Singing Detective [2003]

The late Dennis Potter was a master at mining the popular songs of the 1930s and '40s for dramatic effect, but he never did it better than in this British miniseries starring the inestimable Michael Gambon. Gambon plays a mystery writer named Philip E. Marlow, who is suffering a torturous bout of psoriatic arthritis in a British hospital, where he is a victim of both his disease and the national health plan. Unable to move without pain, he escapes into his imagination, plotting out a murder tale in which he is both a big-band singer and a private eye. But Potter and director Jon Amiel also mix in flashbacks of Marlow's youth and his unhappy marriage to explain how the real Marlow reached this sorry pass. Flawlessly, intricately, kaleidoscopically assembled, the six one-hour episodes of this British miniseries fly by like some fantastic fever dream. --Marshall Fine

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