Marlowe 2022 Movie Review
The fictional character Philip Marlowe, conceived by the US author Raymond Chandler (1888-1959), a private detective with his own moral standards, became popular in the cinema above all through the interpretations of Humphrey Bogart in “The Dead Sleep Tight” (1946) and by Elliott Gould coined in Death Knows No Return (1973). While Howard Hawks’ 1940s adaptation created a gritty world with a pessimistic protagonist in classic film noir style, Robert Altman’s 1970s version came across as a satirical deconstruction with an almost clumsy anti-hero.
The screenplay for Marlowe , written by William Monahan, is not based on any of Chandler’s works, but on the novel The Blonde with Black Eyes , published by Irish writer John Banville in 2014 under the pen name Benjamin Black, based on a fragment by Chandler. Fellow Banvilles Neil Jordan ( The Crying Game ) directed the script — starring Liam Neeson . The actor, also from Ireland, had established himself as a character mime with his Oscar-nominated performance in Schindler’s List (1993) before he was launched in 2008 by Takenseries and a number of similarly conceived films advanced to late action stars.
Neeson undoubtedly brings charisma to the title character. Various characteristics of Marlowe, such as his interest in old chess games, his fondness for cigarettes and whiskey or his rather indifferent attitude towards money, are sometimes shown in passing. “You can’t stop,” it says at one point; Marlowe would probably continue to pursue his cases even if nobody was willing to pay him for them anymore. Overall, however, there is not enough evidence of this suggested driveliness, or even obsession. The interpretation of the character of the loner detective remains too smooth here.
What is more exciting, however, is the film’s femme fatale , who even uses that term herself – albeit to describe her mother. Clare Cavendish ( Diane Kruger ) appears one day in Marlowe’s office in Bay City, California in 1939. She is the daughter of film diva Dorothy ( Jessica Lange) and married to the hedonistic Richard (Patrick Muldoon). Marlowe is now supposed to be looking for her missing lover Nico Peterson (François Arnaud). As it soon turns out, he was allegedly found dead outside the gates of an exclusive club. The almost unrecognizable body was quickly cremated; the police seem to want to shelve the matter as a hit-and-run accident. But Clare is convinced that Nico is still alive. And so Marlowe begins further investigation. What does club leader Floyd Hanson (Danny Huston) have to do with the case? Does Nico’s sister Lynn (Daniela Melchior) know more? And is Clare even telling the truth?
While Dead Sleeping Hard has often been criticized for being too convoluted, the plot is Marlowe ‘squite clearly structured. What is refreshing is that there is no forced love story between the protagonist and Clare. The investigator himself points out that he is almost twice Clare’s age. Instead of a conventional kissing or sex scene, there is a dance between the two. Precisely because Neeson and Kruger don’t have to maintain the big romance here, there is a certain spark and a harmonious chemistry. The interaction between Neeson and Lange is also appealing. The detective is confronted with two generations of women – and develops very different relationships with both of them. In between, characters like Alan Cumming (as a villain), Colm Meaney and Ian Hart (as two police officers) provide relaxed moments.
On a visual level, Neil Jordan demonstrates his skill and love for the genre: views through blinds, silhouettes behind a frosted glass door, the glare of a neon sign reflected in a puddle of rain on a street at night – the images that the director and his Spanish cinematographer Xavi Giménez find , are exceedingly exquisite. So are the sets, the lavish costumes (especially Clare’s hats!), the chic hairstyles, and the flawless make-up.
Since the wanted Nico worked as a props master in a film studio, the artificiality of the setting is also considered; the finale consequently takes place in a warehouse with all kinds of props. A few humorous sayings bring irony into the action. Clare and Dorothy as well as the black chauffeur Cedric (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) are defensive without the film necessarily punishing them for it, as it would have most likely happened in previous cinema hours. In the depiction of this defensiveness, however, the work resorts to such reactionary means that the advent of modern perspectives is directly weakened again. Marloweis an atmospheric genre contribution with good approaches, which allows something new, but ultimately cannot bring any really convincing changes to light.