Saturday, September 5, 2015

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

This will be this blog's last gasp before the gluttony of October, and I might be moving to a different place, but I'll post directions if that happens.  For now, let's go back twenty years in time to reassess this Mexican vampire crime film thing from Quentin Taratino (screenplay/"acting") and Robert Rodriguez (direction/editing).

You can tell pretty quickly that this is a Tarantino script because the movie seemingly opens serenely, only to SWERVE YOU!! with quick violent action.  That was kind of surprising.  A pair of criminal brothers, one a simple mean thief (George Clooney) and the other some kind of lanky blind freak (Tarantino), are on the run.  They kidnap a lapsed minister and his two kids and head for the border, planning to meet up with a Mexican crime lord who will grant them asylum in his town.  

I liked a lot of the acting.  Kelly Preston is absolutely glorious in a cameo as newscaster Kelly Hogue, smilingly giving the kill totals in a scene that could have been total cringe.  Cheech Marin handles multiple roles here, none of them probably stoners, demonstrating his rage and his range.  

But the Best Actor in the Movie Award this time will be shared.  Harvey Keitel gets to deliver a subtle, understated performance that sometimes recalls his excellent turn in The Duellists.  But, man, Juliette Lewis is so good that it hurts my heart to think she faded away from prominent acting.  I love her physical choices, like stress-shaken hands.  Very much wow.    She's going to be remembered like Frances Farmer, Angela Bettis, and Hilary Swank, as someone who was never used to her full potential.

The editing is really fun, too.  This is a theory I'm not going to support in detail, but I feel like Tarantino is pretty much a scholar of genre/exploitation/grindhouse/whatever—he knows all the facts and has studied the sources—but Rodriguez is the one who really gets it.  If you watch carefully, you can see editing "mistakes"(?) that are confined to particular scenes—glasses on, glasses back off, physical placement—and that plus the movie's look, this wannabe-glamorous sleazy golden tint, really cements to me that Rodriguez is grindhouse Mozart to Tarantino's Salieri.  

PS Salma Hayek is real pretty.

What I didn't dig so much was the script, which starts off smarmy and ends up being a big amorphous mess of explosions and violence that don't really mean much.  A lot of the so-clever dialogue made me roll my eyes up into my brain.  And I thought some of the makeup was rough as fuck, especially poor Fred Williamson and Tarantino's Frankensteinian block head.  Overall, I'd rate this as a fun time, but nothing especially special.  It seems like a concept which might have been scribbled onto a napkin shortly before filming, but there are enough charms to warrant one watch.

See you in October, darlings.