music friday: winterland, 45 years ago today
revisiting chungking express (wong kar-wai, 1994)

gumshoe (stephen frears, 1971)

Wanted to watch something with Albert Finney in honor of his passing. Looking at his past work, I found I liked the movies best where he was a supporting character: Traffic, Skyfall, Erin Brockovich. There's one I liked a lot when it came out, but haven't seen since: Shoot the Moon. And there are ones that are highly regarded which I didn't care for: Miller's CrossingBig Fish. I chose an obscure one I hadn't heard of: Gumshoe.

Turns out Gumshoe is one of those movies that are more fun to talk about than to watch, because the trivia is pretty interesting. Finney intended to direct, as he had for Charlie Bubbles, but decided instead to give the directing job to his assistant on Charlie Bubbles, Stephen Frears. This was thus Frears debut as a director ... he later received two Best Director Oscar nominations, and he directed one of my very favorite movies, Dangerous Liaisons. Also making his movie debut was Andrew Lloyd Webber, who did the music.

There wasn't a lot of originality to Gumshoe, which borrowed from numerous detective story cliches without enlightening any of them. Finney plays the title character, Eddie Ginley, a comedian who gets by calling bingo games. On a lark, he puts an ad in the local paper offering his services as a private investigator, and the next thing he knows, he has a job. Old Time Radio fans might be reminded of the Alan Ladd show, Box 13, which was better than Gumshoe. The movie stumbles around for an hour and a half, and doesn't overstay its welcome, even if it never really finds its moment. The most noteworthy thing is also its most distasteful: Ginley regularly refers to the main black character with a variety of racist epithets, which never seem to be noticed by the other characters.

Sorry, Albert, I chose the wrong movie to remember you by.