Monday, October 05, 2009

Halfway House: Burt Reynolds and Deliverance

It's not one but two season debuts in one post as the Fall season of TFE kicks off. Your favorite series return every day this week. Enjoy.

monday monologue showcasing fine combos of actor & screenplay
halfway house (series premiere!) halfway through the day, we stop a movie 'bout halfway through... what do we see?

What to do with a dead body... what to do? That's always a (movie) question. Fifty-three minutes into the classic Deliverance (1972), the shit has hit the fan or, rather, the men have already squealed like pigs. Four increasingly unhinged friends are now freaking out over the fresh corpse in their midst. Drew (Ronny Cox) in particular wants to be done with their time in the woods and turn things over to the law. Burt Reynolds has the answer (as well as an unforgettable rubber vest but let's not get distracted) in arguably his greatest role.

You let me worry about that, Drew. You let me take care of that. You know what's going to be here, right here? A Lake! Far as you can see. Hundreds of feet deep. Hundreds of feet deep!

Did you ever look out over a lake? Think about something buried underneath it. Buried underneath it!

Man, that's about as buried as you can get.

It must have been tempting to film Burt's take-charge moment entirely in tight sweaty closeup. That's exactly what a modern filmmaker would do, beholden as they now all are to constant closeups and the TV-centric emphasis on the dead center of each frame, as if stardom can't be grasped if more than one person inhabits any frame. Thankfully, director John Boorman, his Oscar nominated editor Tom Priestley and the great cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond trust that alpha male star Burt Reynolds doesn't need any help in seizing the scene.

Instead we get a riveting creepy mix of longshots, closeups, and slow pans which never let's us forget any of the players, their specific relationships to one another ...and especially the unsettling constant presence of that intruding body, draped inelegantly across a tree branch.


Univarn said...

This was a rather daunting movie to watch, escalated only by lack of knowledge on what to expect going in. The ending is especially haunting as well. I hate to admit it but unless a film's use of the camera is really striking I usually don't notice it much :x.

Danny King said...

What a haunting film experience. All of the performances are great. The soundtrack will also be playing in your head for quite some time after the movie is over.


univarn... i'm not sure anyone needs to notice the use of the camera. but the filmmaker being able to wield it with precision and inspiration really comes through on an cumulative level... even if people don't realize exactly what they're seeing.

i'm afraid i'm becoming one of those people who bemoans the present and dreams of the past because honestly, outside of art fare these days, the camera work is straight out of television. zzz. at least tv is picking up some of the slack with some television shows looking more cinematic than cinema (mad men chief among them)

danny... yeah, the music in Deliverance is definitely one of the takeaways.

Univarn said...

Well, one film I really noticed the camera work in, not because it took me out, but because it sucked me in so well was Children of Men. The second time I watched it I really started noticing the use of the camera to put you into the action, the first time I was way too absorbed to care.

I've always been a fan of the medium shot, especially for conversations. A quick way to take me out of a scene is to go: face1 talk cut, face2 talk cut, face1 talk cut, face2 talk cut for a long period of time.


univarn... and that's exactly what most filmmakers do. that's my #1 pet peeve this week (or maybe this year. it's seriously making me crazy lately)