Thursday, July 30, 2009

Deliverance (1972)

By Eric Jessen 7/28/09

Deliverance is a masochist's dream: painful to watch and intentionally brutal from start to finish. When three yuppie amateurs from Atlanta, Ed (John Voight), Drew (Ronny Cox), and Bobby (Ned Beatty) join their friend, self-affirmed outdoors-man and adventurer, Lewis (Burt Reynolds) on a trip to the depths of rural uncivilized Georgia to surmount the whitewater rapids of the Chattanooga River, they encounter unspeakable terror. Crazy toothless hillbillies lurk around every corner. By the end of their horrible journey two men have killed local red-necks, one has drowned, and the other has been sexually assaulted.
Director John Boorman and James Dickey (who wrote the original novel and the screenplay) are in a desperate search for the significance of this horror story, bluntly exploring the suppressed sadism and homophobia of the macho man and the unpleasant, barbarism of nature but in the end lacking clarity. Boorman shows admirable courage and boldness in making Deliverance but unfortunately has made a movie without an audience, a movie that has little in redeeming value and at times is unwatchable. In his determination to show the fierce and the vulgar, Boorman lost sight of his message. What's left is incoherent brooding, Freudian sexual ambiguity, and platitude filled monologues about “the game of life” and being “one with nature.” Deliverance is a remarkably terrible journey for four men and incidentally, anyone watching. I sat stunned, wondering how this movie ever got made. Any potential male fans of conventional movie violence will hate the man on man, squealing like a pig, strapped against a tree at crotch level, sodomy scene. It's excessively revolting, disgusting, turning the masculine “no woman allowed” camping trip on its head.
Deliverance is if anything very memorable. It's often effectively thrilling watching our four men tumble down the river in their canoe. The photography is beautifully haunting with a chilling twangy bluegrass music atmosphere. The acting by the four stars is magnificent. Voight plays Ed as weary, vulnerable, and weirdly drooling over Lewis. Burt Reynolds is perfect as the wannabe hero. Ned Beatty is great as well as Ronny Cox as the voice of reason. And not to mention the awesome transcendent dueling banjos theme song. It's amazing to me, that in the muck of anti-rural southern sentiment and fear mongering, a simple banjo duet survives and becomes a big hit.
Deliverance is all in all a disastrous experience. The overly exploitive cruelty of the violence especially in the infamous rape scene left me gagging on my popcorn rather then pondering the savage nature of man.

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