Tracker; The Twilight Samurai;
Super Size Me and A Slipping Down Life
Reviewed by Dennis Morton
Aired 5/25 and
of movies to talk about this week.
Ill start with The Tracker, an Australian film starring
the charismatic David Gulpilil as the eponymous protagonist.
This movie has as its subjects racism, revenge, justice and
deceit. It might be called an Australian western. The story
is simple, on the surface. A posse of four men are in hot pursuit
of a fugitive accused of murdering a "white woman".
What happens along the way is what elevates this story of a
manhunt to near myth.
The Tracker is directed by Rolf de Heer and he employs narrative
techniques I cant recall being used before, at least this
creatively and effectively. de Heer uses a series of paintings
and a very long song, sung by the world renowned Archie Roach,
to tell crucial parts of his story.
The close-ups of David Gulpilils face bear close attention.
With great subtlty he registers a wide range of emotions and
serves as a counter point to the less than subtle behavior of
his putative superiors. The Tracker is the best film to bubble
up from Down Under in quite some time.
The Twilight Samurai is a film I almost didnt see. Ive
grown weary of the martial arts genre. But Im happy to
report that this film is far from what I expected. This is the
portrait of a man who was trained for an occupation that encroaching
modernity has rendered almost obsolete. He finds himself playing
the role of a minor accountant in the local royaltys warehouse
of comestibles. Hes literally a bean counter. If his professional
life is less than stimulating, his home life is even more challenging.
As the film opens, his wife dies and he is left with an ageing
mother and two young daughters to support.
Clan politics and familial pride, represented in the person
of a patrician uncle, set in motion a series of events that
lead to an absolutely great final scene. I will say only that
it involves a confrontation between two anachronisms, and that
it is great filmmaking. The Twilight Samurai is one terrific
movie and I urge you not to miss it.
The third film worthy of your hard earned dollars is a documentary
called Super Size Me. I found it at once hilarious and deeply
disturbing. This movie has received a lot of press. You may
have heard Terri Gross interview the director and star of the
film, Morgan Spurlock. Having seen the film, I cant now
believe that anyone else could have made it work. Spurlock,
with a disarming sense of humor and no apparent animus for his
enormous and enormously powerful target, succeeds in eviscerating
McDonalds. You probably know by now that Spurlock, at
considerable risk to his health, turned himself into a human
guinea pig. For thirty days he ate nothing but McDonalds
fast foods. You probably also know what happened to him. But
just in case you dont, Im not telling. I will tell
you to see this important, funny and serious film. I almost
didnt. Even though I havent dined at McDonalds
for decades, the premise seemed too cute. I was wrong. Everyone
should see it. And especially folks still hooked on McDonalds.
Ill say only a few words about A Slipping Down Life. I
wanted so much to like this movie. It opens with Nanci Griffiths
great version of the Stephen Foster gem, "Hard Times, Come
Again No More". Any director with the good taste to put
the spotlight on Nanci Griffith, and also the good taste to
employ Lili Taylor for her lead has my immediate attention.
Sadly, this well intentioned film is an example of stellar components
adding up to a disappointing whole. I wont say dont
see it, because there is a real story at the heart of
this effort. And there are more than a few snippets of satisfying
But first time director Toni Kalem cant quite get the
promising pieces into a tight frame.
For KUSPs Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.