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INAPPROPRIATEPLANK

Art, Life & Earth. THROUGH THE EYES OF A DEAF SNOWBOARDING MUSIC NUT.

Category Archives: FILM

8/10 MASTERS AT WORK

I’m a firm believer in the old adage “Less Is More” in all aspects of creativity. If a piece of art can stand alone without any superfluous layers, stripped back to it’s core elements, and still be art then it has truly succeeded. From the simplistic brilliance of Pong to the bare bones of the Blues, less is always more in my book.

Rarely has this been better exemplified in film than by John Boorman(Deliverance, Point Blank)’s criminally overlooked 1968 epic Hell In The Pacific. Only two actors appear throughout, filmed almost entirely on one tiny enclosed beach and with only a handful of lines of dialogue, it is testament to Boorman’s skills as a director that such power results. The direction is matched by fine performances from two giants of the era, a stark score and some claustrophobic cinematography.

The story is simple. Two sworn enemies find themselves stranded on a tiny Pacific island where, away from the war that put them there, they wage a mini-war against each other and then with their own prejudices. A game of cat and mouse ensues and the pendulum swings one way then the other before realisation sets in that they need each other if they are to escape. The lack of common language means communicating these complex stages of emotion is an often brutal process. But the lack of dialogue AND lack of any female presence and subsequent sexual angle means their relationship and personal battle is stripped back to it’s very essence.

In the 1960s there were few names bigger in their respective countries than Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune. Both deserve praise for taking on these risky roles at that stage of their career. As a non Japanese speaker, for me Toshiro Mifune’s (Seven Samurai, Paper Tiger & many Akira Kurosawa classics) performance stands out. I have no idea what he’s saying throughout the entire film, so the fact that he communicates so much to the audience speaks volumes in itself. Boorman’s decision to not use subtitles was brave but in my opinion adds so much to the film. It makes Marvin’s ¬†plight so much more vivid to the English speaking audience, as it does vice versa for Mifune’s japanese audience (I guess).

Conrad Hall’s cinematography veers from idyllic paradise to suffocating isolation while Lalo Schifrin delivers a potent and uncharacteristically minimalist score which allows the silence and the waves space to hypnotise.

I could wax lyrical here about the underlying metaphors for mankind’s appetite for destruction. But to do so would mean discussing THAT ending and spoiling this for those who’ve not seen it. This is a film that really should be watched with no prior knowledge of the plot intricacies.

I love this film. It should get FAR more attention than it does. Maybe that’s because of the utterly shit title, or Lee Marvin’s falling out of vogue in the 70s. But whatever the reason, this film is a timeless classic and a display of 5 big guns firing in their creative primes.

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