Tuesday, September 9, 2008

COOL HAND LUKE (Stuart Rosenberg, 1967, USA) Lucas Jackson can’t escape: from tyrannical authority, cruel injustice, or himself and his own spontaneous nature. Imprisoned for damaging municipal property (drunkenly destroying parking meters) he is sent to a hard labor work camp…for two years! His failure to conform after many sadistic punishments is ultimately a failure of communication between two disparate social classes: those with power and those without. This Fascist regime demands assimilation, to not only come into the fold but also be changed, recast into an automaton…no longer human. Luke is no hero, he is not out to make a statement or become a “Natural Born World Shaker”; he only desires to die as he lives… a man, no better or worse than anyone else. The film opens with the word VIOLATION and Luke is shown drunk, slouched against a row of decapitated parking meters whose vanishing point is punctuated by a red light. This sets the tone for the entire film and is a beautiful composition. The atmosphere of corruption and futility is reflected in the mirror shades of the eyeless sentinel, this barbaric executioner, who passes gunshot judgment upon our unarmed protagonist. This existential tragedy ironically contrasts Luke as a messiah with its none too subtle religious iconography (Luke’s Christ pose), his thunderous invocation during the rainstorm, and his final heavenly appeal in a literally empty church. His response from above is only his own voice, echoing throughout the rotting wooden rafters. As Luke disappears into the eternal night, his lips curl into a sly smile, his life forfeit but not his humanity. The tires crunch the killer’s mirror shades indicating that Luke’s death and suffering may have changed something, may have touched one damn person in this entire world and however slightly, made it a better place. The truth will soon be forgotten but the legend will live forever. Luke has been playing against a fixed deck but sometimes, nothing can be a real cool hand. (A+)

No comments: