It might not be an utter coincidence that The Maltese Falcon and Citizen Kane were released within a month of each other in 1941, as both films jockey for the title of American film noir’s founding father and have stood the test of time with critics for over seventy five years. The two films of course share their contemporary cultural moment: the depression was ending, a second world war was rising, and the nation was enduring a rumble of emotional unrest while struggling to forge a path out of desperation. Part of what makes both films so poignant is the braiding of that unrest, repression, and ambiguity into the characters of their leading men, atmosphere, as well as the flow of the camera movement and cinematography.
Tag: The Maltese Falcon
“Everybody has something to conceal,” comments detective Samuel Spade in THE MALTESE FALCON (1941). This comment perfectly encapsulates the unremitting promise of film noir. Any expectations will inevitably be displaced by the double-dealing nature of anyone and everyone. In the depraved, chaotic world of film noir, deception is the only guarantee. John Huston’s THE MALTESE FALCON, the third adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel, maintains this promise. The film provides a narrative of twists and turns as the characters, all in conflict with one another over the titular gold statuette, demonstrate no moral limits to how far they will go to possess it.
Written by David Kociemba
USA, 1941. 101 min. Warner Bros. Pictures. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Elisha Cook, Jr., Ward Bond. Music: Adolph Deutsch; Cinematography: Arthur Edeson; Production Design: Robert Haas; Produced by: Henry Blanke, Hal B. Wallis; Based on a Novel by: Dashiell Hammett; Written by: John Huston; Directed by: John Huston.
The pleasure of films noirs is in the active reading of them. We make our own way through these confusing, baroque worlds filled with existential crises. In navigating these rich swathes of word and shadow, we become like the private detective so often found in them: bewildered, besieged, and maybe even a bit enamored with the glorious crassness of it all. Those pleasures show up in the tradition of criticism around thisâ€¦ Well, thatâ€™s where the problems begin, really. What is this thing we call film noir?