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Thursday, July 25, 2013

JEREMIAH JOHNSON (1972)

The first of six Robert Redford vehicles helmed by Sydney Pollack (seven if you count THE HORSE WHISPERER/’98, directed by Redford a la Pollack) is over-strenuous Old West myth-making about a putative Mountain Man who leaves mankind behind to hunt, trap & skin in the Wild Rockies. But with bilious John Milius scripting, heavy lies the concept, starving the relationship between man, weather & landscape to spend most of its time in human conflict. Against his will, Jeremiah keeps doing the decent thing, picking up needy souls like moss on a rock; and getting punished for each good deed. Only when Jeremiah takes up serial revenge can he find his preferred solitary lifestyle and sing his song of selfishness. It’s the Western Ayn Rand longed to write; Jeremiah Johnson as John Galt. Pollack seems stuck betwixt & between, unable to stage the action sequences and worried that too much contemplation would try an audience. It makes for a film that’s both 20 minutes too long and/or 40 minutes too short.*

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Perhaps a fuller cut was originally planned. Elsewise, why bother with a RoadShow Presentation on a film that runs 108 min? Even with Overture & Entr’acte tacked on, it’s still only 116 min. (Not counting INTERMISSION.)

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Akira Kurosawa’s DERSU UZALA/’75 gets infinitely closer to a Mountain Man mindset. And, in a thrilling set piece where Uzala and a surveyor from the city fight the elements to build a shelter in a snowstorm, nature initiates narrative in a manner beyond anything seen in JJ.

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