Farewell, My Lovely (1975)
Directed by Dick Richards
This smooth Chandler adaptation is almost Dick Tracyesque in its flamboyant Art Deco design, all sad jazz, faded primary colors and rainslick city streets. It’s nostalgic in the most melancholy way, somehow both bright and pale. Its mystery—about a missing showgirl, some stolen jade, a crooked casino, most of it red herrings—is set in a crumbling Los Angeles filled with crumbling people, showbiz washups holed up in flophouses and fleabags; this is a city of newsboys and nightclerks, hucksters and shysters, madames and mooses, fences and fops and, of course, a femme fatale, played by Charlotte Rampling, doing her best Lauren Bacall.
A young Harry Dean Stanton is also on hand, doing Richard Widmark, and so is Robert Mitchum, doing Robert Mitchum, a hangdog like Bogart—another famous Philip Marlowe—wisecracking and wry but also so world-weary it looks like god forgot to give him eyeholes so he slit them open himself, like the pockets of a new suit. This is the truest yet most conspicuously artificial evocation of Raymond Chandler’s city ever set to celluloid, sunsoaked in the most sickening way, daylight looking as radioactive as the neon that illuminates the strips at night. It’s Chinatown dipped in honey—then left out in the sun for the flies. Henry Stewart (February 26-28, 11am, at IFC Center’s Rampling series)