December 25, 2011

The Late Show

The Late Show (1977) is a lovely, tattered valentine to the golden age of Hollywood film noirs. Art Carney plays Ira Wells, an aging private eye whose best days are behind him. A flaky ex-actress named Margo (played with daffy energy by Lily Tomlin) hires him to track down her cat, which is being held for ransom by a low-life to whom Margo owes 500 dollars.

Things get more complicated, as they usually do in this sort of flick. It's full of lurid characters and memorable set pieces. The scene where Ira and Margo are skulking around a sleazy apartment complex is pure gold: the lighted pool casts a glittery reflection on the stucco facades, and you realize how unappealing L.A. really must be.  

The Late Show de-mythologizes the allure of Hollywood, and of the private eye, just like Robert Altman's 1973 film The Long Goodbye: Ira has a bad ulcer and he's out of shape and not as quick on his feet as he used to be, and he sees his era and all its players fading before his eyes. (Robert Altman, incidentally, produced this film, which was written and directed by Robert Benton). With Eugene Roche, Bill Macy, Joanna Cassidy, and John Considine, all playing grimy, rotten heels.

No comments: