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The Stunt Man
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir-prd Richard Rush
scr Lawrence B Marcus, Richard Rush
with Peter O'Toole, Steve Railsback, Barbara Hershey, Allen Goorwitz, Alex Rocco, Sharon Farrell, Adam Roarke, Philip Bruns, Charles Bail, John Garwood, Jim Hess, John Pearce
release US 27.Jun.80
80/US Fox 2h11
ALL-TIME TOP 5 FILM
BEST FILM OF 1980
LONDON FILM FEST
How tall was King Kong?
When I first saw this film back in 1980 I couldn't decide whether I loved it or hated it. It's one of those movies that plays with your head, tricking you into falling for a scene only to twist it into something completely different by a subtle change of perspective. And not only is the director playing with us, but the characters are all playing mind-games with each other as well. I went to see it second time a few days later, simply because I couldn't get it out of my head. And it remains one of my all-time favourites.
As the film opens, the police have finally caught up with a notorious convict Cameron (Railsback), but he quickly escapes and has a bewildering encounter with an antique car on an old bridge. Soon he realizes he's in the middle of a film, the car was being driven by a stunt man, who has gone missing after driving off the bridge. And when Cameron meets the megalomaniac film director Eli Cross (O'Toole), the two men quickly develop a love-hate relationship that masks their complete mutual dependence. Cameron takes the missing stunt man's place in the crew, saving Eli from a nosey cop (Rocco), while Cameron is effectively hidden from his pursuers. Meanwhile, he begins to fall for the leading lady (Hershey), who has more than a few skeletons rattling around her closet as well.
There's a lot more going on than meets the eye. A film set is a marvelous place to play around with perceptions, reality, past and present. And Rush makes sure that we never quite trust the film, just as Eli and Cameron never quite trust each other. It's all a bit ramshackle, in a dated late-70s directorial style, while Dominic Frontiere's raucous score continually (and brilliantly) undercuts the tone with misleading musical cues.
The cast members have a wonderful time playing with the lively and impossible-to-pigeonhole characters; this is one of O'Toole's most fabulous performances, which is saying a lot. The cinematography is clever and gorgeous--with swooping camera work, amazing stunts and gleefully wicked editing. And it's one of those rare films in which you haven't a clue what will happen next. But I think the main reason I so love this film is for it's pure worship of the cinema as art--for the way it finds resonant themes in a fiendishly artificial setting, and for the way the filmmaker himself plays with and challenges the very art of filmmaking.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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