30 September 2014

The Thin Man

Tonight was a homecoming of sorts -- after a day of working at the bookstore, I went to my beloved Doc Films. I went at least once a week while I was in graduate school, and it was soooo good to be back. I've always loved movies, but going to Doc regularly really shaped my tastes. Although I grew up going to arthouse theatres and watching independent and foreign films, I got to know and love a lot more classic movies -- especially noir and stuff from the 30s. In many ways, it was like taking a film studies course, except I didn't have a teacher to tell me what I was supposed to appreciate about the movies, so I have ended up with more of the naive enthusiasm and idiosyncratic knowledge of the autodidact. But I digress.

It is often considered blasphemous to say that a movie is as good as the book it is based on, but in the case of The Thin Man (and, I would wager, a lot of other film noir), it really is true. I read the book last summer and very much enjoyed it, but the movie is equally entertaining, and in some ways, better.

One of the great strengths of the novel is the delightful banter between the hero, Nick, and his wife Nora. The film captures it wonderfully, even improves it with a dash of physical comedy and some truly wonderful facial expressions. What is more, while one certainly notices how much the characters drink in the novel, in the film version you can actually tell how drunk Nick is -- he lurches and teeters and looks a bit dazed, even as he is figuring out the intricacies of the case.

Another advantage of the movie is that it's much easier to keep the characters and plot lines straight when you can match a face to the name. Granted, there are an awful lot of blondes in the movie, which made it a little bit more difficult, but I wasn't nearly as muddled as I was when reading the text. At the same time, the movie does hustle through the story somewhat, probably cutting quite a bit of the storyline (not that I missed it), and zooming past the end without really bothering to flesh it out, thereby reinforcing the sense -- which one also has when reading -- that the mystery is rather beside the point.

It isn't the greatest social comedy or the best mystery you'll ever see, but on the big screen at your favorite local theatre, it sure is a treat.

1 comment:

Camilla Cryptid said...

How do you like your job at the bookstore? :)