Don't let the title mislead you: Détective is hard-boiled melodrama in name only. With a scrambled thriller plot, it's strictly a shaggy-dick flick. But its shagginess and even its sardonic gloominess are part of its quirky charm. In Détective, Godard returns to the brass-knuckles fiction of his younger years to see if he can extract some lasting truths from it . . . The film is full of political wisecracks and classical music, movie quotes and book quotes . . . Détective is perverse and arbitrary-but that helps make it a warts-and-all reflection of Godard...unified by feelings of nostalgia, resignation and despair. It's a Portrait of the Artist as a Middle-Aged Man . . . You could label the narrative 'Front Window': in a whimsically run hotel, an unholy trio of ménages . . . work out their mysterious relations under the eyes (and the cameras) of a former hotel detective (assisted by) his sleuthing nephew . . . Godard's imagery has rarely been more elegant and concise (and) this film about faded passions and failure is gorgeously colored.

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