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  • Lance Mannion
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Tim S.

Was this movie related to "The Conversation" at all, or was Gene Hackman just getting typecast as the "morally compromised independent detective"? I thought his name was Harry in that one as well.

Other related movies--wasn't "Enemy of the State" supposed to feature Gene Hackman as the same character from an earlier movie?

Okay, IMDb knows. In "The Conversation," he was Harry Caul. Still, big coincidence.

And Gene Hackman is "Brill" in "Enemy of the State," an apparent reference to his role in the 1968 heist film "Split" as...a morally compromised detective (though a cop). Can we have the Gene Hackman Morally Compromised Detective Film Festival?

(The whole "detective in moral quandary" is a really interesting spin on the noir motif, because the original point of the detective in the noir genre was to be the lone voice of truth and honesty in a morally bankrupt world. A lot of these seventies films take the morally bankrupt world and try to show that it's difficult or impossible for the detective to remain unsullied. Even when (as in "The Conversation," the only one I've actually seen) he tries to do the right thing, it doesn't work.)

Dr X

This is so funny. I don't recall what it was, but something set me to reading about the young Melanie Griffith and looking for her photos a couple of days ago. I agree with your assessment. She was one hot little number. I guess those nude scenes created a bit of stir because she was 17 at the time.

Ken Muldrew

Tim, let's not forget that Harry Caul only tries to do the right thing after devoting his life, and his considerable talent, to doing the wrong thing (and ultimately failing to maintain his self-deception surrounding his moral isolation from his work).

I wonder if you could plot a graph of time vs. the degree of moral compromise of Gene Hackman characters and extrapolate out to the absolute moral vacuum of Royal Tennenbaum.

Bill Hicks

Hackman should have played the Mitchum character in the remake of the unremakable "Out of the Past." If they'd also had a good female lead, they might have managed to save themselves the embarassment that ensued in reality.

Bill Hicks

Here's a link to another excellent post on "Night Moves."


Ken, would be an interesting graph. No Way Out and Unforgiven are separated in time by Hoosiers, Mississippi Burning, and one of my favorite Hackman movies, Full Moon in Blue Water. He made Absolute Power and Enemy of the State practically back to back. But I'd really like to see where Get Shorty, Crimson Tide, and Heist fall on the graph.

Bill Hicks, thanks for the link. I got a kick out of the writer's comparing the careless cinematography to Starsky and Hutch because I thought it looked like a TV show in a lot of spots too, although a much classier TV show, The Rockford Files. The Seventies was when TV shows began to adopt visual tropes from the movies, but also, thanks to HBO, when movies began to scale themselves down to fit on TV. I was also glad to see more attention paid to Jennifer Warren.

Chris The Cop

This is one of those movies that I've always wanted to see all the way through but never. Took me 25 years to finally see "The Parallax View" - finally did and hated the ending. Ah well, maybe I'll try and get scarf up a copy of Night Moves somewhere.

Lance Mannion

CTC, Night Moves is available to watch instantly on Netflix.

Parallax View scared the beejeebers out of me when I was a youngster and I've never been able to watch it again.

chris the cop

Thanks for the tip, Lance.

I do remember that great line from Night Moves where some low life is talking about how underage and evilly fine Melanie Gruiffith's character is, saying: "there oughta be a law," and Hackman laconically replying: "there is."

Lance Mannion

Chris, great line. I'm not going to say anything more about it except that you'll get a kick out of who plays the low-life.


Musing on the B&C rerun link today brought me across this fellow, having a bit of exasperated, affectionate fun with the Dame Ms Kael

Christopher Meeks

Lance, I vaguely remembered "Night Moves"--I perhaps saw it in a film class just after it came out in the seventies. After your piece on it, I had to see it again, and I watched it today. At first, I thought I wouldn't like it because as a detective, Harry Moseby looks to be a bad version of Tom Selleck--big mustache but a receding hair line and no humor. While Moseby thinks of himself as a detective doing truly great things, you quickly see there's no glamour in what he does. Then he stumbles into his wife having an affair, and he can't confront her--and that's where things start get interesting.

Because he has none of the tools to explain or understand his ennui, he concentrates on his job. To find the runaway daughter, he asks a few people, finds she may have gone to Florida to see her stepfather, and, voila, she's there and the movie is only a third over. It feels at first as if the screenwriter, Alan Sharp, painted himself into a corner, but no. The existential angst increases as does Harry's interest in the stepfather's assistant, Paula, played by Jennifer Warren. She's a drifter who's getting by there in the Florida Keys before she gets by somewhere else. She's the female version of Harry with a faster wit.

It was at this point I put the English subtitling on because their dialogue was often short and tantalizing. For instant, Harry is playing chess by himself and he explains to Paula that he was examining the moves by a famous Russian chess player that led to defeat, all thanks to an unobserved knight. Harry tells her, "He didn't see it. He played something else and lost."

That's Hackman's character in a nutshell. He plays detective and loses. He also thinks he's a knight saving women in distress, but in the cases of the runaway and Paula, he's ineffective and they perish. The movie was far better than many contemporary mysteries because, as you point out, the mystery is a Maguffin. It's not important. It's just a vehicle to take us into the life of a man who asks many questions of others and few about himself. If seems as if you don't make a clear path for yourself, whether that's what life is about or not, you will flounder.

Thanks for writing at length about the film.

Lance Mannion

Chris, and thanks to you too. Paula as a female Harry, yep.

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