A tip of the hat to my tribal co-conspirator in cinematic cultural studies, SDSU's David Kamper, for luring my eyes to a remarkable film restoration of Kent Mackenzie's 1961 noir/native classic The Exiles. The "look" of this film will thrill fans of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil, Henri-Georges Clouzot's Diabolique, and Georges Franjou's Eyes Without a Face. Roger Ebert's recent spin on the film is sobering: "How would this film have affected me in 1961? I saw Cassavetes' "Shadows” about that time, knew what the first wave of American independents were doing, would have known it was special. But now it has such a tragic poignancy. These people are doomed, unless a lucky few found sobriety. Their tears and blood have alike dried. The juke box music is so happy, and they move to it so dutifully. I am reminded of Scorsese's "Who's That Knocking at My Door" and "Mean Streets." Different ethnic groups, same dead end. When you can walk into a bar and call everyone by name, that doesn't mean you have a lot of friends. It means you have a fate, and are returning to seek it." But don't let Ebert's down denouement keep your eyes from the screen--sometime between 1958 and 1961 American indy movie magic was made and Mackenzie is able to capture through his lens the beating pulse of something new: Ethnic American figuration that forces us to rethink our right-at-hand stereotypes and replace them with the delicious and complex contradictions of noirish word and image.
Hit the image to screen the trailer!
The film screens this saturday at UCSD's Che Cafe! Be there!