Sunday, September 25, 2011

'I will not allow violence against this house'

One of my all-time favourite movies is Straw Dogs, Sam Peckinpah's gripping 1971 film that pits a sensitive academic played by Dustin Hoffman against a group of Cornish country boys bent on a bit of -- in the term used in another film released the same year, A Clockwork Orange -- ultraviolence.

The film is often described as 'controversial' and is frequently condemned, above all for a (in my view, unjustly) much criticised rape scene; however, I find it to be a compelling (and to some extent timeless) exploration of the position of the 'civilised' man in 'uncivilised' contexts.

The fact that the original has been remade is, in my view, both interesting and appalling. Since I find the original to be almost perfect, I'm sceptical about the re-make. However, Melissa Lafsky at The Awl offers a relatively positive review of the new version that highlights the strengths of the old.

E.g., commenting on Dustin Hoffman's peformance in the original, Lafsky notes:

There's something baseline archetypal in the plight of a small man. His struggle is the struggle, the inescapable fight to triumph over one's immutable circumstances. He can do whatever is in his power—obtain expensive degrees, make bank, build up intellectual capital—to raise his social valuation. But he's never going to be the guy you veer away from on the sidewalk.
Man, how have I wished at times to be 'the guy you veer away from on the sidewalk'.

Unfortunately, it's just not in my character (or physique).

I guess I'll have to be content with 'intellectual capital'.

Lafsky's review is worth reading. And (at least the original) is worth watching.

All for now: I need to get back to cleaning my guns.

(Title reference)

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