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

Friday, April 13, 2018

Midnight Express (Alan Parker, 1978)

Randy Quaid, John Hurt, and Brad Davis in Midnight Express
Billy Hayes: Brad Davis
Susan: Irene Miracle
Tex: Bo Hopkins
Rifki: Paolo Bonicelli
Hamidou: Paul L. Smith
Jimmy Booth: Randy Quaid
Erich: Norbert Weisser
Max: John Hurt
Mr. Hayes: Mike Kellin
Yesil: Franco Diogene
Stanley Daniels: Michael Ensign
Chief Judge: Gigi Ballista
Prosecutor: Kevork Malikyan
Ahmet: Peter Jeffrey

Director: Alan Parker
Screenplay: Oliver Stone
Based on a book by William Hayes and William Hoffer
Cinematography: Michael Seresin
Production design: Geoffrey Kirkland
Film editing: Gerry Hambling
Music: Giorgio Moroder

Late in Midnight Express there's a line that suggests the reason Billy Hayes was confined so long in Turkish prisons is that he became a pawn in the negotiations between the Nixon administration and the government of Turkey over the cultivation of opium poppies. If true, that's a much more interesting story than the one the film tells, which is hardly a story at all, but just a grim sadomasochistic slog through the degrading experiences of Hayes, tinged with a bit of homoeroticism. Oliver Stone won an Oscar for his screenplay, which was only a foreshadowing of more of the same to come from Stone as he worked out his darker impulses on screen. The absence of anything more than a hint of what was going on to try to extract Hayes from his predicament, even to explain how he got into it (who, for example, is the shadowy American called Tex, who is "something like" a consular official?) turns the film into one long wallow in misery and a rather devastating one-sided portrait of the country of Turkey.

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