Thursday, August 26, 2010

Paperback Hero

(Peter Pearson, 1973)
No boring smalltown prairie slice of life here. This character study of a rebel in his own mind is full of wit and critique, from the slush on the surface of the doomed hockey rink to the showdown climax that finally nails Kier Dullea's good ole boy to the wall. The main concern is with rural systems of power. Still living at his parents' place, Dullea draws status from his hockey coworkers and from the many women he romances, as he thumbs his nose at bosses and cops. For all his attitude, though, he's still at their mercy, and as the owner pulls the plug on his team and the women in his life get fed up with him, he learns the limits of playing cowboy as a resistance strategy. The filmmakers understand the crushing closeness of country society well enough to draw out universal truths about the difficulty of opposition, without ignoring the countless ways that the status quo is well worth opposing. These complexities express themselves through dynamic gray shadings that are given compelling shape in just about every scene. And it's most impressive that the desperate highs and lows of sexual questing on both sides of the gender divide get the most vivid and humane treatment of all.

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