Wednesday, October 08, 2008

ON "OLD" DVD : LONG WEEKEND

When you watch a movie every night, sometimes the ego goes to the head and you think "Hmm... maybe I'm actually making a dent in the grand catalog of cinema titles?". Then you go to blogs like this one, this one, and this one, and realize you've only just begun... or, more brutally, you haven't seen sh*t yet! It's not discouraging. It's liberating, in a backwards way. So with all of these new resources, in addition to the books up on the shelf, it's pretty amazing when even word of a film can slip past you... especially one that is apparently so well known.

I first heard about Long Weekend while watching the gonzo documentary Not Quite Hollywood about Ozploitation ("Aussie Exploitation") cinema. Quentin Tarantino was explaining - in that overly expressive QT way - why it's one of his favorite films (I think he has 25,000 "favorite films"). Well, criticize Tarantino all you want, but the guy knows how to sell a rental. He may run on hyperbole, but it's that good, pure, smooth, Grade A kind.


Long Weekend survives the hype. Made thirty years ago, director Colin Eggleston and screenwriter Everett De Roche crafted a tersely paced and controlled thriller where nothing seemingly, actually happens. There is a scene where male hubby protagonist Peter (John Hargreaves) runs wild and random through the woods in broad daylight, and dare I say it's as neurotically effective as the snow-shrubbery maze chase at the end of The Shining.

Unlike modern eco-horror films (The Last Winter and The Happening) where Mother Nature is given an eye-rolling politically convenient face of rage, the Mama in Long Weekend is more indifferent to her punishment: She don't mind if you inhabit her habitat for the weekend, but once you start littering and clipping at her bushes, you best watch your back. In fact, Long Weekend kind of rides a fundamentalist theme of reaping what you sow.

Peter and Marcia are already at each other's throats when they set out on a marriage mending weekend trip. Marcia hates Peter because he loves the dog more than her, and Peter hates Marcia because she slept with the neighbor and had an abortion ("committed murder", he accuses her of). Their marital difficulties are a result of the decisions they've made. This philosophy extends into the secluded coastal area where they set up camp for the weekend.

Bad decision 1 is when Peter throws a glass bottle into the ocean. Bad decision 2 is Marcia finding a nest fallen egg and not putting it back. Bad decision 3 is Peter firing his rifle into the water and wounding a sea lion. These build until an eye-for-an-eye scenario plays itself out. Long Weekend makes this conceit fascinating by jumping beyond the culturally accepted Old Testament origins of it and arguing that such a methodology has always existed in the laws of nature.

Somehow (brilliantly, in fact!), cinematographer Vincent Monton shoots the passive landscape in a manner that evokes quiet domination. And there is caustic pain in the imagery of a still tree that's had its bark chopped off or of a sandy shore that's been bruised by tire tracks. As humans, we're always aware of our superiority amongst the creatures of Earth. But when Peter and Marcia enter their spot of leisure for the weekend, the filmmakers of Long Weekend transform the dunes into hills of dirt, making the married couple look like a pair of unsuspecting ants through a wide-angled magnifying glass.

4 comments:

Megan said...

Wow. I both love and hate reading things like this. Love it because now I really want to see this film. Hate it because now there is no way to see it 'blind' and what's a girl to do?

Fox said...

:o(

Sadness... I hate to ruin movies, but I can't write about them without revealing things. I don't do it intentionally if that's any consolation. Was it the picture? If it makes you feel better the picture doesn't reveal anything even if it seems so.

But to be honest, there isn't anything in there that should take away from the experience of watching the film. While I certainly don't set out to include spoilers, my theory has been that if a movie is really good & sound, then it should be able to survive "spoilers".

Think of it this way, if I hadn't put this up, would you have ever even wanted to see it? :-) Wow, that just made me sound like a total prick! I'm stopping right now...

Wiley said...

I love this movie and I hope that its nod in 'Not Quite Hollywood' gives it a second life. I'll have to pick up the DVD.

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