Monday, June 25, 2007

FURTHER ARTS REVIEWS. I have been Netflixing my way through the final episodes of Deadwood. I have only seen the show in bits and pieces, which is fine, as it is regrettably an unfinished epic, and because it has given me sufficient distance to sometimes find it silly. Would ye agree, bein' a sober fuckin' judge of the lively arts, that the complex sentences of Al Swearingen, him bein' a wordy cunt with all the verbal appurtenances of a fuckin' Cambridge professer yet slathered with the mud of authentic pioneer argot, sing most sweetly when some doxy is suckin' his prick? For fair, I do.

I wonder how well it would work if they all talked like John Ford characters. Ford trod this ground, too -- the tension between ripe, untrammeled individualism and the need for community -- and though I give him him the nod over Milch, I admit that Deadwood's modern advantages -- the richly meticulous physical reconstruction of the camp, the shocking cruelty, and the long, profane speeches -- are pleasing. Milch can get too pleased with himself after expending his vital energy breaching perceived limits; NYPD Blue got tiresome very soon after he succeeded in exploding the boundaries of the cop show. But though some secondary characters were left hanging -- it was sad to see Calamity Jane reduced to a mascot -- Deadwood still showed jam enough when the tap was shut off. I am content.

I blush to admit I'd missed John Huston's Fat City before this weekend. I love late Huston -- well, pretty much all Huston -- and this one is top shelf. It doesn't look like he had much money for it, but the old genius knew he didn't need it. I love Raging Bull but the fight scenes in Fat City make Scorsese's look precious and mannered. I know Scorsese's fights are supposed to be mannered, but Huston's makes you ask why someone would bother. He had maybe three camera set-ups, and the fighters, broken-down and hungry, get quickly lost in the violence; so do we, and their outcomes are always a shock that makes sense. Speaking of set-ups, see what Huston does when Tully (Stacy Keach) goes back to see Oma (Susan Tyrell) and finds her old old man (Curtis Cokes) has moved back in: the two men have their stand-off, and Oma only appears momentarily as a head -- drunk, dishevelled, mocking -- from Tully's point of view. I can't think of a better, more heartbreaking way to show it.

The Stockton locations have great, rotted flavor, and a Bukowski spirit of noble failure pervades throughout. Huston came from New York theatre royalty, but every facet of the human condition he was called upon to examine he looked square in the eye, and figured out how to make it play. They don't make too many like him. They never did.

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