Monday, July 6, 2009

THE FUGITIVE KIND (Sidney Lumet, 1959, USA) Orpheus descends upon small town America lyre in hand, shedding his snakeskin Dionysian past, only to be terminally punished by the bigoted raving ones. Xavier begins the film by speaking to the faceless god of authority, charming this Hades-like figure into allowing him release from this steel caged underworld. His only companion is an acoustic guitar given to him by the legendary Leadbelly, and with his physical mystique and twelve-string chorus, he leaves the bacchanalian heat of New Orleans for the tempest of an unknown destiny. Feet planted back onto Terra Firma, he finds work in a dingy retail store, a silent sentinel amid the rutted main road and failing commerce of a rotting and rancid community. As he seeks to escape his past, it catches up to him in the comely shape of a nymphomaniac named Carol, a drunken and castigated inhabitant whose very presence causes clucking rumor. The wife of the sheriff is also smitten by this modern-day Apollo, a man who truly understands her paintings as a way of feeling the world through Art: a connection that decouples her from her marriage. But it’s the shop owner’s wife Lady Torrence whose emotional torrent leads to his fiery demise. Director Sidney Lumet embraces the vagaries of the dialogue with beautiful mise-en-scene; from a forlorn walk through a charred past, a simple painting above a newly made bed, or a tiny bird chirping in a skeletal tree, we are given visual clues to the narrative subtext and allowed to discover the characters instead of being told about them. Kenyon Hopkins sad score is eerily reminiscent of his work on 12 ANGRY MEN, and here it helps to underline the impending trauma like a gentle teardrop. Women always surround Xavier but he keeps his peace until he allows himself to be seduced, out of sorrow and pity, by the aging and lonely Lady. Her husband is dying upstairs, his room separated from the store by prison-like bars, and his final gasp of breath is to expel this stranger from his town. The local militia dowses Xavier’s fiery sexuality until only a tiny piece remains which Carol holds dear to her heart…while Lady holds something more precious. (B+)

No comments: