Thursday, 8 April 2010

'What we've got here is failure to communicate.'

Cool Hand Luke
Dir. Stuart Rossenberg
(Wanrer Bros. 1967)

Newman as cool hand Luke, the definitive rebel, the decorated war hero who won countless medals in the war (Korea?) and still came out a private. Trashing some parking meters, Luke is given two years with a chain gang. Cool Hand Luke is a brilliant story of one man not wanting to conform to society's rules, he has no agenda whether it's in prison, outside or with friends.

There are some fantastic shots, the opening montage, the chain gang working in the heat, the manual label looks elegant, the rhythms, the symmetry, make it more ballet than a hard day's graft, the reflections in aviators...Shot on Panavision 35 mm the colours are beautiful, the heat is burnt on the film, the brilliant blues of prison shirts, the dust – there is so much detail to enjoy.

The scene with Luke's mother paying him a visit, does feel familiar, it's only purpose to give us Newman's back story and yet come the news of her death Newman plays 'Plastic Jesus' on the guitar in such a way, it's hard not to be moved. Again there just feels to be such a wonderful honesty with Newman's performance, when he eats 'them eggs' you really believe he is eating 'them eggs'. People talk about Luke being an allegory for Christ, his prison number, 37, is a reference to Luke Chapter 1, Verse 37 in the New Testament, Newman donning a sacrificial pose after eating 'them eggs', the white robes.. The Jesus methodology isn't needed for Luke's character and journey to be a universal fable in one man not giving a shit what people say or do, and just riding and rebelling to his heart's content.

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