In the finale, we come full circle, returning to the gunshots of the prologue and discovering what they mean. We also come full circle with Gene Hackman.
"I was reminded of another Gene Hackman character named Harry. That would be Harry Caul, from Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974). Caul is a high-tech investigator who bugs people and eavesdrops on conversations and is fanatic and paranoid and, like Moseby, not nearly as clever as he needs to be. Harry Caul has his workplace invaded by a competitor, he's fooled by a hidden microphone in a ball-point pen, he gets calls on his unlisted number, his landlord walks right past the security system in his apartment, and although he has a tape recording of a crucial conversation, he has no idea what it means...
"What [Gene Hackman] brings to Night Moves is crucial; he must be absolutely sure of his identity as a free-lance gumshoe, even while all of his craft is useless and all of his hunches are based on ignorance of the big picture. Maybe the movie is saying that the old film noir faith is dead, that although in Chandler's words 'down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid,' when this man goes down those streets he is blind-sided by a plot that has no respect for him."–Roger Ebert
1. Arlene Iverson: Are you the kind of detective who, once you get on a case nothing can get you off it? Bribes, beatings, the allure of a woman...
Harry Moseby: That was true in the old days. Before we had a union.
Harry Moseby’s problem in Night Moves is not that he’s different from the white knight detectives of noir, but that his clients are. Sure he can find Arlene Iverson’s runaway daughter and bring her back so that mom can continue controlling her daughter’s money. Does the moral complication that the successful completion of a detective’s task might do more harm than good make a noir plot more or less interesting and why?
2. Unlike most noir detectives, Harry Moseby is married. His wife is unfaithful. He is subsequently unfaithful. In traditional films noir, the morality of one’s decisions often led to a fateful outcome. How does this film’s ending, and especially its final shot, reflect the moral ambiguity of all of its characters, especially Moseby’s, and did you find it effective?
3. Arthur Penn’s Bonnie & Clyde (1967) was considered a ground-breaking New Hollywood film. The Motion Picture Production Code soon after gave way to the current rating system, which ceded the parental responsibility of the industry to, well, parents. There is much about Night Moves that would not have met with the approval of the code. Laura (1944), The Narrow Margin (1952), Double Indemnity (1944), The Hitch-Hiker (1953), North by Northwest (1959), Vertigo (1958), and In a Lonely Place (1950) had to contend with the code. The Conversation (1974), The Big Lebowski (1998), Mulholland Dr. (2001), The Player (1992), and Night Moves (1975) did not. Do you think that the filmmakers who had to contend with the Hays Code would have made better pictures without it?
If you're interested in where I got the idea for this story.
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