This last is played with congenital dyspepsia by the recently departed Richard Widmark (my incentive finally to take the DVD out of its plastic wrap and reacquaint myself), but although he gets top billing, most of the interest centers on the Earp-Holliday relationship, now known as Blaisdell-Morgan. The Holliday character, Morgan, still wears his degeneracy on the outside, a limper rather than a cougher, branded for life. His feelings toward the Earp character have been rather deepened and darkened, a complex mix of gratitude, devotion, idolatry, possessiveness, envy, rivalry, and, with a silver-haired Anthony Quinn in the role, nary a hint of homoeroticism, despite his attention to furnishings and décor. (Was there ever a more virile actor?) Henry Fonda is nothing short of princely as Blaisdell, who doesn’t have Earp’s long-nosed Buntline Special but instead an ornamental pair of gold-handled Colts. Dragging around his sagging shoulders at an almost ceremonial gait, he carries everywhere an aura of authority, fatalism, fatigue, regret, and sorrow, even into the scaled-down replay of the O.K. Corral shootout: “Bill-ly, Bill-ly,” he admonishes, as though talking to a six-year-old (the gang’s young hothead, Frank Gorshin, is still called Billy), mercifully winging the punk with his first shot, but obliged, when the stubborn fool nicks him with return fire, to suspend mercy.
Fonda, of course, had played Earp by name in John Ford’s My Darling Clementine, for my taste a far too laundered and starched treatment of the legend, with the emphasis preeningly on the picturesque. And Quinn at one point here recites from Shakespeare, just like Victor Mature’s Holliday there. In Warlock, quite unlike Gunfight..., the opposite sides of the same coin end up in more open conflict, Jekyll vs. Hyde, a struggle for dominance, and the pseudonyms free the story from history and heighten the uncertainty. The winner of the struggle, who understands full well what he has lost, will accept no congratulations. “What are you worth?” he challenges the grateful citizens one by one, his inner savage emerging without inhibition, filling the void. Comparison and contrast between these two versions could go on and on, to neither’s disadvantage. Both of them, for that matter the four of them on my shelves, possess all the power of myth without any self-conscious mythologizing. Movies like they don’t make them anymore.
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Meantime, some current disposables.... Leatherheads is an intermittently cute comedy on the wild and woolly early days of pro football, cute in some of the archaic banter, but not cute in the unrelieved drab brown color scheme or the indifferent and infrequent on-field action. It shows a lighter side of director George Clooney (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Good Night and Good Luck), a side he has shown often enough as an actor. His opening shots have been well thought out, but after that it’s pretty steady star-gazing, and since one of the stars is the director, it’s pretty squirmy narcissism. Smart People is (or are) Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, and Ellen Page in an indie misfit comedy in an academic setting, which enables the viewer to feel more virtuous when not laughing than when not laughing at a low-brow Hollywood comedy: “My fun’s just a little more cerebral than your fun.” (Anyone not fed up with Ellen Page in Juno ought to have ample opportunity.) As well as in fewness of laughs, it can match most any mainstream comedy in manyness of pop songs. Noam Murro directed, Mark Jude Poirier wrote, first-timers both. David Ayer’s Street Kings, story by James Ellroy, stages a dirty-cop mud wrestle, strident, obvious, hyperbolic, and hypocritical, one cop dirtier than another, one actor badder than another, making Dirty Harry look, in relation, like new-fallen snow and making Clint Eastwood look like God. The vodka-swigging, trigger-happy Keanu Reeves, in the lead, proves to be one of the least dirty policers and least bad performers. Shine a Light grants entrée to a Rolling Stones benefit concert at the intimate Beacon Theatre in New York City. If Martin Scorsese weren’t visible in several minutes of Raging Bull-ish black-and-white footage pre-event, you’d never imagine he was behind the cut-cut-cut hackwork. Old, old interspersed interviews of young, young Mick stimulate meditation and mirth.
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Other doings.... Midnight Madness resumes at Landmark’s La Jolla Village, with encores from past Madnesses (Tron, The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction, et al.), on both Friday and Saturday nights, April 11 and 12 through May 16 and 17. And Landmark’s Ken Cinema hosts FilmOut, the annual Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender film festival, April 11 through 17. (See filmoutsandiego.com for schedule.) Landmark, you might have noticed, has been recently turning over movies at a rapid rate, shooing out Sleepwalking, Fighting for Life, Snow Angels, and The Grand, for example, after one week. So count yourself lucky, if you haven’t seen it, that the chewy Caramel has been held over a second week at the Hillcrest. Finally, the animated Persepolis is to be re-released this Friday in English-dubbed form, with Chiara Mastroianni and her mother Catherine Deneuve redoing their own voices, together with the substituted voices of Sean Penn, Gena Rowlands, and Iggy Pop. I can have no objection on principle.