Former footballer and present private detective Harry Moseby gets hired on to what seems a standard missing person case, as an aging Hollywood actress whose only major roles came thanks to being married to a studio mogul wants Moseby to find and return her stepdaughter.
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In the case of many director, their BEST work is often overshadowed by their most INFLUENTIAL work. Such is the case with Arthur Penn who will go down in cinematic history for Bonnie and Clyde and not for Night Moves. A brilliant homage to film noir that, by ironically covering old Hollywood grounds, manages to tell a story of change. It also offers a depiction of sleazy Hollywood that rivals Wilder's and Lynch's.
Poor Eric Rohmer never stood a chance against Harry Moseby's undeniably pedestrian gait about everything surrounding his life, a simple man working his way as a private eye while trying to get a hold of his tumbling marriage are the two elements in which this very memorable film edifies itself, but the real surprise lies not in uncovering the plot but in the withdrawal of understanding the real motivation of it all.
Everything is low key about this film, until the last thirty minutes when the plot violently unravels. As other great neo noirs of its type, it confronts a man with old fashioned morals and mentality with hypocrite modern day world. Gene Hackman gives another stelar performance.
A brilliant twist on the more conventional PI mystery plot with Sharp and Penn more worried about studying the man than the narrative. It's a truly subversive and ultimately though-provoking character study, a backstage look at the life of a PI if you will. All the moral and ethical issues of a profession glorified by the movies are her portrayed in gut-wrenching fashion. Plus, it treated the audience with brains.
"I saw a Rohmer filme once. It was kind of like watching paint dry", says Gene Hackman's character. That's the problem with Penn's movie, since he tries to do something arty with a Hollywood sub-genre (the detective movie) that has nothing of arty whatsoever. And he fails: the movie is a bore, the dialogues are pretentious and the twists are just silly. Though the ending is good, it is not enough to save the picture.
A really great character study bolstered by a strong performance from Hackman. I got a surprisingly detailed understanding of Moseby. His relationship with his wife, which would have felt dashed off in other films, felt believable. The mystery isn't as enthralling, but it affords interesting side characters and situations for Moseby to react to. I loved how tight it was: no time for extraneous set-up.