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Ryan H.

Point Blank

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I know we have quite a few crime story/noir fans on this board, and I'm wondering what the A&F crowd thinks of Boorman's 1967 feature, POINT BLANK, directed by John Boorman, adapted from the Donald Westlake classic, THE HUNTER (written under the pseudonym Richard Stark). POINT BLANK is a favorite of mine, a kind of avant-garde, surreal neo-noir that marks an interesting blend of American and European style, defying typical noir stylization by going for dazzling doses of intense color and light and wide open spaces rather than the dark-and-shadowy, claustrophobic aesthetic we often associate with the genre. I know it's a favorite of Steven Soderbergh's, who cites it as one of his key stylistic influences (he provides a commentary on the DVD release along with Boorman). If you're not familiar with the film, Nick Schager's review for Slant does a far better job of selling the film than I ever could possibly hope to do, and I've provided the pretty neat trailer below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRj7sTZpf7M

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Ok, I really need to re-watch Point Blank, like right now. Unfortunately the special edition DVD you list isn't out on Netflix yet. I'm kind of disappointed the Slate review didn't do into more detail about the differences between this and Payback, of which, the director's cut is in my queue. Producer/ star Mel Gibson famously clashed with director Brian Helgeland and recut the film to his liking.

One major difference I remember is the way the Walker character's obsession with the money is portrayed. Gibson's character seems principled and at worst kind of quirky, where Marvin sometimes comes across as foolish and bull headed. In both films the other characters are baffled at Walker's demands to be payed the exact amount he feels he's owed but in Point Blank I remember a few moments where Walker seems like even he's not sure why it matters to him so much.

Edited by Backrow Baptist

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I'm kind of disappointed the Slate review didn't do into more detail about the differences between this and Payback, of which, the director's cut is in my queue.

If that's what you're interested in, this review deals with the POINT BLANK vs. PAYBACK in a significant way.

One major difference I remember is the way the Walker character's obsession with the money is portrayed. Gibson's character seems principled and at worst kind of quirky, where Marvin sometimes comes across as foolish and bull headed. In both films the other characters are baffled at Walker's demands to be payed the exact amount he feels he's owed but in Point Blank I remember a few moments where Walker seems like even he's not sure why it matters to him so much.

Well, I think that's where the spooky "Is Walker a ghost?" or "Is this all Walker's empty fever-death dream?" questions come into it. The ending of POINT BLANK, where Walker just melts away into the shadows, not claiming his money, but just disappearing kinda says it all about the emptiness of his quest, even though he's pursued it so single-mindedly from the very beginning. I love the eerie, ethereal qualities of this film.

I don't really like PAYBACK, but, admittedly, I haven't seen the Director's Cut, which I understand is a bit different, largely because it's darker. Not that darker = better, mind you. But I find POINT BLANK to be a much more interesting bit of storytelling. (Oh, and for the record, this graphic novel adaptation of THE HUNTER, the novel on which all of these films are based, is pretty neat, taking on a late 50s, early 60s black-and-white aesthetic; you can almost hear the jazzy score in the background as you read it.)

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I like 'em both. Payback has better realization of most all of the secondary characters IMO (well, Kristofferson and Coburn, for example, would outclass most anyone in similar roles from the earlier film) and helps me understand Walker's motivation. In fact, Point Blank made more sense to me after Payback. I guess I need to read the book. The thing with the dial phones as contrasted with everything else being clearly in a more contemprary era in the latter film bugs me though. I get hung up on idiosyncrasies and anachronisms like that.

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I guess I need to read the book.

The book isn't too much like either film, even though it shares the same basic skeleton of a story.

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The thing with the dial phones as contrasted with everything else being clearly in a more contemprary era in the latter film bugs me though. I get hung up on idiosyncrasies and anachronisms like that.

Yeah, the anachronisms in Payback didn't quite work for me either. There were the rotary phones, the clothing styles, comments about "President Nixon", etc. I liked the stylistic touch of the washed out, desaturated color scheme but ultimately even that didn't really add much on a storytelling level.

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This film was a revelation when I first saw it. A little less so, now, but it still has a freshness to it even though many of its stylistic techniques are now dated. I attribute a lot of that to the editing and Lee Marvin's performance.

The most obvious comparisons for me would be Vanishing Point and also Soderbergh's The Limey. Both also had quite an impact on me at the time of watching. The Limey in particular steals from Point Blank but I personally didn't like it's use of editing to illustrate character motivation and memory. I preferred the coldness of Marvin's Point Blank's character, whereas Terence Stamp is made into a warm loving (if mostly absent) father through flashback. Nonetheless, I thought it was visually interesting. ANother Soderbergh film that lifts heavily is Out of Sight - the sex scene in particular - which makes better use of a similar editing style but here it is used more playfully, and it somehow makes the whole evening's flirtation meaningful without over-emphasising the moment of coitus which is really quite an achievement.

Nonetheless, Point Blank stands miles above any of these, IMHO.

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THE LIMEY remains one of the Soderbergh films I've never seen. I should give it a look.

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THE LIMEY remains one of the Soderbergh films I've never seen. I should give it a look.

It's the only Soderbergh film that I rate at all. Though 'Out of Sight' was fun, too. Not his biggest fan. He's a bit 'meh', mostly.

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It's the only Soderbergh film that I rate at all. Though 'Out of Sight' was fun, too. Not his biggest fan. He's a bit 'meh', mostly.

I quite like SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE and CHE, as well as, to a somewhat lesser extent, his smaller films like BUBBLE and THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE. And there are also a few very interesting failures that I enjoy revisiting now and again, like KAFKA.

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After touring Alcatraz last week, I was particularly keen to view this, and wow, what a splendid work - it has me wondering if I need to check out more of Boorman's work. His framing of characters within scenes and use of widescreen are utterly masterful - some of the best I've seen since my survey of Kurosawa. And his rapid-fire editing of flashbacks into ongoing scenes...brilliant. Beautifully done, too, is the persisting theme of entrapment/imprisonment - whether literal (stranded on Alcatraz) or figurative (the multitude of characters popping pills to escape their personal hells) - contrasting with the repeated, ironic deadliness of open spaces. Grim yet lovely stuff.

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After touring Alcatraz last week, I was particularly keen to view this, and wow, what a splendid work - it has me wondering if I need to check out more of Boorman's work.

I haven't seen all of Boorman's work, but in addition to POINT BLANK, I have seen DELIVERANCE, ZARDOZ, EXORCIST II, EXCALIBUR, and THE TAILOR OF PANAMA. DELIVERANCE is the stand-out of these few, even though I'm not crazy about it on the whole. THE TAILOR OF PANAMA is watchable, but nothing too special. EXCALIBUR is entertaining in a cornball sword-and-sorcery sorta way. ZARDOZ and EXORCIST II are astonishingly terrible and should be avoided at all costs.

I do want to see the little-discussed HELL IN THE PACIFIC.

His framing of characters within scenes and use of widescreen are utterly masterful - some of the best I've seen since my survey of Kurosawa. And his rapid-fire editing of flashbacks into ongoing scenes...brilliant. Beautifully done, too, is the persisting theme of entrapment/imprisonment - whether literal (stranded on Alcatraz) or figurative (the multitude of characters popping pills to escape their personal hells) - contrasting with the repeated, ironic deadliness of open spaces. Grim yet lovely stuff.

You have me eager to watch it again.

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Hell on the Pacific is well-worth watching - an engrossing story, metaphorical of course for cross-cultural incomprehension and violence; another great role for Lee Marvin, and an unusual one for Kurosawa's favorite actor Toshiro Mifune.

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Boorman's The General is a movie I should watch again. It's one of those acclaimed arthouse films I made a point of seeing 15 years ago but which failed to register with me on any level, other than it's B&W cinematography. Maybe I was just tired that day.

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Hell on the Pacific is well-worth watching - an engrossing story, metaphorical of course for cross-cultural incomprehension and violence; another great role for Lee Marvin, and an unusual one for Kurosawa's favorite actor Toshiro Mifune.

You could put this on a double bill with the Dennis Quaid/Louis Gossette Jr. feature Enemy Mine.... or not....

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