KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (17)
August 17, 2017
One of 25 installments in a series of enthusiastic posts analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite neo-noir movies from the Sixties (1964–1973).
FAT CITY | d. JOHN HUSTON | 1972
When I first moved to Los Angeles and told people I was from Bakersfield, they almost always recoiled. “God, what a shithole,” went the honest replies. “Oh no, I’m so sorry for you,” went the dishonest ones. Bakersfield is only a hundred miles from Los Angeles, but it’s in the Central Valley, a different universe.
It’s a hell of a task to make people understand the difference. People in Los Angeles don’t go to the Central Valley, they go through it, and they do this as fast as they can. Maybe it’s the heat, which is horrible, or the lack of water, which is horrible, or the air, which is horrible. Maybe it’s the dust or the stark signs of economic devastation. The things that are bad about the Central Valley are so visceral and immediate that it’s hard to make people believe you when you say that there’s beauty there, that it inspires great American art.
One of the best examples is John Huston’s Fat City (1972), a film that’s as much about the Central Valley and what it’s like to live and die there as it is about boxing. The first character we see is the city of Stockton. It’s beat up and ragged. We survey the streets, the old part of town, the drifters and the men without work. We meet our protagonist, Tully (Stacy Keach), as he wakes up in a motel room. He’s a washed-up boxer who sleeps with a pint and a pack of cigarettes on his bedside table.
He’s itinerant, a drunk, a man who gets up in the middle of the night to take work in the fields as a picker for $5 a day. He had a wife and lost her, and he has just a sliver of hope, the hope that he can fight again, that he gradually loses. He meets a kid with promise, Ernie (Jeff Bridges), who’s looking at his same dark road and the same small hope.
It’s not the plot, it’s the mood. Fat City is a meditation on people who don’t have much of a shot. About loneliness and holding on at the outskirts of society and how we cope with it. About what a fight it is to stay alive when you’re broke in Stockton. It’s blindingly real, free of affect, a gorgeous and plaintive study of people and landscapes movies seldom show us.
KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Series Introduction | Kio Stark on THE KILLERS | Alix Lambert on BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | Judith Zissman on ALPHAVILLE | Mark Kingwell on HARPER | Lynn Peril on BLOW-UP | Devin McKinney on SECONDS | Drew Daniel on BRANDED TO KILL | Luc Sante on POINT BLANK | Gordon Dahlquist on LE SAMOURAÏ | Alice Boone on LE CERCLE ROUGE | Brian Berger on COTTON COMES TO HARLEM | Adrienne Crewe on PERFORMANCE | David Levine on THE FRENCH CONNECTION | Dan Fox on GET CARTER | Melissa Gira Grant on KLUTE | Brandi Brown on SHAFT | Kaleb Horton on FAT CITY | Peter Doyle on THE GETAWAY | Sarah Weinman on HICKEY & BOGGS | Annie Nocenti on BADLANDS | Josh Glenn on CHARLEY VARRICK | Gary Groth on THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE | Lisa Jane Persky on THE LONG GOODBYE | Mimi Lipson on MEAN STREETS | Sherri Wasserman on SOYLENT GREEN.
MORE MOVIES at HILOBROW: KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: 25 neo-noirs of the Sixties (1964–1973) | James Parker’s BOURNE VARIATIONS series | Alix Lambert’s SÉRIE NOIRE series | Jacob Mikanowski’s SCREEN TIME series | Josh Glenn’s SHOCKING BLOCKING series | Joanne McNeil’s ALL MY STARS series | MORE: including dozens of HILO HERO items on movie directors and actors.
KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.