authentic grit is very much a part of his persona.
So it's a pleasant surprise that "Farewell, My Lovely" does not feel like an homage to the film noir genre nor an unneeded update. It has the moods and mannerisms found in the best of examples, perhaps because of Dick Richards's beautifully detail oriented direction, because Mitchum himself was a thriving figure of the genre, or because Charlotte Rampling really does look and act an awful lot like Lauren Bacall and Claire Trevor. The movie doesn't just hit all the right notes of film noir tropes: it also enlivens them, like a Chopin classic being played by an energized Valentina Lisitsa. It walks and breathes, contrasting greatly to most neo-noir in that it doesn't seem all too dependent on following in the footsteps of the classics adored before it.
It is the second adaptation of "Farewell, My Lovely," the first being 1944's wonderful "Murder, My Sweet," the name changed in an attempt to morph Dick Powell's song-and-dance career into something serious. But comparison is unnatural, as "Murder" is a hard-boiled, of-the-time entry, while "Farewell" is self-aware, stylistically savvy, and unafraid of censorship. To say which is better would be an atrocity - both are masterworks in their own right - but similar is their spirit, by which exploring the underbellies of Los Angeles's seedy crime world is exciting, mazy, and intoxicating, bewildering in the truest sense of the word.
"Farewell, My Lovely" follows Marlowe as he is tasked with two complex cases, one of passion and one of fear. The first is assigned by Moose Malloy (Jack O'Halloran), a dumb lug determined to find an old flame, prostitute Velma, after being released from prison. The other job is kicked off by Lindsay Marriott (John O'Leary), a blackmail victim in need of protection. As in all good and decent film noir, of course the cases are related, and of course are much more intricate than a first appearance might suggest. But Marlowe approaches both with a heavy sigh and a heavy heart, curiosity accidental.
In most adaptations of Raymond Chandler written, Marlowe centric novels, things are better when we aren't so sure of the inner workings of the plot - atmosphere is given a chance to shine, conversations flowing like honey without ever necessary moving the story forward. Most important in "Farewell, My Lovely" is its hazy, soporific aura, and we're pulled into its world of smoke and mirrors like a hypnotist's victim. Characters move in and out, setting the tones and colors of individual scenes; most memorable is Rampling, as femme fatale Helen Grayle, who is one of the few actresses able to persuade us that she could have made it as a movie star in any decade of her choosing, a timeless figure of acting ability matching in allure. And Richards knows how to handle this sort of material, and these sorts of actors - we can tell that he grew up on film noir, a treasurer of its mythical conceits and not one to dramatically hinder what made the genre so special in the first place. His control over its audience is striking.
But "Farewell, My Lovely" is sensational as a whole, vivid and a possessor of all the most enjoyable characteristics of the category. Most conclude that 1974's "Chinatown," unseen by me, is the superior homage of the 1970s. But I can hardly picture another genre film as wayward, as buzzing, as piping hot to the touch, as this.
Mitchum is amazing as always in a noir role, and young(ish) Charlotte Rampling is pretty easy on the eyes; well worth tracking down.
Ironically, this is the sequel to 'The Big Sleep' and yet on both occasions that this film has been made, the Big Sleep was made just after it.
Whilst Marlowe will always be Humphrey Bogart to me, in this version Robert Mitchum is really good.
The voice over noir narration is brilliant, filled with classic lines (some of which were parodied in The Naked Gun!), and some classic subtle gags.
The score is really brilliant and very reminiscent of Chinatown.
I had read that Stallone played Moose Malloy, but that role was filled by Jack O'Halloran whom I'd only seen previously in Superman II as the non talking Nom.
Overall, a very good film. Much better than Mitchum's flat version of the Big Sleep.