A landmark genre in the golden era of filmmaking, film noir is the type of movie that recalls the days of hard-boiled detectives, dangerous women and conspiracies that run all the way to the top. Dark morality reigned in those sorts of movies, and the endings weren't always easy or happy. It’s the sort of thing you don’t see too often at the theatres anymore, and yet writer/director Edward Norton has brought that movie genre back to living, breathing life with his film MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN.
Adapted from author Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel, MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN tells the story of Lionel Essrog, a private investigator with Tourette’s syndrome who finds himself working a big case after his mentor and boss (Bruce Willis) is killed in the line of duty. But rather than keep the contemporary setting from the book, Edward Norton actually reconfigured the film into a mystery set in 1950s New York. From that point on, Norton’s path to weaving this big-city caper was clearly charted to run into the era that made noir filmmaking famous.
There are some differences, though, as MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN has a tinge of hope sewn throughout Lionel’s journey to the truth that lies at its central mystery. But the look and feel of a period-appropriate New York, and a jazz score that ties the whole package together all the better, are elements that root this film in the tradition of such long-revered classics as THE MALTESE FALCON, and even more recent examples such as CHINATOWN or L.A. CONFIDENTIAL.
It’s because of its unconventional approach to a classic genre that MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN is a hypnotic experience to behold on the big screen. An all-star cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Willem Dafoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw only helps to draw the world of Lionel Essrog’s New York in greater detail.
And what’s a good film noir without a proper mystery? The case that MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN finds its offbeat detective working on unfolds in such a way that even the most experienced cinematic sleuths might not see where it’s going. By the time you hit the end of the road for this particular whodunit, you may find yourself asking a totally different set of questions.
MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN has been a passion project of Edward Norton for as long as the book has existed. Now, with his vision finally ready for public unveiling, everyone will be able to see what his obsession with the tale of Lionel Essrog has yielded. And you can get more of a visual taste for what he's going for as you watch the trailer for the film, included below.
If you’re excited to see MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN, one of the many films offered as part of the AMC Artisan Films series, don’t forget you can buy your tickets in advance on the AMC website!