Monday, March 29, 2010

Deliverance (1972)

Dir: John Boorman
Warner Bros. Blu-ray

Firstly, I am about a week behind in writing this entry. This stems from a combination of laziness and design. I had decided to go with a unifier and chose to re-explore the films of John Boorman. I just watched the movies he made from 1967 - 77 (minus Leo The Last) and thought it was a good time to start putting my thoughts down. I started with Deliverance because I wanted to see the Blu-ray transfer and it had been too long since I had watched it, it looks fantastic. As for the movie, I believe that sometimes a moment in a film can overshadow the entire piece. I am, of course, referring to the "squeal like a pig" moment. The scene is often referenced and joked about and sometimes by people, whom I believe, haven't even seen the movie. This really is a testament to it that it can become part of the popular consciousness. The scene itself though, if we may get right to the elephant in the room, is utterly terrifying. Boorman's direction is patient and non-exploitative. As a viewer we feel just as helpless as Jon Voight and Ned Beatty do as these demented hillbillies terrorize and abuse them. So now that I've jumped right to the obvious moment, I will start from the beginning. In case you haven't seen Deliverance, it is about four friends that go on a rafting trip in the backwoods in the deep south before the woods are destroyed by developers. Voight plays the everyman, Beatty is the smart-ass, Burt Reynolds is the man's man and the reason for the trip, and Ronny Cox is the amiable, moral center. We find out through natural dialog and the subtle shifts in the actors' performances all we need to know about their characters so Boorman is never force feeding us information and nothing ever feels like exposition. Everything about Deliverance is about giving the viewer just enough, we're trusted to ascertain what's happening. There is almost no score during tense moments so we are never manipulated by an outside presence. Once the journey has gotten us to the harrowing scene I already mentioned, the film shifts to a feeling of paranoia. Our heroes fight back, but are never sure if they are in the right. Like many of the other films that Boorman made at this time, these men have to accomplish one very simple task laid before them, survival. It's a pitch perfect movie that is brilliantly composed and paced. It's an essential film that everyone should see.


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