For Reel

The Thin Man (1934)
January 29, 2017, 3:10 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: W.S. Van Dyke
3.5 Stars
the-thin-manDashiell Hammett’s mystery novels have pegged him as one of the fathers of noir—adaptations of his work such as The Glass Key and The Maltese Falcon are exemplar pieces of the genre. If noirs are often beloved more for the personalities and attitudes of their characters than the machinations of their plots, the narratives are nonetheless established in a high stakes, ultra-serious context. The most enjoyable thing about The Thin Man, then, is that while it works within many of the expected tropes of the detective genre, sleuths Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) largely view the murder case they’re involved with as a distraction to their incessant drinking. As more bodies pile up, the resilience of their flirting is tested and is just about the only thing to stay sober—fittingly, the grand reveal of the murderer happens around a dinner table where more drinking is had. The Thin Man‘s mystery plot is too convoluted to follow, although it does lead to one suspenseful investigative sequence in which Nick and his loyal dog Asta pay a visit to the murder suspect’s warehouse, navigating the room only with a dim flashlight. The pleasure of the film comes not in the chiaroscuro lighting and hidden secrets, however, but the interactions in the glossy drawing rooms that seem lifted from one of the Astaire/Rogers pictures.

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