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John Drew

Cormac McCarthy's The Sunset Limited

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Quick item from Variety. Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson will star in an adaptation of The Sunset Limited, with Jones directing as well. Interesting tidbit about Jones at one time having adapted Blood Meridian into a screenplay. Doesn't look like that's the script that Todd Field is using for his film.

Story here.


Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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One of the lesser-known works from No Country For Old Men author Cormac McCarthy is the play The Sunset Limited. It features two men, called simply Black, a Christian ex-con and White, and atheist professor, talking in Black’s home after he saves White from a would-be suicide dive into the path of a train.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Ouch!

The racial coding of the main characters suggests McCarthy has a condescending white liberal view of African-Americans and Caucasians -- that the black man is the natural man, the instinctive man, the simple man who's in touch with his true nature, while the white man is burdened by education and philosophy and just flat-out thinks too damn much. This is incidental, by the way -- I'm sure McCarthy would be horrified that anyone would get that sort of retrograde message from his writing -- but that's what comes through. The simple man, the Natural Man, which is to say The Black Man Inside All of Us, is the only thing preventing the human species from thinking itself into such a depressed state that it wants to give in to the dark allure of the Sunset Limited (the play's poetic euphemism for death or annihilation). One can interpret the whole thing as allegory and argue that none of it is "really happening," that Black is a philosophical construct or symbol or manifestation of White's anxieties, or perhaps a spirit guide interrogating White in a purgatorial way station between life and death. (Whenever White tries to leave the room, Black stops him.) But this possibility remains frustratingly undeveloped.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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From the Washington Post review:

What you have here is two men (Jones and Samuel L. Jackson) in a small apartment arguing for 90 minutes about the existence of God, a subject and a discussion many of us (believers and non) do what we can to avoid.

Warning: The ending is discussed below, so possible SPOILERS!

Yet, on the simple strength of McCarthy's talent for dialogue (a hallmark of his highly regarded novels), "The Sunset Limited" moves along at a beautiful and surprisingly thought-provoking clip. ...

Even after 90 minutes the unfinished argument between White and Black feels inconclusive and unsatisfying. Like many of McCarthy's novels, it ends in a poetic, speculative, existential truce.

"The Sunset Limited" embarks on a conversation that our noisy, contentious, fast-wired world seems reluctant to have, lest anyone get too offended: Is there a God? And if so, does he give a fig about you and me? And if there isn't a God, can we live with that?


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Either no one at A&F subscribes to HBO, or no one bothered to watch this film.

Or it's a total bust, unworthy of discussion.

Did anyone see it? Is everyone waiting for it to show up on DVD, like I am?


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Well, I don't have HBO (I don't have cable, period).

Re: THE SUNSET LIMITED, I like Cormac McCarthy and I find the subject matter of this play inherently interesting. But the trailers, which made the film feel quite stilted and artificial, have me thinking I'll hold off until it's on Netflix Instant.

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I don't have HBO. I don't have cable. I have two top-of-the-line digital antennae that can't produce a steady signal for network TV even in a city like Seattle.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I don't have HBO. I don't have cable. I have two top-of-the-line digital antennae that can't produce a steady signal for network TV even in a city like Seattle.

Amen, brother. Our rabbit ears in the lower level of our rambler are highly unreliable. But every week we sit down to watch "House," or "30 Rock," and we hope for the best. Our efforts often end in anger and tears, but still, we press on, fighting the good fight for "free TV."


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I have HBO, I just acquired it a couple of months ago, so it will be nice to be able to watch Game of Thrones without waiting for the DVD.

I saw The Sunset Limited over the weekend and enjoyed it. It's really just an extended conversation between Jackson's and Jones' characters, kind of like "My Dinner With Andre" except in a dingy rundown apartment. Jackson gives a believable performance as the religious man who is doing his best to evangelise to a man whom he sees as one of the "lost" who needs to be brought to faith. Jones is also believable as the athiest/agnostic whose melancholy expression shows a heart that is empty at the core. The dialogue touches on various touchtones of Christian apologetics, the existence of God, the problem of suffering, and questions about the afterlife. The theological discourse doesn't reach the complexity of a film like My Night at Maud's, so watching ninety straight minutes of this is a bit of as stretch. But the acting is top notch and really draws you into these men's spiritual tug-of-war.

Since this is Cormac McCarthy and not Kirk Cameron, this film isn't trying to coerce the audience into siding with one side of the debate or the other.

But I was moved by Samuel Jackson's character final plea to God, after he was unable to successfully convert Jones character. A mixture of faith, doubt, and exhaustion, throwing up his hands in exasperation. Here I think McCarthy understands something of the struggle of having faith and frustration over not seeing it work out the way you expect it to.

And Samuel Jackson sure can preach. Even when he's not quoting from the book of Ezekiel. :)

Edited by Crow

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perhaps more frightening than No Country For Old Men.

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Since this is Cormac McCarthy and not Kirk Cameron, this film isn't trying to coerce the audience into siding with one side of the debate or the other.

Never thought I'd see those two names in one sentence.


It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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I listened to the audiobook. Rather than start a new thread in the "Literature" area, I thought I'd post here, trusting that the teleplay is a close match for the written Sunset Limited.

I loved this. It wears it heresies on its sleeve, but knowing McCarthy's other work, I wasn't expecting a theology textbook. I was hoping for a stimulating theological discussion that would give me enough room to sort through the implications of what was being said.

I'm not sure if McCarthy stacked the deck in favor of theism, but Black -- the theistic character -- has the more compelling monologues. Or did I just gravitate toward the "side" of the debate I wanted to win?

Doesn't matter. The audiobook runs two discs, and each is on the short end in terms of running time. Still, I don't know if a full minute elapsed during either disc where my mind wasn't fully engaged with the dialogue. (Major credit to the audiobook narrators, who are stellar; hard to believe Jackson and Jones could be better, but I can't wait to see for myself when I eventually watch the film).

If you can't get the DVD but can get the audiobook, I heartily recommend doing so. It won't take too much of your time, and the time it does take is loaded with thoughtful, compelling discussion.

(It's only fair to add that I listened to The Sunset Limited immediately after finishing one of the more disastrous waste-of-time audiobooks I can remember enduring. )

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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