The Rare Review

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“Three Women,” Dreamy

Cover of "3 Women - Criterion Collection&...

Director Robert Altman had “a succession of dreams” and afterwards based one of his movies—Three Women (1977)—on these dreams.  Hence the film, though linear, is profoundly weird.

It is the story of Millie Lammoreaux (Shelley Duvall) and Pinky Rose (Sissy Spacek)—as well as a nonverbal painter named Willie (Janice Rule)—who work at a rehab center with mineral baths for the elderly.  Millie is talkative, but very few people listen to her (funny, this); which easily leads us to infer that social interaction in the film amounts to almost nothing.  And yet, ironically, the shy Pinky quasi-worships Millie, seeing a certain perfection in her.  And there is nothing sexual in this—Pinky, like Millie, likes men—but . . . a question must be asked:  Is Pinky a psychotic who actually wants Millie’s personality for herself?

The film never indicates that someone is dreaming this dreamlike story.  Is it reality, then?  Is it a work of art simply meant to resemble a dream—in other words, a work that is only about itself?  Three Women is unceasingly perplexing.  There are fine performances from Spacek and Duvall, though.  The former is suitably eccentric and beautifully nuanced.  With her diffident, little-girl face, the latter is oddly beguiling, improvising nicely.  For improvisation is certainly here—but what about a raison d’etre?

(All reviews are by Earl Dean)

Re-Animation Sensation: “Re-Animator”

Based on some writings by H.P. Lovecraft, the 1985 Re-Animator is a blood-soaked little cult film, with kitsch. It’s Frankenstein’s-monster stuff via the animation of dead tissue. Kudos to a menacing Jeffrey Combs as a unsavory med student. Actress Barbara Crampton plainly has no unsavory looks, and captivates us with some sublime nudity.

There is a ton of un-sublime gore, filmed by director Stuart Gordon. On the whole I don’t find his sensationalism pleasing.

S’all Right: “The Confession”

It is unusual these days to see a film where a man suffers inner torment because he has committed sin.  But it goes on in the 19-minute Catholic film, “The Confession” (2017)—an award winner at a Catholic film festival—and, as it happens, it is not only the Big Sinner who grieves.  So does the confessor priest, who finds he must offer personal forgiveness.

This John LaRaw picture is simple and heartfelt, uncommon for displaying South Korean Christianity.  Plus, it has lighting just right for a religious film.  You might want to pay “The Confession” a visit on YouTube.

Delivered Into Action: “Deliverance”

Cover of "Deliverance (Deluxe Edition)"

Cover of Deliverance (Deluxe Edition)

I have read James Dickey’s novel, Deliverance, but I don’t much remember it.  I remember enjoying it, though, and I also enjoy the John Boorman film version of it (1972), whose screenplay Dickey wrote.*

Four middle-aged men head to the forest and take a canoe ride on a treacherous river.  The rapids are bad enough; the men also encounter bullying hillbillies, one of whom they kill after he sodomizes Bobbie (Ned Beatty), a member of their group.  Without contacting the police, they bury the man and then try to high tail it out of the region.  They gradually fear, however, that a vengeful hillbilly is attempting to waste them with a shotgun.

I am perfectly sure the movie is a lesser work than the novel.  How I see Boorman’s concoction is as a nicely shot, mostly realistically made adventure story which conveys a message about moral uncertainty and compromise being involved in physical survival.  The canoe riders do not trust lawful authorities who might help them, and the mountain man whom Jon Voight‘s Ed shoots with a crossbow may or may not be a murderer.  Another thing the film tells us is that packs of violent cretins like the hillbillies are out there.  They may lie low, they may be hidden, but they’re there.

Most, though not all, of the acting in Deliverance is impressive.  A fine thespian, Jon Voight is nevertheless a bit unsteady here, maybe because the script “does not offer him sufficient motivation and opportunity for emotional shading” (John Simon).  Agreed.  Even so, the film is anything but dull.  It’s exciting and, in its own way, trenchant.  And it’s a nature lover’s film.  I firmly disagree with the critics who dismiss it.

*Rewritten by Boorman, apparently.

A Horror Like Life: “Struck”

The movie Struck (2007) was “inspired” by a terrible news story about an inhumane woman’s car accident. In life the woman was African American, in Stuart Gordon‘s film she is white (Mena Suvari as Brandi)—a white woman with black friends. No angels, these.

Unintentionally Brandi hits with her car a newly homeless, jobless man (Stephen Rea), much of whose body becomes stuck—and bloody—in the car’s busted windshield. He is still alive, though, while anxious Brandi is unhelpful.

Human beings are so self-protecting and self-aggrandizing, as Brandi is, they will disregard another’s suffering and death when these things threaten their welfare. This is what Gordon and his co-writers are telling us. The majority of the characters here are the film’s dartboards, with a lot of sympathy naturally going to Rea’s down-and-outer. Struck is fierce, candid and practically nihilistic. Candid, I say: it’s for mature audiences only. The problem is Brandi’s not being examined, and a little exploration of Brandi’s boyfriend (Russell Hornsby) would have been nice as well. Even so, the movie was worth my time.

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