Sunday, January 18, 2009
The Laughing Policeman
Trailer for The Laughing Policeman 1974 starring Bruce Dern and Walter Matthau.
I was curious about this movie that was directed by the same man who directed Cool Hand Luke and The Pope of Greenwich Village. I love tracking these lost movies on cable, and being able to watch them over couple of days sometimes a couple of times.
Visitors know I love action films especially Asian action films and movies often considered as "bad" or "low brow" or B-movies. I love these movies because one can find textual analysis of our culture and great anthropological insight. And god dammit...I love adventure stories!
One of the reasons I love Tony Scott so much is because he manages to have fascinating accessible characters within glossy tightly directed images and plots. He really has been able to make B-movies on a grand scale. If you've never seen Revenge or True Romance you've really missed some great film moments.
The Laughing Policeman is one cool movie. I probably leanred more about the prevailing mindsets of the 1970's than any documentary or anecdote could have offered. There are some amazing sets and amazing atmosphere...by having transvestites at neighbouring coffee shop tables, hip decor, and some of the catchiest dialogue I've heard since a Tarantino flick. I'd have to imagine that this movie would be right up Tarantino's alley. The film is the very nature of "gritty" and it uses some wonderful filming techniques and I love how the director has overlapping dialogue. Overlapping dialogue was a trend most associated with Robert Altman, so I was really surprised to see it used to such great effect here. There is a scene in the San Francisco medical examiners where two or three doctors continue with their lab reports and autopsies right over the main dialoque of our police detectives. It's almost difficult to hear and is so blunt compared to the fetish and artsy methods of filming autopsy scenes in shows like Law and Order and CSI. I consider these programs excellent but the medical scenes are so operatic (no pun intended or is there?) when compared with director Stuart Rosenbergs style in this film. (In 1993, Rosenberg became a teacher at the American Film Institute. Among his students: Todd Field, Darren Aronofsky, Mark Waters, Scott Silver, Doug Ellin and Rob Schmidt.)
Sgt. Jake Martin SFPD: Evans was working the Teresa thing on his own time. He's killed on the same bus with Gus Niles who's looking for a grease gun that happens to be the weapon used.
Insp. Leo Larsen SFPD: And then his girlfriend winds up dead on the floor with the needle... Jake, you realize what you just did? You do it to me all the time, now you heard what the man said upstairs.
Sgt. Jake Martin SFPD: I heard him, I was up there, he's a nice man, he shoots in the low 80s, but he plays too close to the vest.
Insp. Leo Larsen SFPD: Then what are you laying all that crap on ME FOR? WHY DON'T YOU STOP IT FOR ONCE? That's YOUR personal hangup, it does NOT happen to be mine!
Sgt. Jake Martin SFPD: Can't you see it?
Insp. Leo Larsen SFPD: I see one thing, I see why you're such a good cop, and one reason only, because you're so screwed up otherwise. You're beyond human belief, you understand that? You've got nothing else, no personal life, nothing!
Sgt. Jake Martin SFPD: And what the hell are YOU worried about, your goddamned pension?
Insp. Leo Larsen SFPD: That's exactly it! Put in my twenty-five and collect my fifty-five!
Sgt. Jake Martin SFPD: All I'm asking you to do is help me tail a guy for a few days, it's routine!
Insp. Leo Larsen SFPD: IT IS NOT ROUTINE JAKE, GODDAMMIT, IF THE BOSS SAYS FORGET IT!
Insp. Leo Larsen SFPD: Who's the short guy?
Sgt. Jake Martin SFPD: His lawyer.
Insp. Leo Larsen SFPD: Oh, Jake, short lawyers - they worry me. Probably got enough juice to get a Sodomy beef reduced to Following Too Close.
During the movie, there is a strange scene where Walter Matthau has to tell the girlfriend of his partner that he is dead. I found the actress really compelling...and I wondered "whatever happened to her?". I recognized another young actress, the dynamic Joanna Cassidy, who of course was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Bladerunner. But who was this part icy, part sensitive thin blonde goddess? Shit. It couldn't be! It was Cathy Lee Crosby who I always just associated with a reality program from the 80's. And this is really the heart and soul of a good director...they can bring out the very best in a performer, even if it's just the smallest role.