Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Rumble Fish (Francis Ford Coppola, 1983)

One of this movie's taglines is "The Motorcycle Boy's Never Coming Back", and that only conveys one of this amazingly complex film's many themes - that of escape. Be it Rusty James' need to escape his surroundings and his older brothers shadow, or his brother himself, aching to be free of the oppressive life he's become trapped in, and ultimately, resigned to. Rumble Fish focuses on Rusty James, a young, rebellious youth, whose deep respect for his older brother, The Motorcycle Boy (a frankly suberb Mickey Rourke) leads Rusty to follow him, both in lifestyle and literal following throughout the film. It's only Rourke who can see, "If you're going to lead people, you have to have somewhere to go". Both main characters are portrayed as lost, wandering souls, connected by on one hand, respect, and the other, seeking to protect and lead his brother down the right path, despite not knowing that path himself. This 'lostness' comes across visually, with many scenes being clouded in smoke, fog or steam, with one character disapearing into thick clouds as a visual metaphor for her disappearing from Rusty's life.

The other key theme running throughout is time, that of time running out, literally in one case. But this theme is conveyed both visually (several close ups of clocks, one iconic image with both brothers in front of a giant clock face) and aurally, in Stewart Copelands incredible score, providing a pulsating metronome for the characters and the film itself. At one point, the soft, 'scuttling' percussion emulates the ticking over of a motorcycle engine, in another a driving heart beat is looped in time with the melody, altogether mimicing the ticking of some distant clock.

The strongest aspect of this film (and it's hard to choose just one), is the incredible black and white cinematography. Shot in monochrome to reflect The Motorcycle Boy's own colour blindness, this combines with the aforementioned clouds to give the film a startlingly beautiful, dreamlike quality, with nods to film noir in the tall buildings and dark backstreets of the external scenes. The whole film is almost viewed through Rourke's character's eyes, with the music drifting in and out, the sleepy haze, the black and white photography; all combine to replicate his view of the world. This is illustrated very poetically when asked by another character, 'whats it like? Being colour blind and partially deaf?' The Motorcycle Boy replies, "It's like watching black and white TV with the sound turned down low".

A flawless film of stark beauty, with suberb acting and music throughout. A film to make you fall in love with cinema all over again.
Rating -
10 / 10

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