Πέμπτη, 12 Αυγούστου 2010

The Maltese Falcon (1941) - Uncut English Version

“Well, if you loose a son it’s possible to get another. But there’s only one Maltese falcon…”

And this was only the beginning – one could say- for the director, who not only founded what was later to be known as American Noir, but managed with his first directorial debut to shape a whole cinematic era, creating a timeless film, unfading in the history of our beloved art.

But....
While this might have been the beginning for a somewhat boldacious review on the larger-than-life, cinematic Maltese Falcon, yet, I believe that above all else such a gesture presupposes a confession, necessary on my part, to the (equally) boldacious readers. Besides, I think I owe it, for a multitude of reasons.

With regard to my taste and cinematic development, the director/auteur in question is not only a widely recognisable figure in the long history of cinematic art. He is first and foremost an artist of (bottomless) inspiration, (mentoring) talent and an object of (personal) admiration, both for the way he conducted his earthy life and for the indisputable value of his work. Therefore, the present piece (more a personal tribute than a film review) is a subjective look and not an objective approach to the Falcon. So now I can take the whole thing from the beginning.

Filmed in a still incubatory era for Western cinema, The Maltese Falcon was there at the birth of three major components of its thereafter development. First of all, the film releases the 42-year-old Bogart from (relative) obscurity, granting him one of the defining roles in his career (along with the mighty High Sierra of the same year), and giving us an idoladored actor whose performance bewitches even in its nth repeat. Second, it announces the directorial presence of Huston, who upon realising that screenwriting is not fulfilling him, embarks on a directorial debut, which in turn resulted in a mythical now film. Third and foremost, The Maltese Falcon will signal the birth of American Noir, presenting cinema goers (and especially the devoted fans of the genre) with a perfect measuring device, against which they were to judge the noirs to follow. And in my opinion few were the films that have achieved so much with such meagre means to their disposal.

Of course all of the above meant very little back then. Cinematic history had already been written in the 1930s with Hawks, Capra, Vidor, Whale, the Marx Brothers and Chaplin being the major celluloid soloists (Keaton would be my personal preference for reasons which far exceed the limits of this piece). With such cinematic history to live up to, the anticipated success of Huston’s Falcon – being the third attempt to adapt the Dashiell Hammett novella – was limited, a thing of wonder bearing in mind that it was left to a vagabond, insignificant and inexperienced director.

Yet it was Huston’s creative restlessness, story-telling genius and professional dedication that transformed the film into a pioneering masterpiece. “Every scene to be shot is to be the key scene of the film” advised the studio producer, and Huston set out to realise exactly this. A diamond falcon, imperious, ageless and magnificent as this one is, becomes the object of desire for many of film’s characters (prophesying the profit-driven Sierramadrics). Its power lies not in transforming people, but in magnetising those with the most intense, self-centred, indelible features. A vain Mafioso (Greenstreet), a deceiving female (Astor) a small-time crook of short stature (Lorre) and an unscrupulous private eye (Bogart) will clash and confront each others’ lies, quick-witted minds and instincts, in order to find themselves in the most desirable position in the whole story.

The Private Eye, who happens to combine the features of all of the above characters, will be the first beloved of the Hustonian universe. With the camera accentuating his expressive powers, Bogart defends an outdated code of honour; he will scorn and reject the stuff that dreams are made of, at the same time as he rejects the (doubtful) love of the female, leaving only echoes of false promises and lost opportunities to reverberate in an empty room. He will end up alone, alone in uncompromised honour; the loner who never surrendered to anyone but us, who until today, seventy years later marvel at the strength and integrity of his character.

And this was only the beginning...

Chris Zafeiriadis
(Translated by Sylvia Karastathi)

7 σχόλια:

Chris Z. είπε...

Αν και δεν είναι της αρεσκείας μου οι επαναλήψεις, το παραπάνω κείμενο επανεμφανίζεται στο blog στα πλαίσια της συμμετοχής του στο “μπλογκομαραθώνιο” που διοργανώθηκε για τον πολυαγαπημένο μας John Huston. Ευχαριστούμε θερμά την Σύλβια για τον κόπο και τον χρόνο που μας χάρισε μεταφράζοντάς το. Θα τα πούμε σύντομα…

Fingolfin είπε...

Περιττά τα λόγια για τους John Huston και Humphrey Bogart. Άψογη συνεργασία και εκπληκτικό αποτέλεσμα όπως και το 1948 στην ταινία The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Συγχαρητήρια για το πολύ καλό κείμενο και συγχαρητήρια στην κοπέλα που έκανε τη μετάφραση. Γενικά πολύ ωραίο και προσεγμένο το blog σου. Συνέχισε έτσι

Adam Zanzie είπε...

I love this, Chris. It was one of the best pieces submitted to the blogathon, not just for how it eloquently sums up this great film but also because you really hit the mark on judging Huston as an auteur. Few other filmmakers back in the Golden Age of Hollywood wrote and directed their first features--much less first features as classic as Maltese Falcon--but Huston did it. As Peter Bogdonavich says on the film's DVD, it was the first great detective picture.

And as you so well put it here, Sam Spade's loss at the end is only the beginning of a series of beautiful losers in Huston's work. You can trace Spade's rejection of the stuff that dreams are made of all the way to Gabriel (in The Dead) reminiscing about a dead man he never met, and in that line you can find Huston's impenetrable auterism.

Chris Z. είπε...

Fingolfin
Σε μια ιντερνετικά δύσκολη περίοδο το σχόλιο σου εκτιμάται όσο λίγα. Το Treasure of the Sierra Madre είναι αριστούργημα από τα λίγα και η πρώτη αν δεν κάνω λάθος ταινία του Huston που είδα. Σ’ ευχαριστώ για τα καλά σου λόγια, θα προσπαθήσουμε όλοι για το καλύτερο..

Την καλησπέρα μου.

Chris Z. είπε...

Adam,
thank you so much, your word is very much appreciated here. Huston did a lot of things, basically he was one of the consolidators of the eastern cinema and in a way he grounded/teached us how both to create and watch it. And you know what, I believe he still does. His work has that unique and fadeless mark that time cannot really degrade. And that is one of the reasons that people in the present (and hope) in the future will appreciate and acknowledge him as an auteur. And although I do not hold the DVD you are referring to, I cannot agree more with Peter Bogdonavich’s words.

You know, you are the first to understandably comment on the meaning of the last paragraph. That lovesome/dear and powerfull stuff that dreams are made of exists in most of the Huston’s pictures (as the above referral to the sierramadric characters). And if I’m not mistaken, it was Huston’s last minute addition to the Falcon’s script.

I must thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in such an interesting event. Looking forward for a “sequel” maybe…. ;)

Best regards…

Walking in vain είπε...

Την είχα δει πιτσιρικάς και ακόμα θυμάμαι πόσο μου είχε αρέσει.
Η είναι η ταινία που μου σύστησε τον Bogart και από τις ελάχιστες που ακόμα θυμάμαι το ονοματεπώνυμο του πρωταγωνιστικού χαρακτήρα.
Τώρα που θα αρχίσουμε να μαζευόμαστε μέσα, είναι η καλύτερη επιλογή για μια κινηματογραφική βραδιά με καλή παρέα
Φίλε Chris Z. μπορεί να εξαφανιζόμαστε αλλά παραμένουμε

Chris Z. είπε...

Φίλε Walking the vein, μπορεί να την είδες πιτσιρικάς αλλά νομίζω πως ήρθε η ώρα να την επανεκτιμήσεις και ως ενήλικας πια, έτσι δεν είναι. Τώρα που θα αρχίσουμε να μαζευόμαστε μέσα, επιτέλους θα αφεθούμε. Περίεργο καλοκαίρι πάντως. Και απ’ ότι βλέπω θα έχουμε ένα πολύ όμορφο κινηματογραφικό χειμώνα. Και πίστεψέ με, δεν εξαφανιζόμαστε ποτέ…

Την καλησπέρα μου…