Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Road ( John Hillcoat,2010)

In a lecture about the nature of the love song composer of 'The Road' Nick Cave once said ‘we all experience within us what the Portuguese call ‘Saudade’, which translates as an inexplicable yearning of the soul, and it is this feeling that lives in the realms of imagination and inspiration and is the breeding ground for the sad song’.

The Road is a sad film. And a different kind of sad from the book.

The film is linked to The Assassination Of Jesse James not only by the composers and actor (the always creepy Garett Dillahunt) but by the fact they are both mood pieces.

The tone here is dark. Too few films these days are emotionally involving and too many are loud,obnoxious and about as deep as a pool of piss . I saw Sherlock Holmes recently and it was O.K. but still very loud and obnoxious.That MTV video style that started with Top Gun is still here and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in a hurry.

The thing that concerned me about this adaptation of one of my favourite books was the decision to remove two of the most memorable scenes (the baby being cooked on a spitroast fire and the captives in the cellar). The removal of these scenes made me worry that the film was going to hold back and become a censored version of the book but after seeing the film their omission is understandable .The film doesn’t need them as the focus is the relationship between the boy and his father-not the horrors that surround them ( Hillcoat has said they did not intend to make a horror film).

Viggo Mortensen (appearing out of temporary retirement) is good. The Man in The Road movie isn’t a hero , he is scared and full of doubt and mourning.A conflicted character that has to act heroic before ultimately becoming the bad guy to save his son. When I read the book I knew Viggo Mortensen had been cast so I had the fucker in my head and he does a good job of fleshing out the character of The Man.

The bad guys aren’t made out to be vampires or zombies or the mutants.They are still human.Soulless but human.

Visually the film is a dirty charcoal colour. Kind of like a real Mordor, all grey and burnt and covered in ash and the Nick Cave/Warren Ellis soundtrack creates a haunting atmosphere.

The scenes with Ashley Judd are O.K. too, screenwriter Joe Penhall and director John Hillcoat have done a good job of the arduous task of deciding what to include and what to leave out.

The father/son relationship reminded me of the one in the old Italian film Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica,1948), particularly in the scene where the father makes the black traveller take off his clothes which reminded me of the scene in Bicycle Thieves where the father steals the bike in front of the kid and gets arrested. The father becoming the bad guy because it’s the only way.

Luckily The Kid is not annoying.I managed to catch a bit of Childs Pay (Tom Holland,1985) earlier in the evening and the annoying brat was a spoilt pain in the ass who sort of deserved to be terrorised by a mental ginger doll. This reminded me that casting children is tricky. Luckily here the kid is good. The kid in Where The Wild Things is also good but he basically gets to have fun where this kid conveys the strangeness and the vulnerability but also the spirit picked up from his father.

The Book Of Eli is out next week and although it’s directed by an interesting pair (The Hughes Brothers) I have a feeling from the trailer it will be The Road-if-Michael Bay -got his dick in it.

Like Jack in the Talisman and Thomas Turgoose in This Is England the film ends with a boy on the shore. The tide representing the coming of one thing and the passing of another .Someone said to me recently of The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino,1978) ’you don’t really want to watch it too often but it’s good to know it’s there’. This could be true of The Road. Not because it's bad or boring but because it is an unashamedly deep and emotional journey. These kind of films/books/songs take you to somewhere you don't really want to visit too often and show you things you don’t usually confront.It’s about loss and death and how much the people you love mean to you and it’s hard to confront these things.It’s easier to put them aside. But it’s good to know they're there.

Director John Hillcoat (The Proposition /Ghosts of the Civil dead) is one of two contemporary Australian directors with a fucking great run of films. The other is Andrew Dominik (Chopper/ The Assassination of Jesse James). They have made only 8 films between them but what a great bunch of films. These are films that hark back to the films from the late 60’s and 70’s ( before mindless 80’s excess kicked in) like Badlands, Bonnie and Clyde,Taxi Driver etc…

I’m not saying everyone should flock to see it.I can see a lot of people not being interested in such a depressing subject.Afraid to tread in such swampy, murky places. But it’s ok ,they’ve probably already decided on that shit with Hugh Grant and Jessica Parker or Alvin and The Chipmunk’s Squeakel anyway.

NOTE: Robert Duvall is very good for the ten minutes he’s in it.

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