Marlowe [1969]

Miguel Ferrer (still probably best known as the weaselly, overambitious executive in RoboCop and as an FBI agent in Twin Peaks) stars as Joe Boone, the subject of a documentary by two young filmmakers (rap star Mos Def and John Livingston), whose previous film was a three-hour documentary about New York City's drinking water. Now they're following Boone around Los Angeles as he discovers that the man a client has hired him to find--a man the client says is having an affair with his wife--turns out to be his own partner. When his partner quits as a result, the documentarians decide to help Boone out and become his assistants, even as they continue their movie. Then the partner turns up dead... But this plot summary doesn't accurately describe Where's Marlowe?, which is actually a sly comedy that plays off of melodramatic plot turns and detective clich├ęs for off-kilter, low-key humor. Where's Marlowe? manages to merge "mockumentary" and crime drama in a way that is funny but also allows for some surprising moments of melancholy and drama. Much of the movie's success is due to Ferrer, a superb character actor with unglamorous looks but an undeniable charisma. Ferrer doesn't often get a role with as much range as this, and he makes the most of it. Without ever being flashy or indulgent, he makes Boone a funny, multidimensional creation, both absurd and deeply human. Where's Marlowe has a smart script and clever direction, but it's Ferrer that really makes it something to see. Well worth checking out. --Bret Fetzer

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