Friday, January 25, 2013

Sydney Pollack Week: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Hi there and hello folks and have we a climax for your Sydney Pollack Week.  For all you ladies that were forcing yourselves to sweat to whatever Fonda Workout tape, you may delight watching her in this gruel struggle to get uphill.   So practice that soft shoe, bend at the knees and stay in until the bell rings.  This is They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
So about that Barbarella costume...

Spoilers have it pretty good compared to us…

Robert Syverton (Michael Sarrazin of Eye of the Cat, The Pursuit of Happiness, Harry in Your Pocket, For Pete’s Sake and Arrival II) once dreamed of being a film director recalls the events leading to a crime.  As a boy he saw a horse break its leg, after which it was shot and put out of its memory.   Flash forward to years later via 1932, he simply wanders off the Santa Monica pier and wanders into a rundown La Monica Ballroom.  The Master of Ceremonies Rocky (Gig Young of Navy Blues, Air Force, The Tanks Are Coming, The Gay Sisters, Air Force and Lust for Gold) as a substitute partner for the very cynical miscreant oddly named Gloria (Jane Fonda of Barefoot in the Park, Tall Story, The Chase, The Game Is Over, Any Wednesday, Fun With Dick and Jane and The Electric Horseman) a Jean Harlow lookalike Alice (Susannah York of Battle of Britain, Jane Eyre, Images, Gold, Sky Riders, The Shout, The Silent Partner and Superman) Sailor (Red Buttons of The Longest Day, The Sunshine Boys, Viva Knievel!, The Users, Movie Movie and 18 Again!) a nicknamed swabby.  Following these happy fun seekers is an out of work farmer (Bruce Dern of Hang “em High, Support Your Local Sheriff, Number One, Bloody Mama, The Cowboys, Silent Running, Black Sunday and The Burbs) and his pregnant wife Ruby (Bonnie Bedelia of The Gypsy Moths, Lover and Other Strangers, In Pursuit of Treasure, Salem’s Lot, Fighting Back, Die Hard and Die Hard 2)
Bruce Dern: Poster boy for sanity

These poor people are sweltering to death in a hot box of an arena for this event, barely managing to get along with their partners, petty thefts occur, a fatal heart attack struck a man down and in short a grand old time.   As a viewing of desperation it is indeed a learning lesson and breaks are almost null and void at the grand prize of $1500.  The couples are exhausted to the breaking point, nerves are frayed, medical conditions worsen chances to winning all for the paying spectators’ joy and glee.    Weeks go into the marathon in order to keep the viewers’ attention, Rocky stages various derbies of races with of course they contestants are garbed in track suits being paraded around in a circle like canter horses for the paying customer. 

Each contestant has their own hopes, dreams and despair as the story works its way.  No one appreciates a winner as much as they revel in the downfall of the loser.   Robert starts to question the integrity of the contest and starts to poke holes into this jam jar of lies.   Gloria loses faith in herself and life itself while longing for death’s release.
Feh, this is nothing compared to my workout sessions.

The cinematography is once again dolly track and a lot of elevated 360 spins to capture the hopeless expressions as well as the delight of the crowd.   Well this film was formatted for black & white but much to my disgust is shown in Technicolor.   Not a big fan as you may have guessed.  Panavision strikes again to capture every single nuance with its anamorphic.  A heart wrenching series of events unfold to the emptiness of being.  Pollack tells this tale with such passion it boggled my mind.