Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day 306: Wise Blood (1979) - Rank 3.5/5


This was a film that my departed friend Carl burned for me two years ago. Recalling that I still hadn't watched it after all this time, I popped it in, waxing back to the day he gave me a copy. He gave me a bootleg from his laserdisc, unprompted, after a discussion the two of us had had on character actors (as best as I recall, we'd been chatting about M. Emmet Walsh and Harry Dean Stanton). The film features Stanton in a pivotal role and was one of John Huston's last films. I remarked, "I take it that it's pretty good since you're giving me a copy," and he replied, "'s different for Huston. Brad Dourif and Harry Stanton are a lot of fun. I don't know if I'd label it good, but it's definitely interesting."

Carl's opinion summed it up pretty well for me. Dourif, who has gone on to lend his talents to the likes of "Critters 4," "Exorcist III," "Seed of Chucky" and Rob Zombie's "Halloween II" truly shines here as Hazel Motes, a disillusioned war veteran who returns to his home town only to find it's practically a ghost town. The purchase of a new hat leads folks to assuming that he's a preacher, so he dons the role for a chance at making a buck and making something for himself. Equally as impressive is Harry Dean Stanton as the primary antagonist - a street preacher who's more con man than man of God. Motes hails his church as a church without Christ and attracts an eccentric little following, but soon his introspective nature gets the best of him and he becomes driven towards making himself seen more prophetic. You're never sure whether his change of mind comes from a genuine belief in what he preaches or it's merely a way of outdoing the showmanship of his rival, and that ambiguity lingers on your palette long after the credits have rolled. It's certainly not a film for everyone, but if you're a fan of Stanton or Dourif, it's well worth a watch because these are certainly two of the best roles of their careers.

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