Monday, October 23, 2006

[1980] THE STUNT MAN: I rewatched this to see if I could justify the impossibly high ranking I was going to give it--and I almost can. There's a stretch near the end where Peter O'Toole is no longer on the screen and we're bogging down in the Railsback/Hershey romance and you can sort of feel the energy leaking out of the picture. But the first 90 minutes or so and the ending are pure gold. It's a metamovie that's amazingly uncynical--unlike most metamovies where the directors sort of rub it in your face that YES MOVIES MANIPULATE YOU YOU DUMB RUBE, Rush takes that as a feature, not a bug. It's like the central condition of the universe of The Stunt Man; nobody's ever who they say they are, except when they are. Hershey isn't in love with Railsback, except when she is. O'Toole's a manipulating monster (almost always ensconced in a machine; he's like a supervillain in that crane-propelled director's chair) except when he isn't. Even the clearly everymannish Railsback starts to doubt his own simplicity, screaming out "I'm real!" to O'Toole's Eli near the end. It's so playful and energetic, admitting artifice while the same time reveling in it (unlike Cruising, or your usual De Palma, where manipulation is trotted out as something that always leans sinister.) The proverbial million billion stars.

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