Week of October 9, 2002

Cinema of Neglect: The 1970s. Fontbonne University presents a series dedicated to highlighting underappreciated films of the '70s. This week features Thomas McGuane's 92 in the Shade (1975). Andrew Sarris once joked that Marlon Brando's One-Eyed Jacks "has shown us that a film can be made without a director," a point that comes to mind watching the similarly rudderless yet fascinating directorial effort of novelist Thomas McGuane. McGuane writes terrific dialogue, and the cast (Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Harry Dean Stanton, William Hickey, Margot Kidder) is so good that he can pretty much let them direct themselves. But he sorely ignores the written word's ability to skim over background material and tie scenes together; the film gives the impression that several reels must have gotten lost on the way to the editing room. The story -- a drunken/murderous rivalry between Florida fishing guides Oates and Fonda -- doesn't always stay in focus, but McGuane and his cast distract the viewer with a string of absurd set-pieces: Sylvia Miles trying to break a glass with her voice, Stanton confronting his baton-twirling wife, a childlike Hickey telling his son Fonda of his wayward past. The film is frustrating yet likable, a murky yet engaging fish story with sharp dialogue and a jaundiced view of human nature. Plays at 7:30 p.m. October 15 at the Fontbonne University Library. (RH)
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