The Big Sleep : All Dark Business

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Martha Vickers, Charles Waldron
Director / Producer: Howard Hawks
Adapted Screenplay: William Faulkner & Leigh Brackett & Jules Furthman
Cinematography: Sid Hickox
Music: Max Steiner U.S.
Distributor: Warner Brothers

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Based on the 1939 novel by Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep shines as a detective-story drama coupled with sharp characters and witty dialogue, but falters due to an incomplete plot. Following a barely skeletal storyline, an impressive opening title screen with the character montages of the leads smoking, signifies misty waters ahead. The film then goes on to tread through a web of murky clues and suspects over an innocuous murder, but eventually leaves you with no clear answer, nor any reason to smile.
It’s all dark business. Marlowe (Bogart) is hired by a millionaire in order to protect his daughter Carmen (a mentally unstable porn star, A brilliant Vickers) who is being blackmailed for a certain set of “pictures.” However, before the investigation begins, a string of murders crop up, entwining Marlowe further within the whodunnit; eventually leaving you to realise that you’re actually never going to really see the killer..and more than halfway through the picture, you wonder if there is any point in finding out anymore!
Marlowe’s character, clearly the centre of the film’s universe, is brilliantly penned by Chandler. He conforms to his charm, wit, intelligence, mystery and kid-me-not attitude. A faultless detective, Bogart shares sexual tension with any woman within his frame, making the man almost appear irresistible. A rich character, with profuse depth and  an acquired  sense of style (something you don’t get to see very often!), Bogart is indeed the star of the film.
Bacall’s Vivian (almost Vixen,)plays elder sister to Carmen, trying to prod into her father’s interests in Marlowe and the whole situation. Vivian steals the scene every time she and her beau are in conversation, there’s something that quietly sparkles there.
Amidst the charades lie the few (clearly sizzling!) passion filled scenes between Bogart and Bacall’s Vivian, (and no, not between the sheets, mind you) but both just being in the same frame exuberate enough sexual tension to steer away from the dwindling amass- and the film suddenly becomes about them.

This ‘Film Noir,’ made in early 1940s, is shot in black and white with top-notch structure and stark usage of contrast and gloomy lighting, by the very talented Howard Hawks. The man has a far reaching vision, but this does not seem to be the right film to execute it with.
The picture makes great use of the medium: Moody lighting, murky montages, and adept camera work keep the 200 minutes long  flick running visually strong. Couple that with good costumes, stereotype detective-wear, and well planned scenes: here is a film that pulled off some amazing things for its time. But then again, with no real core story, it falters to just a plain drama.The story, quite frankly, doesn’t end up being as much about the mystery, as about the lives of the Detective and his love interest.
In all his glory, Bogart is a flawless Marlowe charming his way through lines like “She tried to sit on my lap while I was standing.” With a blink-and-miss run, this film is worth a watch for its technical beauty. And for Marlowe’s act. Not otherwise.
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