A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974)

No, I never saw it before. When it first came out, I was busy becoming a father and trying to be a proper assistant professor of English. And there was never a time after that when I felt I could impose a viewing of the video on my household. Now, in the privacy of my own little room, I can indulge myself. Not much of an indulgence, as it turns out: Though it's brilliant in its own way, it's also one of the most unpleasant movies I've ever forced myself to watch. I'm surprised, nonetheless, that Tobe Hooper turned out to be pretty much a one-hit wonder -- that is, if you believe the rumors that Poltergeist (1982) was mostly directed by Steven Spielberg. And even the stunning (almost literally) effect of Chain Saw on the course of the horror movie depends in large measure on the cinematography of Daniel Pearl, the editing of Larry Carroll and Sallye Richardson, and especially the art direction of Robert A. Burns, which has been the source of creepy old house settings ever since, from The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991) to the first season of True Detective (Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2014). Chain Saw is full of tremendously effective and even hilarious moments -- I still find the hen in the bird cage one of the movie's most inspired bizarre devices, and Hooper perfectly stages the scene in which Sally (Marilyn Burns) thinks she has escaped from Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) and found refuge at the gas station. As she waits for the proprietor (Jim Siedow) to take her to safety, we concentrate on the open door, fully expecting Leatherface to burst through it at any moment, and we share her relief when the proprietor's truck appears outside, only to realize that the worst is yet to come. The film is surprisingly bloodless by contemporary standards, but we don't really need to see heads and limbs lopped off for it to make its effects. I'm just glad I never have to watch it again.

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