Itís a parlor trick, but the kind -- an inquiring jester making his way through the ghosts of cinemaís past -- that gets Godard at the Moviola to layer Histoire(s) together. Film noir provides the found footage, Steve Martinís hardboiled shamus cavorts through it as classic scenes are Kuleshov-stitched to a mock-potboiler about Nazi spies and kidnapped cheesemakers. Rachel Ward is Martinís femme-fatalish client, Philip Marlowe himself (Humphrey Bogart, by way of The Big Sleep, Dark Passage and In a Lonely Place) is his assistant. The hero rummages through an office looking for clues, in walks Alan Laddís hitman from This Gun for Hire; he gets a lead by giving booze money to Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend and makes java as Burt Lancaster awaits the bullets from The Killers. He gets Ingrid Bergman (Notorious) to smile by puckering up and barking, then strangles Bette Davis (Deception). Since Barbara Stanwyck had already appeared in a clip from Sorry, Wrong Number, Martin dons the Double Indemnity platinum wig and is pounced on by Fred MacMurray. For his editing experiment, Carl Reiner gets Michael Chapmanís cinematography to approximate the genreís smoke and shadows, and avails himself of Edith Headís pinstriped suits and Miklůs Růzsaís strings. Martinís lament against dames deserves to be quoted in full: "They reach down your throat and grab your heart, pull it out and throw it on the floor, step on it with their high heels, spit on it, shove it in the oven and cook the shit out of it. Then they slice it into little pieces, slam it on a hunk of toast, and serve it to you and expect you to say, ĎThanks, honey. It was delicious.í" The finale adds Reinerís Preminger impression and Reni Santoriís rendition of Pedro ArmendŠriz and, since itís the Eighties, promises a sequel with nudity. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce