Top positive review
Small Town Lives
on 9 March 2011
Love it???? Not really, I would have to be as lop sided as Lou Ford to "love it." The film does mumble along as Lou talks as much to himself as the camera, revealing his inner self in an outer dialogue; the killer inside him. Whilst most killer films have something inherently bad and rotten, especially anything stamped made in America, this is ambigious in its morality. The protagonist is a policeman who is deadly to friend and foe. He is a lover who consumes his prey, a law man who breaks the law, a friend who betrays and the only constant is his hatred sharpened to a tip of the hat and a cheeky smile. He is Jim Thompson's Dad turned into the film.
The violence is unremitting. Mysoginist? no its mysanthropic, the hatred is emotional, cascading onto anyone who gets in his way. Trying working in the DV field to understand the brutality of the male perpetrator, his words of love and the female response, escape from and fascination with the only form of love on offer that has a feeling, even if it is pure violence. Lou picks his women because he knows he can dominate them sexually and emotionally. Jessica Benjamin's "Bonds of Love" brought to film.
Thompson wrote a tour de force in the 1950's and this was all the greater because he put psychology years ahead through writing it in fiction, creating a far greater leap than most psychology books until the 1990's. See Jim Gilligan's book on "Violence" for the leap ahead.
Lou Ford lost his mother in childbirth, the father smashed the son emotionally and physically, the carer seduced him into sexual violence. He re-enacted it on a young girl, his playmate adopted brother took the rap. A highly complex sub plot but for anyone who works in the sexual violence field, complexity is not uncommon.
His brother is murdered by the town bigwig for reporting him about health and safety, not exactly unknown in the union arena. Lou takes revenge on women, men and the bigwig, through plotting a cold form of malevolence. Mean while he plays the dumb corn on everyone who could swallow the hick from the stick routine.
The film is hot in real time, a type of hot bothered fly on the wall of West Texas as he drives up and down against a backdrop of oil fields and small towns. This is a bleak picture of life in the outback, where outer politeness hides a will to power. The sex scenes coupled with love hitched to the extreme violence rinse the emotions.
Those who feign boredom in watching this film simply need to take a needle and insert it into the flesh of their thighs to ascertain whether they have a nervous system. Those who start fumbling around in the midrift when Jessica is beaten need to make an appointment with someone more balanced who can help straight them out because this film screams HELP!!
An unremitting picture of institutional power and violence cascading through the monetary, political and social elites onto outsiders; boys, bums and women. Thompson deliberately pictured this as a mirror of the society around him in the backwaters. It still exists without a ripple in the silver halide image.
Filmic bizarre includes Charlie Feathers, One hand loose and a raft of hillbilly country songs about the sweet surreal nature of love to the most deadly of corn addled men, Lou Ford. He is never the archetypal villain, a softly spoken good old boy, tipping his hat, helping the downtrodden but all the time consumed with something clawing inside, not the Bad Seed of childhood but the memories he is trying to hide, only his brother only knows, the violence behind the middle class charade of the Doctor's family.
This will unsettle those who consider they live in the glass bubble of social inclusion where Midsommer Murders provides a more cosy picture of country life, that is until you realise its about the local bigwigs up to no good. All engaged in a will to power to throttle thy neighbour. Jim Thompson was just miles ahead and set in a different continent, but he portrayed the same shilly shallying hippocrates.
Has that shattered the goldfish bowl of the curtain twitcher?