Sunday 21 August 2011

Bunch of Cults No.5: Scarecrow

Previous in this series can be found here
Gene Hackman and Al Pacino star in the small 1973 movie Scarecrow. Two itinerant men, one just out of prison, the other the navy, strike up a friendship as they thumb a ride across America, each with a goal.

The Hook
Two great actors in a movie you've never heard of, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes.

Why has this film been forgotten? It's slow and very 70's in its approach. And deals with issues that may well no longer be relevant.

Live up to the Hype?
In terms of acting the two leads are polar opposites. Pacino does it full on method (btw when did Pacino's voice switch from squeaky mumbling to full-on Foghorn Leghorn?) and Hackman is the epitome of old school screen acting. Their scenes together (which is most of the movie) are fantastic. Pacino acts the fool while Hackman looks at him like he's an idiot.

It really isn't about very much. In superficial terms the story is very low key and basic. One guy is uptight and doesn't trust anyone. He's got some money put away and he's going to rely on himself and no one else. 

The other guy is laid back and light-hearted. He think scarecrows don't scare crows away, they amuse them into leaving the crops alone, and approaches life the same way.

Both men realise they are too stuck in their ways, and move towards each other. But they also have to deal with the rest of the world and it's the younger, free-spirited one who falls prey to life's cruelties.

This film, like many made at the time, is about the world and the way it was changing. The older, conservative generation felt bitter and marginalised, while the younger, more liberal one, didn't want to be tied down by responsibilities. And the clash of the two, the build up of mutual respect, and ultimately the realisation by Gene Hackman's character that the irresponsibility of youth is also one of it's delights, leads him to change as a man.

When he is faced with a senseless fight in a bar he does an impromptu striptease instead, diffusing the situation.
Even though it is a very slow moving story with little urgency, the scale of the metaphor, the way they represent two different sides of the American population of the time, drives the narrative forward. And it makes me wonder why stories today never seem to be about the people of today. 

Yes, the issues are represented, terrorism, financial collapse, comupter running amok and what have you. But when was the last time you saw a movie that was about things you recognised as real life? Is it no longer possible to dramatise reality without adding explosions or fake tans? And are these larger than life stories we're forcefed there to keep us interested or to keep us distracted?


Sign ups for Rachael Harries's Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign have started. Join in if you want to hook up with other writers and get your website a few more followers. The list closes August 31st.


Suze said...

The last two questions in the final paragraph of your post are ones for which I would like answers, too.

MC said...

Maybe the movies of today do show a shade of real life, though not on purpose. The mainstream movies are shallow and so is modern person. Anyways, I enjoyed reading this very intriguing post.

mooderino said...

@Suze-I'd like to think there's still hope for the movie industry. Of course, it's hard to be subtle in 3D.

@MC-you make a valid point.

Anonymous said...

You're right. I haven't heard of this movie. Both actors are great. I'll check out Netflix and see if its there. Have a great week!

Brent Wescott said...

I've not seen this one, but I used to love movies like this. But as I've gotten older, I have less time and less patience. Is that why they don't make movies like this any more. Does everyone have less time and less patience?

Trisha said...

Sounds like a pretty cool movie!

Alleged Author said...

Sometimes I think it's more to keep us distracted from what is really going on in the world. I'm going to look this up on Netflix!

Weaver said...

I know, right? If you don't immediately go there and get everyone's hearts pumping, they're bored.

LD Masterson said...

I think the earlier comments about the lack of patience is a big factor. Everything today is about the destination. No one is interested in just enjoying the journey.

Ellie Garratt said...

Never heard of this movie! I'll have to look it out.

mooderino said...

@Stephen-worth checking out. No 3D glasses required.

@Brent-I think so. We'd all like to think we have the right kind of disposition to be considerd and thoughtful, but then someone starts screaming for jelly.

@Trisha-not bad.

@Alleged-I think making money is so important now it puts every other endeavour in the shade.

@Donna-still, the way a kid can fixate on a video game shows they can still be focused. Just need to find the right thing (preferably not blowing people's heads off with a shotgun).

@LD-I agree, but I don't think it's possible to turn back the clock. We have to find ways to provide interesting alternatives, I think.

Crystal said...

Interesting - never heard of this movie, but I do like Al Pacino!

Nice to meet you, fellow Campaigner! ;-)

Raquel Byrnes said...

Hello fellow campaigner...just stopping by to say hello!
Edge of Your Seat Romance

Katie Gates said...

Hello from a fellow Campaigner. Having just seen "The Help" over the weekend, I'm happy to report that there is at least one GREAT movie out there that isn't all over the place with explosions and distracting high-speed graphics. I agree with LD Masterson's comment re destination vs. journey. I personally love reading, watching, and writing about the journey.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I totally have never seen this movie. Perhaps I should

Samantha said...

I have never heard of this movie, but I really do love Gene Hackman! You bring up questions that I have never really thought about when it comes to movies. Thanks for the great post!

Writing Through College

P.S. Check out my blog. I may or may not have some sort of reward for you :)

Golden Eagle said...

I've never heard of it, either--it sounds like an interesting movie. Thanks for the post!

dolorah said...

Literary fiction - character driven fiction - is under-valued in todays action driven society. Perhpas this movie was also a dying product in a changing time, and only the specific actors sold the movie as well as it did.

Genre's change so frequently.

I'm not participating in Rachael's platform building this time, but I wish you luck in the endeavor.


mooderino said...

@Ellie-it's fun watching actors who are good at what they're doing.


@Raquel-hello to you too.

@Katie-Winter's Bone is another good recent film.

@Michael-it is quite an odd film by today's standards.

@Samantha-Hackmann is a great actor. Thanks for the award!

@Golden-thanks to the internet nothing gets forgotten (not always a good thing).

@Donna-I think there was quite a strong plot/conflcit to the film, just that it wasn't aliens and gunfights and end of the world type stuff. Just people problems.

Ciara said...

I've never heard of this movie. I think I'm going to have to check it out. Oh, I can't believe it is time for the Crusade Challenge again. :)

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

Excellent post -- especially your final questions.
I liked this film back in the day but haven't thought about it in years.

M Beth Vaughn

Hart Johnson said...

I think the reason we don't see this is related to the reason we don't see this... lemme e'splain... People today are shallow and vapid (erm... not everyone, but the masses who make or break what is seen as 'successful entertainment'). This means BOTH that we have too short of attention spans to enjoy anything subtle or deep AND that we are uninteresting to watch... (unless we are playing some strange TV reality game which are not the REAL of us anyway)... or that's how I see it anyway. I love early Pacino and ALL Hackman, so I may have to see if I can find this (not to mention it's my childhood)

Sarah Tokeley said...

This sounds like the sort of thing I want to watch when I'm on my own. No explosions, no aliens, just people being people in all their dirty glory.

Don't get me wrong, there's a place for the other stuff too, but I like to catch my breath sometimes.

Hello from another campaigner, btw.

anthony stemke said...

I've heard of this film but never have seen it. Sounds interesting though.

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