Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

Rarely I have seen such a beautiful film! Alan Arkin lifts the film out of the realm of a genre of films made on disabled/handicapped people, into the realm of romance, beauty, and drama. Beautifully gathered in pace, the film rightfully opens with Arkin's best man, the drunkard, unhinged Stacy Keach. Even as Keach himself is unmindful completely of the world (reminding me famously of Dickens' Harold Skimpole), except as where it serves him, Arkin's love for him (and for the whole world) does not want a return, at least not a substantial one. One touch, one soft smile, one good kiss are enough to repay him - but as a deaf and mute, it is hard for him to find even that. The world's too busy in its own chores - messed-up lives, circumstances, and unsatified desires and ambitions - to notice him. At the most, thank him and forget him - after all, Arkin himself is too engaged in making himself effaced.

Fiery characters cross Arkin's path - each on his or her own path of self-discovery, whether late or early in life. Arkin, in his own way, has invaluable help for each, yet the worth is not recognized until when it's too late. Though Sondra Locke does a wonderful role in her debut and rightly gets an Oscar nomination, it's cruel that Cicely Tyson didn't get even a nomination, when she definitely deserved to win it. One of the best acting performances that I have ever seen in my life, and ironically the only reason I suspect that Tyson didn't get there was because she was black. Ironically, for the film itself is so much against inequality of every sort - woman vs. man, handicapped man (including Locke's father) vs. the world, black vs. white, poor vs. rich (Locke's party theme is a brilliant thread in the film; it is the only one that I thought could have been carried up a little way up or a bit differently - probably not have Locke's rich boyfriend as an honest fellow).

The American South is vividly expressed in the film - I felt all the stories from the South waking up in me as I watched the film. The recurring themes - music and deafness, black and white, helplessness of a man with all his faculties just because he has that feeling of being black in him against the power and resourcefulness of a man who's deaf and mute but who really wants to help and love someone (and wants to find some love for him in return), duty (Locke's mother) versus the 'joy of living' (Locke) - all are so beautifully stringed together, and presented as a whole, that I now want to read the novel as well.

And what saves the film from a Dobbin's fate is its tragic end. In many films, directors opt for a tragic end just to 'elevate' the film, to make it seem arthousy, to distance it a bit from 'the masses'. But here, the tragic end served quite a different purpose - it reinforced the film's title!