Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

  • Location:
  • Mood:
  • Music:

"That's the lemon next to the pie."

Assimilation notice: Tim has succumbed to the irresistable pull of gravitational forces beyond his comprehension...

Welcome jailnurse!

... ONE OF US ... ONE OF US ... ONE OF US ... ONE OF US ... ONE OF US ... ONE OF US ... ONE OF US ... ONE OF US ... ONE OF US ... ONE OF US ...

I caught up to Big Wednesday last night. I became curious about the film when I got the authoritative Film Score Monthly release of Basil Poledouris' absolutely outstanding score. The liner notes described quite a bit about the film, and the score was so beautiful I found myself interested.

It was pretty good, if a little cliché-heavy. The movie is exactly what it sets out to be; a wistful look at how friendships change over time and surfing. It is therefore a very bittersweet film, and while in Conan, John Milius' penchant for macho bullshit fit with the premise of the movie, because this film is about achieving maturity, it is very much held in check.

The four-part structure of the film works quite well, and it is clear that a lot of this is autobiographical for Milius and co-writer Denny Aaberg. They have a strong connection to the material that the stories of the three main characters, Matt, Jack and Leroy (Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt and Gary Busey, respectively) more often than not ring very true despite their familiarity (and even if they aren't the most likeable guys on the planet).

Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt and Gary Busey provide some beefcake for the ladies.
That's whom John Milius insists it's for. Very firmly. Very, very firmly.

However, while Milius works hard at establishing a naturalistic formalism with the central trio, the other characters are often advanced more oafishly. For example, Bear (Sam Melville) is very synthetic in the first two sequences, almost like he walked in from another movie, which makes his eventual direction in the next two segments less compelling than it should be. Waxer (Darrell Fetty) is barely a presence until it becomes important to tug at some heartstrings. And of course, since this is Milius here, the women are present but barely noticed by the film. Matt's wife Peggy (Lee Purcell) goes through quite a lot but the film never bothers to pay much attention with her, leaving her more of a silent, supportive figure than anything else.

Poledouris' score gives the film a mythic yet intimate quality through the juxtaposition of large scale symphonic passages with the Beamer brothers' Hawaiian slack key pieces. The score is often a very important aspect of communicating the characters' inner selves as so much of the film is about stoicism. The themes are very accessible (which is why the album is such a great listen). As I've said earlier, Milius always wants the best score for his film, and so some of the changes he asked for from time to time were, I feel, well-informed decisions. An example of this would be the graveyard scene, "Cemetary," which was originally orchestral until Milius asked Poledouris to rewrite it for the slack key, and I believe this choice made the scene connect more with the characters. I like both versions of the "The Challenge" and "Big Wednesday Montage," but what appears in the film is very effective.

Now, one of the benefits of having a fairly large screen in your home theater is that when a film has a visual element that is as compelling as the surfing sequences in the movie are, they are done some semblance of justice. The scope of the swell is an important aspect of the story, and rolling waves are undeniably breathtaking. The surfing sequences capture something of the freedom of their subject, placing you directly into the activity in a manner similar to the flying scenes in Howard Hughes' Hell's Angels which I discussed a few months ago. All of the scenes have a powerful man-against-nature element to them, leading up to the impressive finale, the titular Big Wednesday. This sequence, which also features a cameo by surf legend Gerry Lopez, who would go on co-star in Conan as Subotai (although his lines would be dubbed by somebody else) is one visually arresting piece of cinema. The waves roll and crest and fill the anamorphic frame; I can't imagine what this sequence would look like panned-and-scanned, nor would I ever care to see it that way. It is a fitting coda to the movie as a whole.

One trifle; I have no idea why this film was recorded in Dolby Stereo and Conan was mono. I mean, sure Big Wednesday had epic tendencies, but Conan was a bonafide epic by nature. Maybe I'm grousing a bit, here, but one of these films features a bunch of guys partying and surfing, and the other features battle sequences. I don't get it.
Tags: basil poledouris, cinema, reviews
  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for friends only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded