Sunday, May 31, 2009

THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (John Huston, 1948, USA) Two men discover their own personal treasures while a third succumbs to the poisonous treachery of greed. Bogart plays Dobbs, a down-on-his-luck American in a forgotten Mexican town who is trapped by his own misfortune, a man who asks for handouts just to survive day to day: he dreams big but lives small. He befriends Curtin and the two decide to team up with old-timer Howard and take a chance in the harsh mountains, looking for a hit, that drug-like euphoria that comes when they tap into a gold vein. With nothing to lose (so they believe) they set out on this fateful journey. Director John Huston films almost entirely on location in this stark environment amongst the jagged bones of the earth, bristling scrub-brush, and the oppressive heat: this adds a relentless and overpowering realism to the drama. The film is a character study of these three men, how the desire for riches can overwhelm reason and morality, and the slow descent into that emotional abyss where paranoia destroys. In an unlikely turn, Bogart plays the cruel man: this dichotomy contrasted by a reserve of violence held in check, a man who takes only what is rightly his, but explodes into an act of cold-blooded (attempted) murder. Dobbs finds his destiny meted out by even crueler men while Curtin and Howard discover that their gold is just dust in the wind, gone back to the womb of the mother earth. But their real treasure awaits them: in an orchard in Texas and a small village in Mexico. All that glitters is not gold, after all. (A)

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