SAKURA in KYOTO 2018 Back to Kansai
Hello Chit Chat Film Club students, here is your Chit Chat Film Club Film Czar, ready to discuss this week's Chit Chat Film Club Film Of The Week - Cutter's Way.
Apologies for the 24 hour delay. I was out.
Spoilers, spoilers, you know there must be spoilers.
It has been many years since I saw Cutter's Way, but I was so pleased to get a copy recently, because it stuck in my mind as being a very strong picture. And I am pleased to say I was correct. Watching it again tonight, I could remember almost nothing, and so, much of the film came as a surprise to me, which added to the pleasure. I recalled the strength of the main characters, especially the crippled veteran. But I was shocked at how little of the story was thriller and how much was a very subtle character study, and the inter-play between intimate friends. And at how incredible good the playing was.
I've said before that I think very little of Actors, that too often they are Acting and they fail. But in this little picture, there is some cracking acting, helped by very neat, short dialogue, lots of good pauses and looking, and plenty of room for it all to play out.
The film is built on a plot of a witness (Bone) to a body being dumped realising it that the killer is the uber-rich oil baron (Cord) who owns Santa Barbara, and the witness' embittered friend (Cutter) and the victim's sister trailing to nail the baron by blackmailing him.
The film is actually about the love triangle between Bone, a drifter, gigolo, and emotional coward, Cutter's wife Mo, an alcoholic drinking to kill the pain, and Cutter, missing a leg, arm and eye and seething with rage for his loss. The way these people play out in various combinations is remarkable, driven by the brutal remarks of Cutter constantly saying what they are thinking, constantly pushing at acceptable boundaries, and not in any nice, kind, witty way.
Finally, Bone gets to fuck Mo, who he's been chasing in a mild way because he thinks he loves her. Her conflict is blatantly clear. He promises not to leave her, but as she starts to sleep, he slips away, and she wakes, and knows she was right of course. The next morning, she is dead, burnt to a cinder in her house. Cord is responsible, but as Bone tries to tell Cutter that Mo was very depressed after he left, Cutter nails his arrogance that Mo would kill herself over his betrayal.
The whole film is amazingly mature. It's very adult in it's approach and handling. The presentation of a crippled man is very powerful, and his manipulation of everyone around him (the neighbours, the cop) by exploiting his wounds is brutal. The set up of the characters at the start, and the way they are allowed to play out naturally is gripping, and the actual plot is almost incidental if only to drive them along.
It's shot in a very simple, clear way. You follow the people at eye level, mostly at a distance, watching them inter-act. Occasionally you follow their gaze, and see what they see. But there's nothing tricky in this film, it's all plain sailing and nothing gets in your way of watching them and their motivations.
And the film died a death. It was revived briefly as an art film and gained kudos at film festivals, but it died a death. Because the studio heads who commissioned it left, and the new heads didn't gain if it succeeded (why did the old heads get fired if the film was a hit) and didn't lose if died (hey, it wasn't our choice, we wouldn't have made it). And so they killed it. They spent nothing on promotion, and only glowing second week reviews gave the film any chance.
Hollywood is about money. Mostly making money, but sometimes losing it. The idea that movies are art is bunkum. This doesn't stop artists working in Hollywood and it doesn't stop great art being produced. But that is never Hollywood's aim. If it happens, it's more by luck than judgement. Sometimes, because of studio politics, or because of tax laws, it's actually more cost effective for a picture to fail. Amortisation and accountants mean more than cinematography and script writers.
But today, you can still get lucky and pick up a genuinely original, different, adult, modern, intelligent, challenging, honest movie for just £3.99 or 6 for £20. Bargain.