Lew Millar

Created by Ross Macdonald

Not your grandfather’s Archer.

What does it take for Ross Macdonald‘s Lew Archer to hit the big screen under his own name? In the first two feature films, Harper and The Drowning Pool, Paul Newman was called Lew Harper, and in Robert Benton’s Twilight, which strived to out-Macdonald Macdonald, the private eye (once more played by Newman) was called Harry Ross, the last name presumably a shout-out to Ross Macdonald.

And here we go again. In the 2002 French film, Le loup de la côte ouest, based on the Archer short story “Guilt-Edged Blonde,” we get LEW MILLAR, an even more obious shout-out.

Mind you, Archer goes through a few more changes here. For one thing, he’s not so much an suit-and-tie outsider tidying up after the hippies, but an old hippie himself, boasting a long hair and a gray beard. He’s a well-known private investigator from the States with a sterling reputation who’s summoned to France by Harry Nemo, an elderly American ex-pat gangster who’s been hiding out at a swank villa in Lisbon for fifteen or so years. Seems he ratted outa few of his colleagues ratted on his colleagues, and they didn’t take kindly to it. So he wants Millar to act as his bodyguard.

Millar accepts, but by the time he arrives, it’s too late — Nemo’s been killed.

From there it’s the usual tangle of murder suspects, lies, double-crosses and family secrets that go back as far as the Vietnam War — and may also involve Millar.

It’s all very stylized, and connections, some decades old, are stretched to the breaking point, and the WTF voice-over is confusing, but supposedly it all looks lovely, thanks to the camera work of acclaimed Portuguese cinematographer Acacio de Almeda.

By the way, this isn’t France-based Argentinean director Santiago’s first crack at a P.I. film — he made an interesting if minor little movie back in the late seventies called Écoute voir…, where Catherine Deneuve played a private eye who dressed like Marlowe.

UNDER OATH

  • Neither an attempt to do a straight film noir nor a tongue-in-cheek pastiche of the hardboiled detective genre… (The Wolf of the West Coast) prefers to revel in flamboyant displays of ironic bravado. With recognizable stars, pic could probably score as a cross-cultural romp through the metaphysics of attitude and gumshoe chic. Without known actors, though, film’s odd tonal shifts, references to Vietnam and vaguely deconstructive layering of narrative strike an intellectual note without ever adding up to recognizable arthouse fare.”
    — Variety

FILMS

  • LE LOUP  DE LA CÔTE OUEST
    (aka “Wolf of the West Coast”)

    (2002)
    Filmed in French
    Based on the short story “Guilt-Edged Blonde” by Ross Macdonald
    Screenplay by Santiago Amigorena & Hugo SantiagoDirected by Hugo Santiago
    Cinematographer: Acacio de Almeda
    Starring James Faulkner as LEW MILLAR
    Also starring Anna Mouglalis, Gérard Watkins, Valérie Dréville., Lizzie Brocheré., Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Dominique Valadié, Luís Miguel Cintra
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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