Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

Its brilliance and profundity were badly mistaken for other things entirely, and in a most particular sense by Peter Biskind, whose review is republished in a recent volume, possibly as an ecce homo.

Some few other critics have noticed major influences on the film, for instance: Jeff Bridges in travesty walking down the street is filmed so as to evoke the opening of Cool Hand Luke; Schatzberg’s Scarecrow is a fore-echo; Midnight Cowboy figures in.

The opening certainly recalls The Night of the Iguana with a minister of the Gospel driven out of the pulpit, by gunfire in this instance. Lightfoot simultaneously drives a used car off the lot, scot-free. They meet on the highway. The actual structure is essentially akin to Waiting for Godot, in an especially suggestive way. Two alone on the stage, two more who come and go (their first appearance is in the past, before the film begins). Not for nothing is the loot hidden behind a blackboard.

Most effective and most strange is the evocation of Montana out of winter’s grip somewhat tenuously, cooled by ice cream. Cimino’s remarkable sense of humor is what fails him, Biskind I mean, having no such faculty himself, far from it.

The fantastic beauty of invention is drawn from life, as witness the crazed rustic whose souped-up power car (in a down-home fashion) upends in a ditch with Eastwood and Bridges (hitchhikers) inside, whereupon the furious Montanan (Bill McKinney) steps out and opens the trunk, which is full of white rabbits that are released and shot at by the fellow with a rifle.

The idea of repeating the robbery because the building where the loot is hid no longer exists, and then finding that it does (after the second robbery is foiled), is the sort of structural reasoning that easily sustains a running gag like the night watchman reading a newspaper and easily frighted because he’s reading Playboy behind it, etc.

Critical theory, that peculiar two-edged sword which smites the Israelite on a divine pretext for the greater glory of Goliath, identifies rather backhandedly some of the features of this great and important film, such as George Kennedy’s heavy (with mustache and eyebrows). Halliwell, on the other hand, gives it rare praise: “well made on its level,” over his head.

The modus operandi appears to come from Brian G. Hutton’s Kelly’s Heroes. The relation of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot to Eastwood’s own later films as a director is certainly marked.


Year of the Dragon

A cursory overview of this film seems to indicate a grand desire to coordinate the Hong Kong of Charles Bail’s Cleopatra Jones and the L.A. of Polanski’s Chinatown within New York settings reportedly built in North Carolina. Similarly, Scorsese filmed Gangs of New York in Italy.


Desperate Hours

There isn’t an English-speaking critic, as far as I’m aware, who has the slightest idea of this film’s significance, and I’m inclined to wonder if the French aren’t bluffing in this instance. Anyway, they’re not letting on if they know, any of them, and for every 9 out of 10 writers who found the film execrable, there’s the one who took it at face value, or tried to.

It’s a satire from first to last of the stilted melodramatics that gradually emerged in the Eighties, played havoc with the cinema and utterly consumed television. Cimino doesn’t merely mock it, he takes it apart utterly by applying it as a stylistic update of Wyler’s masterpiece. It’s as simple as that, really, and the uninformed (because entirely unobservant) critics will prattle on about the classics like wild parrots.

Their salvation, the critics’ I mean, comes from the ordeal Cimino has provided. This is part of the drama, and until the last few minutes swiftly bring the film to a satisfying close, is nowhere relieved except for charming bits like the homage to John Ford (to the tune of “Red River Valley”), which only brought confusion under the circumstances. A certain amount of talk was wasted on Cimino’s camerawork here, which is not important. It actually redounds to the critics’ simple honesty, in a way, that they panned this picture, since they didn’t understand it and disliked it for the very same reason it was made in the first place.

A glimpse of Cimino’s technique may be gleaned from a recent interview given by Anthony Hopkins (who, like everyone else, is perfect in Desperate Hours). Hopkins believes this to be his own worst picture, found the production arduous, but did his best to soldier on. That’s a lesson from Wyler, who taught Audrey Hepburn how to cry, but he may have been misunderstood.


The Sunchaser

An extremely disagreeable satire in the Cimino mold. Snotty UCLA doctor is kidnapped by dying Navajoish gang-member and taken to Arizona tribal lands for healing cure.

Out of the city, sure enough, Appalachian Spring in Monument Valley, and then the sacred mountain, black granite and snow.