Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Well, not quite Dead Man

Ah yes, that’s a little more like it. I’m feeling a bit better, today. Still some congestion but, thank goodness, no fever. There’s still a general feeling of malaise that will usually accompany such spirals in health. At least I was able to get some much needed rest, which I’m sure will be a more obvious benefit in the next day or two. Finding myself completely waylaid and bedridden was like a scene out of “Dead Man" (Johnny Depp). I’ve viewed that film a few times and I can never get over the genuine attempt at realism in terms of presenting images of the old West. It occurs to me that most moviegoers really don’t want to see the filth and insanity of that place and time. They would rather maintain a fictionalized view more in keeping with the notions of traditional “heroes” and villains” (with the occasional crossover). I’ve read enough about the old West to have a pretty decent understanding of the danger and squalor lurking on every street and back alley. So, when I see a film like “Unforgiven”, I can appreciate the vague stab at authenticity at some level. However, to equate that view of the West with true authenticity is seriously laughable.
One of my favorite scenes in “Dead Man” involves Depp traveling by train from the East to the far reaches of the frontier West. This was done in brilliant fashion and gives us the sensation of slowly leaving civilization while heading straight to an outlying suburb of Hell. Average, everyday people begin to give way to ruthless primitives as Depp's character heads to a promised accountant job in the nightmare town of "Machine". Watching Depp’s character initial introduction to the town is, probably, the most realistic vision of the extreme frontier that you’re ever likely to see on film.
Depp’s subsequent encounter with an enigmatic Native American named “Nobody” and his alternating horrific and hysterical adventures serve to illustrate the effects of the barbarism of the old West and it’s ability to wear away one’s veneer of civilization. Add to this a highly appropriate and haunting soundtrack by Neil Young and you have a film that tends to stay with you for quite some time. Although it occasionally tries a little too hard to be “meaningful” and cutting edge, it certainly is a solid cult film. I recommend it highly.


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