“I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.”
I have almost purposely avoided film-noir in this column. Film-noir is in itself a very funny genre to me. It’s the kind of film where men are always being dominant and very quick witted. It’s the genre that made the career of actors like the lead of The Maltese Falcon, Humphrey Bogart. It’s very easy to love the movie just because of how much you love seeing men like Bogart take the lead.
Film-noir is a genre that I’m always unsure of, because it shows off my lack of cinematic knowledge. I will know which movie is or isn’t a part of the genre because I read a lot of online critics talking about these films, but at times it’s very hard for me to actually describe what makes a film fit that sub-genre. Like why is The Maltese Falcon a “film-noir” but not The Dark Knight, a movie which I think has a lot of the same makings of a film-noir. I just can’t say. However, with that said that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy this movie.
While it’s easy to make fun of this movie for playing to its obvious strengths, it still manages, at the end of the day, to entertain and present an intriguing mystery. While at times I found myself unsure of how Sam (Humphrey Bogart) came to some of his conclusions or managed to have the answer just fall in his lap every time I was able to forgive it since the film works mainly because the protagonist – love or hate him – being a step ahead of not only his competitors, but also the audience. If we knew what Sam was to do before he did, the film would just be an exercise in boredom rather than anything else.
The only thing left to ask of the movie is whether the audience cares to be treated like a set of children that wouldn’t be smart enough to figure out the puzzle themselves, had the filmmakers bothered to give us enough information to know how to proceed. While the film isn’t stupid, it definitely treats its audience as if they are by managing to throw out all the goodwill they created for themselves through the entire run-time by tossing in a scene of Bogart just standing there reciting what we already saw.
The entire film had been deconstructing the mystery of these murders step by step and how the Maltese Falcon fits into the middle of it. Then in one fell swoop, the screenwriters decided to stop letting us think by simply blurting out the answer. Sometimes it is true that an image is worth a thousand words, and this is why I think The Maltese Falcon somewhat fails to live up to its reputation.