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Tag: James Caan

QuickView: El Dorado (1966)

El Dorado

“I’m looking at a tin star with a drunk pinned on it.”


Howard Hawks’ penultimate film was a western marketed on starring both John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. Wayne’s honourable hired gunslinger is the real lead, burdened by a bullet received early in the film that provides tension through the ever-present threat of incapacitation despite his skill. Mitchum’s sheriff demands greater range as a proud man lost to drink and desperate to re-earn the respect of the town he serves. The smart script’s dry wit works better than attempts at broader comedy, particularly one character performing a grotesque (but thankfully brief) Chinese caricature. Although El Dorado is prime material for Hawks, it suffers a little from the comparison demanded by its striking similarities to Hawks’ earlier masterpiece in Rio Bravo, with its lawman turned to drink and a gunslinger defending the town jail against a gang trying to release a prisoner. Despite being a variation on the same theme, the fact that El Dorado nevertheless stands on its own is a testament to Hawks and his deft use of the altered friendship between aging lead characters, with an underlying sense of regret lending gravitas.


QuickView: Out of Blue (2019)

Out of Blue quad poster

“Do you know your place in the universe? Do you know where you are?”

Jennifer Rockwell

Out of Blue is a mesmerising noir mystery that prizes atmosphere and a singular perspective over its meandering plot, calling to mind Donnie Darko (down to the soundtrack’s use of The Killing Moon) without quite descending into Lynchian madness. Director Carol Morley draws the female detective and cosmology elements as ingredients from Martin Amis’ Night Train, but mixes her own cocktail with a strong visual language and an unusually British lens on a New Orleans setting. Patricia Clarkson is perfect as detective Mike Hoolihan, comfortably wearing the typically male noir tropes whilst her character wryly wards off a complaint, “there’s many ways to be a woman.” Mike’s murder investigation draws parallels with the work of her theoretical physicist suspects, particularly the notion of observation changing results. Not only does observation alter Mike’s understanding of the present (she is routinely pictured closely observing evidence through a magnifying glass) and her own past, but one also reflects on whether the audience members, by observing different clues, each create a different a film. This idea fits with Morley’s desire to make the film “spacious enough that people can insert themselves”. There are definite parallels with True Detective‘s first season, with its similarly atmospheric take on Louisiana, its pervasive sense of dread, and the anticlimactic result of its more inscrutable fantastic imagery which never quite lands. And, just the same, Out of Blue lingers hauntingly afterward.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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