I Found It At the Movies: 1975—Night Moves (Arthur Penn)


Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

1975: Night Moves (Arthur Penn)

For what it’s worth, I guess this is one of the most flawed films to top my list. By no means would I tout it as being perfect, and I’m not even sure it’s great. But I love it more than any other film I’ve seen from 1975.  

I put Night Moves in the same category as The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Straight Time; they’re all films that are substantially lower in budget than the Coppola and Polanski crime epics. I only mention budget because there’s a grit and casualness to Night Moves that immediately announces its relative lack of ambition. In fact, it’s this lack of ambition that accounts for much of its likability. Like a close friend that puts no expectations on you, it’s always easy—and a pleasure—to be in its company.

I say all this, but there’s still much to boast about in Night Moves. Gene Hackman delivers one of his finest performances, Melanie Griffith is criminally sexy, Michael Small proves once again that he’s a master when it comes to subtle, minimal scores and the serpentine plot is an absolute delight.

I miss Arthur Penn. I love this film, I love The Chase and I admire the hell out of Bonnie and Clyde. As with Cimino and even Coppola, if the system had worked better, we’d probably have another handful of incredible films by Penn to love and discuss.

What moviemakers can learn: Movie music does not always have to sit on top of the images. There are composers who keep things small, working almost underneath the visuals. Michael Small is one of the great examples of this. Listen to his work here and in Klute.

Other contenders for 1975: Even with some gaps, I already know this is a really great year. I still need to see Abbas Kiarostami’s Two Solutions for One Problem, Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles and François Truffaut’s The Story of Adele H. And at some point I’ll need to revisit Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon, Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, as these are all titles I’ve struggled with in the past. From this year, I really like Woody Allen’s Love and Death, and I love Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger, Akira Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala, John Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King. My closest runner-up is Hal Ashby’s Shampoo.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.

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