Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep is on the shortlist of essential noirs: it’s fast-paced, cynical and razor-sharp, with a very young Lauren Bacall playing Vivian Rutledge, whose half-sister Carmen (Martha Vickers) has fallen in with a den of pornographers. Humphrey Bogart plays Raymond Chandler’s world-weary private eye Philip Marlowe.
As a noir, this movie hits all the marks: there are stake-outs, dangerous dames, double-crosses and cynical antiheroes getting sapped in back alleys. We even get a scene where Bogart shows up at a gambling club in order to “send a signal” to the mysterious head of the syndicate. Many have complained over the years that the film’s plot doesn’t make a lot of sense, and that’s true. But trying to make sense of the plot just spoils the fun. It’s better to just let each scene wash over you.
And each scene – penned by William Faulkner and Leigh Brackett — is brilliant, perfectly tailored for Bogart and Bacall’s palpable screen chemistry. The Big Sleep is one of the best films of the 1940s, and this may be one of the last chances you’ll have to see it in 35mm, the film’s original format. –Michael Popham
THE BIG SLEEP screens Friday and Saturday, February 6 and 7 at 7:00 and 9:15, and Sunday, February 8 at 5:00 and 7:15, at the Trylon. Advance tickets can be purchased here.