A Night to Remember (1942)

Last May, my husband, my daughter and I shifted house. We’ve shifted house before (though never with a toddler in tow), but this time was rather more harrowing than every previous experience. The movers and packers we’d hired turned out to be a thoroughly inefficient and poorly trained lot, requiring constant supervision. They left debris—newspaper, scraps of cardboard and more—littered all across our new home, and the dumped al my books, each one of my precious books, in one untidy pile on the floor.

Then, on the second day in the new house, an insect flew into my eye and caused an infection that didn’t go for a month. Within the first week, the RO conked out; the kitchen tap suddenly started spewing black water; and we discovered that one of the pipes was so badly choked with plaster left behind by the repair-and-renovation gang that it had to be torn up and redone.

But at least we didn’t have people getting murdered in our backyard.

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The Maltese Falcon (1941)

This probably sounds really weird, but The Maltese Falcon (based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett) reminds me of a landed fish. Fresh out of the water and flapping about like mad, its tail swishing from side to side at breakneck speed. One twist here, another twist there, one turn here and another there, never still for a moment. Possibly not the best simile for a film, but I can’t help it: the speed of this film is just so frenetic. I saw it again last night, and found myself struggling to keep pace.

The Maltese Falcon begins with a quick introduction, a paragraph scrolling down the screen to the effect that in 1539, the Knight Templars of Malta paid tribute to Charles V of Spain by sending him a golden falcon encrusted from beak to claw with jewels—but pirates seized the galley carrying it, and the Maltese Falcon was lost, its fate a mystery.

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