THE MALTESE FALCON is the Stuff Film Noir Dreams Are Made Of (Warner Brothers 1941)


cracked rear viewer

1941’s THE MALTESE FALCON may not be the first film noir (most people agree that honor goes to 1940’s STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR ). It’s not even the first version of Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 detective story – there was a Pre Code film with Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade that’s pretty good, and a 1936 remake titled SATAN MET A LADY with Warren William that’s not. But first-time director John Huston’s seminal shamus tale (Huston also wrote the amazingly intricate screenplay) virtually created many of the tropes that have become so familiar to fans of this dark stylistic genre:

THE HARD-BOILED DETECTIVE – Private investigators had been around since the dawn of cinema, from Sherlock Holmes to Philo Vance to Charlie Chan, but none quite like Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade. Both Cortez and William played the character as flippant skirt-chasers, but in Bogie’s hands, Sam Spade is a harder…

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Spring Breakdown #2: Open Water (dir by Chris Kentis)


So, who wants to spend 80 minutes watching two people slowly die?

That’s the question that’s posed by the 2003 film, Open Water.  Apparently, quite a few people had a positive response to that question because Open Water, which was made for about $120,000, went on to gross over 55 million dollars.  It also inspired two sequels and it continues to be something of a mainstay on the SyFy channel, where it usually airs during Shark Week.

I have to admit that, largely because I have a huge phobia about drowning, I didn’t see Open Water until three years after it was initially released.  I watched it with my cousin Paulie.  At the end of the film, he exclaimed, “Oh, nice fucking movie, Lisa Marie!,” and I understand where he was coming from.  There’s not much hope or positivity to be found in Open Water.  It’s not a happy film.  Instead, it’s a movie about a couple who end up getting stranded in the middle of the ocean.  Eventually, one of them gets eaten by sharks while the other one drowns.

That may sound like a spoiler but really, it’s not.  From the minute we first see Daniel (Daniel Travis) and Susan (Blanchard Ryan), we know there’s no way they’re getting out of the movie alive.  They’re both so happy about taking a vacation and finally getting to spend some quality time together that it’s obvious that there’s no way things aren’t going to end in tragedy.  Their vacation takes them to the Caribbean, where they hope to go scuba diving.  Unfortunately, their scuba diving group leaves without realizing that Daniel and Susan are still underwater.  When the two of them resurface, they discover that they’re stranded out in the middle of the ocean.

At first, they assume that someone will notice them missing and come back to rescue them.  They make jokes about how this is a story that they’ll be able to tell for the rest of their lives.  They laugh.  They joke.  They briefly argue.  Daniel gets frustrated and spends a while screaming with splashing water.  Eventually, the jelly fish arrive and they both get stung.  Then. the sharks show up….

It’s all very dark and depressing and the film certainly did not help me with my fear of swimming.  Imagine Jaws if the whole film was just an hour and a half of Chrissie Watkins getting eaten by the Great White and you kind of have an idea of what Open Water was like.  As a result of the film’s low-budget, Open Water has an effectively rough, documentary-like feel to it.  Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan seem like any ordinary couple that you might run into while on vacation.  They’re easy enough to relate to that you certainly don’t want to see them die.

Unfortunately, after Daniel and Susan get stranded out in the ocean, the film gets stranded along with them.  At that point, all you can do is watch as they two of them get eaten by undersea life.  It gets a bit tedious.  One imagines that Werner Herzog could probably make this material compelling and, whenever I watch Open Water, I like to imagine the sound of Herzog saying, “I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder.”  However, as it is, Open Water is one of those well-made films that leave you with no desire to ever watch it again.

 

 

Music Video of the Day: One More Time by Daft Punk (2000, dir by Leiji Matsumato)


Sorry, everyone!  I’m running a bit behind today (or is it tonight?  Daylight Savings Time makes everything confusing!) so I don’t really have much prepared to say about this video, beyond the fact that I like it and I like the song.  That I like both shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.  In general, I like anything that involves Daft Punk.

Enjoy!