A Well Spent Life. In Cambridge, nowadays, you can read "cult film" as "pure fantasy." When the rage is not happy lunatics, and it always is, it's the area's other cult film, The Harder They Come--escapism pure and simple. Not to decry the nice visuals (some handsomes, palm trees, white sand) and the tunes (however thin the line between reggae and bubble gum), anything anyone says about the movie's political content is laughable: the only idea embodied by Jimmy Cliff is something along the lines of "You Can Get It If You Really Want (but you must try, try, try...)." It's hard to know whether the cardboard villains are foiled by capitalistic perseverance, a few wellplaced macho knife slashes, or the kind of depressing mysticism that responds to oppression by chanting "forgive them Lord they know not what they do (oo-wah-oo)." Although the theme is similar, and the music also the focal point, the 44 minutes of A Well Spent Life, which precede The Harder They Come for this final week at the Orson Welles, are completely transporting in a different way. Instead of journeying to some never-never land of commercial spirituality, we flee to a real place at a real time. Les Blank's documentary visits the ancient home of bluesman Mance Lipscomb in the East Texas cotton country, weaving the music and the sharecropping way of life into a whole strain of U.S. history. Admittedly, dignity sits easy on the shoulders of the old and weathered, and the story that predates this picture is a horrible one, but Lipscomb's community transmits here the transcendent vision that Erikson must have meant when he talked about "integrity." A Jack Daniels movie--pure, mellow and lulling, making you remember as it makes you forget.
Cool Hand Luke. A cheaper, shallower bourbon, but the taste is as smooth. This film is all tanned bodies against blue workshirts against a deep Southern green--everything looks great, and the redneck myth is comforting: the reflecting sunglass man did as much for the stereotype of southern law enforcement as Red Man chewing tobacco. Paul Newman sings "Plastic Jesus."
The Last Picture Show. I have a hunch that this thing is going to look like fifties slop when I go back to it. It certainly was fine when it came out, but a lot of frightening stuff has gone down since then as regards that decade, and unless a second viewing proves that Bogdanovich examines the fifties without being into-it, the reject light is going on.
Patton is a great favorite of Richard Nixon's but stays ambiguous enough that that's no deterrent. Just assume he took it the other way.