marți, 9 mai 2017

Straight Time, based on the novel by Edward Bunker, directed by Ulu Grosbard and Dustin Hoffman

Straight Time, based on the novel by Edward Bunker, directed by Ulu Grosbard and Dustin Hoffman

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

Straight Time has been included on The New York Times ‘Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made, which you can access here:

To start with a conclusion:

-          I have not been all that thrilled

Yes, the film is good, but not on a level with:

-          Casablanca, Godfather, Citizen Kane, The Seventh Seal and so on

It could also be a case where I have learned more about the actor in the leading role and not endearing details.
Dustin Hoffman could be really obnoxious.

A classic on films, cinema, movie making, stars, scripts and directors with a lot of insight on all things connected with Hollywood is:

-          Adventures in The Screen Trade by William Goldman

In the book, we learn about the making of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, for which the author has won the Academy Award, what Redford did after the movie became a huge success, later on his awful behavior regarding All The President’s Men, so many astonishing facts about the launching of Paul Newman, Marlon Brando and James Dean.
There are two passages on Dustin Hoffman, who has acted in Marathon Man, in the company of Roy Scheider and the God of Cinema –

-          Laurence Olivier

In a scene during which Hoffman was supposed to reach for a lantern, he refused to do that and kept Scheider and so many members of the crew waiting, just because he wanted his fans to keep thinking of him as macho.
In another, he took Laurence Olivier along for a practice walk that caused pain and suffering on the aged actor, who came on the set even if he was severely sick and acted with extreme dignity and professionalism.

In Straight Time, Dustin Hoffman plays the role of a prisoner named Max Dembo, who is released at the beginning of the film.
He appears to want to walk the Straight Time and get a job, enjoy freedom, without entering jail again.

Nevertheless, Earl Frank- very well portrayed by an actor that I like and I have first admired in Blood Simple- Emmet Walsh-the parole officer is an evil man.
Even if Max Dembo tries to respect the rules and limitations of his parole, there is no way to satisfy this irritating man.

Earl Frank sends Max Dembo to prison on flimsy if not altogether trumped up charges and this is the drop that fills the bucket.
Once he is out and on the road with his parole man, Max takes his revenge, kicks the loathsome Earl and then ties him up with his handcuffs to a fence on the highway, while pulling his pants and underwear down to humiliate the awful officer.

From here on it is a downfall.
There was some light and promise of better times and redemption once Max has met with Jenny Mercer.
She is a young woman that I felt could represent the saving, perhaps even the absolution of the former criminal.
Alas, it was not to be.

Without giving any details that could mean spoilers, I will just say that forced in part by the rotten system, Max is forced to find alternatives.
But he is no angel.

Indeed, a main element that ads to the interest in this film is the complexity of the character, who is pushed around by the cruel man who was supposed to help him back on his feet, but at the same time he is no innocent victim.
Even if the circumstances are not favorable, most people do not get involved in robberies, with or without a mean man to affect their chances.

The film is very good.

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