Capital Celluloid - Day 14: Friday Jan 14, 2011

The Big Sleep: BFI Southbank, 2.30, 6.10 and 8.30pm NFT3

The Howard Hawks retrospective at BFI Southbank is a treat for film fans and the fact that the screening of Scarface I attended last Sunday afternoon was almost sold out suggests the season is packing the crowds in.

The film the BFI have chosen to showcase is The Big Sleep which is in the middle of an extended run. It is being showered with praise and was given the rare accolade for a re-release of being the film of the week with detailed reviews in both the Independent on Sunday and Time Out at the start of this month. The weekly listings magazine gave Hawks' film noir a five-star rating.

When the BBC's Film 2011 played tribute to Hawks this week The Big Sleep was given due prominence.

But is The Big Sleep now in danger of being overrated? This adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel contains a myriad of pleasures but is inferior to a number of Hawks' greatest works - Rio Bravo, Only Angels Have Wings, the aforementioned Sacrface - and not as rich as another Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall collaboration of two years earlier, To Have And Have Not.

Catch The Big Sleep by all means - here is one of the most famous scenes - but don't miss out on other gems in the two-month Hawks back catalogue being rolled out on the South Bank.


Anonymous said...

A great idea for a blog Tony, I'm enjoying reading.

The Big Sleep is one of my dozen or so favourite films, so I certainly don't think it's overrated - though, granted, it's certainly had its fair share of exposure.
I'm loving the retrospective so far: next up for me are Ceiling Zero and The Road to Glory, which if David Thomson is to be believed, provide 'the most breatkingly frank view of depression in the 1930s American film.'

Sam W.

Capital Celluloid said...

Hi Sam

Glad you are enjoying the posts. I was inspired after researching an article for the Guardian on film clubs ( and realising how much was going on.

Very much looking forward to seeing other films in the Hawks season and have Red River and Hatari in my diary. Let me know what you think of Ceiling Zero and The Road to Glory. Haven't seen those.