Matters of Proportion
The movie of the day-- and, by the way, this was yesterday-- was almost The Undefeated. But what is there to say about The Undefeated? Aside from some stellar perfomances-- John Wayne at his most iconic, Jan Michael-Vincent completely beliveable as an oblivious asshole, and, foremost, Rock Hudson doing an awesome job portraying a heterosexual male! (That's completely unfair. I have always thought Hudson was a fine actor in the middle-Hollywood mold, and here, he aquits himself very nicely alongside the Duke, and both actors are clearly having a ball. That is all.) But the film takes a view of morality that takes twice as long to parse out as it does to actually watch the movie itself. So screw it.
The movie of the day-- and, again, this was yesterday-- was The Ninth Configuration, which is not something that I have been meaning to get around to for any real time. I seem to think I was aware of it at some point, maybe as far back as 1980, when it came out and sank without a trace (very unfairly, I think), or maybe later, after it developed a cult following on the basis of some cryptic and sometimes misleading reviews. I came to it this time out of multi-layered curiosity. William Peter Blatty, the writer-director, claims the novel he originally wrote was both funnier if crueler; it took him ten years to get the project moving after he originally wrote the script; he transported the entire cast and crew to Hungary because PepsiCo, who was assisting in footing the bill beyond Blatty's own private fortune, owned a castle there; said cast and crew were supposedly drunk and AWOL as often as possible, and so on. So I sacked it into the NetFlix queue, bumped it to the top, and just a few days later, there it was.
I ALMOST put off watching it-- thus the viewing of the Wayne/Hudson flick-- but then went in on the grounds that I could turn it off at any time. The movie started as soon as the player had digested the data; the opening was hypnotic and beautifully shot. As the movie proper began, the mood became dank, dark, slightly claustrophobic, uncomfortable and funny at the same time. Although there were many elements that felt questionable, there was an overwhelming sense of Vaudeville slapstick that pervaded and, to my thinking, buoyed the proceedings. Imagine if Blake Edwards had directed a cross between M*A*S*H (as Hooker wrote it) and Catch 22. Also there seemed to be nods in many directions, not the least to Kubrick's vision of The Shining, although that seems entirely impossible, as both movies came out the same year.
And there I stop. It is impossible to critique this movie without giving most of the best bits away. The anti-authoritarian glee of the first act completely compliments and validates the earnest angst of the second half and denoument, and the last note puts a plume on the whole affair. It is one of the more neatly wrapped up scripts I have encountered. And I don't want to ruin it for anyone else who might want to experience this.
Does it take an effort? Not a whole lot, I think. One of the first links that popped up when I searched it was Bad Movie Reviews (Dot Com), and the first reviewer didn't seem to have a clear idea why he considered it a bad film, besides the fact that Blatty directed it. (I bet he drives a Focus.) The second review there, which was not actually a bad review, suggested it took multiple viewings to "get" the thing. Which I think is not the case. I went in armed with knowledge, some of which was continuity-muddled, but I'm sure I still woulda got it all down in one take just the same.
*And, if ever there was a film with a LOADED St Christopher's medal, The Ninth Configuration is it!!! (If you've seen it, you get that.) I will never recommend Glen Garry, Glen Ross to anyone because, after thoroughly enjoying it on my first (and only) viewing, I discovered that the real reason I did enjoy it was the Alec Baldwin monologue, which was added in because the fucker didn't trust the movie audiences to be as savvy and sensible as the theater audiences who had succeded in floating his bloated, well-kissed ass. (Clearly, I don't mean to imply that Baldwin is the fucker with the well-kissed ass. Am I being to oblique for you?) This has informed my viewing of everything else the fucker ever did, to the point that I consider everything else he ever did to be to be idiotic folderol. (Which is completely unfair.) (To ME.)