Saturday, March 8, 2008

Film #7: Night Moves

With Night Moves, director Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde, The Miracle Worker) emerged with his best effort since 1970's Little Big Man and, as he did in Coppola's The Conversation a few years earlier, star Gene Hackman marked his career with another outwardly strong, inwardly crippled character. This time he plays Harry Moseby, an emotionally distant former football star now operating as a small-time L.A. private eye. When a faded movie star (Janet Ward) enlists him to find her runaway daughter (a saucy, adolescent Melanie Griffith), the search leads him to an island in the Florida Keys and to shady characters Jennifer Warren and Edward Binns. Who are they? What are they doing? Are they grifters, perverts, or murderers?



Writer Alan Sharp's complex, confounding whodunnit expertly peels away the layers of this mystery at just the precise moment. By the time cutter Dede Allen's astonishingly well-edited climax crashes into us, we are as speechless and disoriented as Hackman, who doesn't know what the whole shabang's been about until the film's final seconds. And, believe me, your jaw will drop open when you find out, too; you'll have to rewatch the ending again, just to make sure you saw what you thought you saw. A landmark 70s movie, with that great, warm feeling of existential angst! Also starring Susan Clark, Harris Yulin, Kenneth Mars, and a young James Woods.

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