Sunday, January 24, 2010

It Rained All Night the Day I Left

(Nicholas Gessner, 1980)
A film doomed in advance by its obtuse, meaningless title, which certainly gives no indication that what you're in for is a buddy/road movie about class and colonialism. The governing narrative - white "Rhodesian" ranchers Sally Kellerman and John Vernon feud over water and young hottie Lisa Langlois - is basically a melodramatic potboiler, though Vernon does have some fun with it. So it's a pleasure to watch the buddies in question goof around like crazy and stomp all over the narrative - Tony Curtis and Louis Gossett Jr. have a field day as two scoundrel gunrunners. In full male-bonding mode, the pair scheme their way into whatever luxuries they can steal, from food and shelter to the ladies themselves, while the counternarrative has them grappling with their conflicting desire to remain free and irresponsible. But Curtis is also the voice of conscience regarding the African villagers caught in the middle of the feud, which is nice although one really does wish the villagers had some kind of a voice themselves. While it's impressive that the filmmakers are tackling complex colonial dynamics in a direct way, in general the film's grasp of the issues isn't quite there - the subtheme of Gossett's class aspirations is not fully developed, Kellerman gets a bit of a free pass for her secondhand Nazism, and while it's gratifying that Kellerman and Vernon both have their land nationalized as comeuppance, the pleasure gets pretty complicated in historical perspective. But at least they gave it a shot, and Curtis/Gossett's vulgarian high spirits really do carry the film through its questionable patches.

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