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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Edge Of Outside On TCM

Some nice TCM producers sent me a DVD screener to look at and review on Greenbriar Picture Shows. I said OK even though six months with this site should have confirmed the fact that I am nobody’s idea of a legitimate film (or documentary) critic. Lots of other folks out on the Web have no doubt appraised Edge Of Outside by now, and since virtually all of them know more about independent filmmakers than I do, you should read them and not me today. Here’s how ignorant I am --- you know the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of John Cassevetes? Condemned men don’t have to drill! He’s totally Franco for me! --- always will be --- and that’s how dumb I am about Cassevetes. Should I go out and find his movies? I mean those outsider movies he directed where the camera jiggles around and goes out of focus. Well, I still liked Edge Of Outside --- enjoyed it more than I thought I would --- and that’s no backhanded compliment. I’m just a little suspicious of those rebel filmmakers. Maybe because I’m too conventional. Judging by the clips in this documentary, those guys were really intense. There were all kinds of bug-eyed close-ups, people running from one thing or another, characters creeping up dark alleys, humanity’s refuse falling into the abyss. I see those things most mornings at the place where I have breakfast, so I was not terribly shocked, but didn’t any of these indie rebels ever try to be funny every now and then? They mentioned Charlie Chaplin and Woody Allen during the show, but no scenes. Just more people getting their heads blown off. Edge Of Outside has vintage interview footage with Samuel Fuller and Nicholas Ray. If those old guys acted as kooky toward studio bosses during their directorial heyday as they do in these interviews, they’d have never gotten work. I always feel a little sorry for veteran filmmakers who lived past the mid-sixties and felt pressured from then on to establish and maintain their anti-establishment bonafides. Sam and Nick didn’t have to toot that rebel horn for a bunch of camp-following kids prodding them on to tell increasingly unlikely anecdotes about "subverting" Hollywood formulae. Their movies speak for themselves. Watching these old men bursting a blood vessel to show how non-conformist they’d been makes me wish I’d been there to say --- Hold it, Nick. Cool it, Sam. You don’t have to prove a thing to these brats. Have some cocoa and relax. You’ve earned it.

Old (before his time) Sam Peckinpah shows up too. Well, if he’s not a rebel, who is? Man, you could feel like a rebel just interviewing Sam. He sensed that too, cause he really plays up the image on these excerpts, going on about "good whores" and "bad whores" (as in directors) until I’d lost track of what the hell he was getting at. Do you suppose if Sam were around today they’d let him shoot the heads off those live chickens like he did back in 1973? Not me --- I think the dude would be sensitivity training-bound at the very least (and here’s my cue to post a nice shot of Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea from Sam’s Ride The High Country). Stanley Kubrick gets another airing as well. A critic named David Thomson, who wrote a good Biographical Dictionary Of Film a long while back, puts the needle to Stan --- something about the emperor having no clothes (but wait --- I like Barry Lyndon!). He also speaks of Orson Welles as though they were buddies. The whole time Welles was on camera, I kept wondering if he tied that elaborate Easter bow around his neck each day (you know, the one he wore with that ultra-oversized Paladin suit) or if it was a clip-on --- must have taken half the morning to get the thing just right. I have trouble enough with ordinary neckties, so I guess this is just further evidence of Welles’ genius. Did I mention that I liked this documentary? Well, I did, and you should watch it next time it’s on TCM. Just one more niggling concern as we close --- Is there anyone out there who doesn’t want to be a rebel? Don’t we all seek independent status, even when we order pizza? Since everyone identifies him (or her) self with the rebels, who’s left to fill the role of plodding, unimaginative functionary? Not me! I’m so rebellious that before this program was over, I was rebelling against the rebels. Where do I get the feeling that college students will like this show best? Honestly, it made me want to go out and shoot a feature myself, even though I’m way too old now. Wonder if there’s some place in town where I can get a flock of chickens …


Anonymous Ayres Orchids said...

LOL--John, you're too much! We are two peas in a pod on this sorta thing. "Ride the High Country" is the only Peckinpah I can take (and it's great), and my only knowledge of Cassavetes is his oddball TV show of 1959-60, Johnny Staccato. Some offbeat cable station ran it a few years back and I became addicted to it.

9:08 AM  
Blogger That Little Round-Headed Boy said...

Great review, John! I fell asleep on the edge of my bed watching EDGE OF OUTSIDE, but sorta enjoyed the interviews with Fuller, Ray and Peckinpah. Nothing new, and what was with those those intertitles with some brat punk throwing things around a room? I guess that's edgy.

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Mike In Ohio said...

I saw Edge of Outside as well. I took exception to the statement that Welles's films "never made money". I'm almost sure "Kane" showed a small profit. John, do you have any figures on Orsons films such as "The Stranger" and "Touch Of Evil"? It's almost like these guys want Welles to be a "pure" artist and don't like to think that his films could have shown a profit.

6:27 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Hey Mike --- I think you're right about Welles. Although my figures indicate that "Citizen Kane" lost $160,000 in 1942, "The Stranger" actually brought back world wide rentals of $2.9 million. Although I don't have the final P&L statement for that show, I would be hard pressed to think that it lost money with rentals like that.

7:10 PM  

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