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M. Leary

The Mosquito Coast

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Of all the Peter Weir films this one ranks with Fearless as having significant value on the Top 100 list. I am at a bit of a loss to understand why it hasn't had more support in that venue.

Most people would probably immediately think of A Beautiful Mind as a film that deals with the links between mental instability and genius/ingenuity, but The Mosquito Coast is a far more eloquent treatment of this idea. And it links this theme with a caustic criticism of modern culture, even at times reminding one of the diatribes in Naked. I am just tossing this out for now, and have more comments to make, but for now I am just interested in other takes on the film and reasons why it hasn't been more carefully considered for the list in the past.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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The Mosquito Coast has a terrible name. Its reputation is sharply divided between detractors and fans, but possibly the main reason I have never gotten around to seeing it is the name. (I didn't say it was a good reason.)

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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Among its many virtues, The Mosquito Coast boasts what remains Harrison Ford's most accomplished performance.

And it's one of Peter Weir's best films.

And it needs to get the Criterion treatment.

And so does Fearless.

But we've been over that...

(Counting the moments until Bortz chimes in.)


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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We may have been over Fearless, but The Mosquito Coast has very rarely been talked about, only once here, once here, and a wee bit here (in which Nick A. and JO express their love for the film). But that is basically it. I would be remiss not to point this disparity out.

If we are going to bring Weir back into the list, which is a necessity, then The Mosquito Coast and Fearless should automatically trump any other Weir choices.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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If we are going to bring Weir back into the list, which is a necessity, then The Mosquito Coast and Fearless should automatically trump any other Weir choices.

Hmmm. I would add Picnic at Hanging Rock, and make it a threesome. But all three should be there, yes.


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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So who didn't participate in last year's list, leading to Weir's drop-off? Jeffrey didn't, but now I'm thinking Michael didn't as well. Water under the bridge, but if there are Weif proponents on teh board, here's a call to participate. (As for myself, I gave Fearless a "5" last year.)


"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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A few memorable lines:

"Strictly speaking, there's no such thing as invention, you know. It's only magnifying what already exists."

"My father often talked of things being revealed - that was true invention, he said. Revealing something's use, and magnifying it; discovering its imperfections, improving it, and putting it to work for you. God had left the world incomplete, he said, and it was man's job to understand how it worked, to tinker with it, and to finish it. I think that was why he hated missionaries so much - because they taught people to put up with their earthly burdens. For father, there were no burdens that couldn't be fitted with a set of wheels, or rudders, or a system of pulleys."

And best of all:

"I think about you when I go to the bathroom."


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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My love for Picnic has no bounds, but I don't think it has the immediate connection to the list as TMC. And I wouldn't mind having all three on the list, but if we are going to have a vintage Australian landscape moodpiece on the list, then I would rather have Roeg's Walkabout, which I will also soon start campaigning for. See, this is all part of a larger plan.

Reasons why TMC has more immediate connections to the list as Picnic: I was never very comfortable with Picnic being on the list because it is more atmospheric in tone than spiritual, Weir seems to be developing more of a poetic tone than a spiritual one. I understand its Victorian vibes, and the way it abstracts the mysteriousness of nature vs. the false empiricism of colonialization. Perhaps this is the same tone set by The Last Wave, which is just more explicit about the man vs. nature thing. But something like Walkabout is a far more "spiritual" narrative that covers the same sort of abstractions, it really is a Tarkovsky gaze over the outback.

And as the list is designed to introduce people to films, I would rather have them see The Mosquito Coast than Picnic, as it has much more to offer the casual filmwatcher. It really is an engaging film, but as it is sort of a prequel to The Heart of Darkness it is also a very shocking and well-crafted film.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Okay, Michael, I can understand your point.

But personally, I feel a palpably "spiritual" presence encroaching on these characters throughout the film, and I'm fascinated by the different ways they respond to it. It has everything to do with the way that Jeff Bridges' character responds to his near-death experience in Fearless, and how others are repulsed by his response.

Personally, I think the unifying thread in Weir's films is the Human Response to Otherness.

Do we respond by categorizing? Labeling? Organizing? Subjecting? Exploiting? Indulging? Worshipping? Sacrificing? Serving?

(I'm not sure how Green Card fits into this, actually. I'll think about that.)


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 think another reason it isn


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Jeffrey said:

Personally, I think the unifying thread in Weir's films is the Human Response to Otherness.

True, especially The Cars that Ate Paris.

Seriously though, that


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TMC is one of those movies that, I think, requires second and third viewings to really appreciate. I remember the first time I saw it (when it first came out), I was an adolescent in an evangelical family and felt like, if I was a good Christian, I wasn't supposed to like the Ford character because he was "anti-religious." The older I get, the more sympathy I have for his character and the story, and the family, having had more experience of first-hand hubris. At the same time, the more I condemn him, too, seeing what he puts the family through with his own religiosity and zealousness.

Who has read the book? How does the movie compare?


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Personally, I think the unifying thread in Weir's films is the Human Response to Otherness.

(I'm not sure how Green Card fits into this, actually. I'll think about that.)

That seems right on the mark, and his films are a rich testimony to the ability of Otherness to masquerade in many faces. (Though I am still very curious as to what the "otherness" in Picnic is. If there is one, it is totally abstract, some sort of mysterium tremendum. But that may be the point of course) I am just trying to think of how that specifically works out in TMC. What sort of "otherness" is encountered by Allie in the Jungle? Is the jungle an otherness that in his mind stands over and against the shallow obsessions of consumerism? Or is the "otherness" that Allie confronts some sort of angst in his spirit that he interprets as a need to "get back to the basics"? He is like an agitated Thoreau without all the malarky about nature. And then of course one could think of Allie as an "otherness" that his family eventually has to deal with.

Just trying to get a train of thought rolling...

Who has read the book? How does the movie compare?

Good question.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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The older I get, the more sympathy I have for his character and the story, and the family, having had more experience of first-hand hubris. At the same time, the more I condemn him, too, seeing what he puts the family through with his own religiosity and zealousness.

This makes me think of Fight Club, in a way. Reacting against something, righteously and zealously, he loses perspective, and becomes a monster more dangerous than his enemy.


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 love the book; I like the movie. I don't think Weir actually does the novel full justice, partly because Theroux situates his storytelling so vividly within Charlie's perspective, and I think the dictates of the film and Ford being the star makes the film focus more on him with Phoenix's occasional ruminations popping in here and there. The novel works so well in part because the reader gets a sense of just how much Charlie both loves and fears his father--it's his story through and through, not Allie Fox's. The movie is more Harrison Ford being wacky and how far will his family put up with it?

Theroux, who taught with the Peace Corps in Africa for many years and has written many fine first-person travel narratives, is also brilliant at describing the jungle setting and Allie's creations in physical detail. In the film, it comes across a little like Swiss Family Robinson.

As to the whole material vs. spiritual theme, one would think Paul Schrader, of all people, might have been better at digging into that, but his adapted screenplay is really just a condensation of the novel. I think every line is straight out of the book, as is every scenes...which leaves Theroux all the nuance. I know Weir wanted to make this film for years, and sometimes overenthusiasm can breed a kind of fidelity to the novel that can undermine the cinematic life of a film.

But like I said...I think it's a good film; I agree that it's one of Ford's better performances, John Seale's cinematography is top notch (striking without being overly picturesque), etc. I'd take it over most of Weir's Hollywood work, but it's no Walkabout! (Or Aguirre: The Wrath of God.)

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I have not read the novel (so I cannot wholly respond to the criticisms Doug makes above, though none of his characterizations of the film seem right to me), but I do think THE MOSQUITO COAST, as a film in ts own right, holds up exceptionally well, and is in desperate need of a critical reappraisal (though one could say that about a number of Weir films). Did this film ever make it onto any version of the A&F list?

Upon my latest viewing, THERE WILL BE BLOOD kept coming to mind; it's another film about a mad father who spars with a preacher.

He is like an agitated Thoreau without all the malarky about nature.

I love this description.

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...I do think THE MOSQUITO COAST, as a film in ts own right, holds up exceptionally well, and is in desperate need of a critical reappraisal (though one could say that about a number of Weir films). Did this film ever make it onto any version of the A&F list?

I nominated it for the 2013 Films on Marriage list. I think it still needs a seconding.... hint hint...


Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

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