Francis Ford Copola’s 1983 film Rumble Fish is really one of the most stunningly photographed films of all time – here working with cinematographer Stephen H. Burum, a frequent Brian De Palma collaborator. The problem is the meaning of the film isn’t made by the visual elements; they are just plastered on top. The baroque visual style is not allowed to speak for itself.
Some examples of the beautiful compositions in the film:
Instead, the film’s meaning is mainly created by the characters, the dialogue and the plot – all of which are wholly clichèd. The archetypal characters are all there; Matt Dillon’s poser rebel, his pretty girlfirend who puts up with his bullshit, his bad-ass big brother who comes to the rescue, and his pathetic alcholic father. Add to that fact each scene is so predictable that the film no longer borders on, but fully enters into, the realm of parody.
The middle image over is particularly telling, as it is a strikingly beautiful expressionistic composition, tarnished by the absurd-looking, sunglass-wearing cop. Keep in mind that the entire film is played straight, almost overly serious in tone. (The top image is of a baddie that comes to kick Dillon’s ass.)
It’s rare to see such an utterly polarizing film that is at once ravishingly beautiful, and yet cannot be describes as anything other than a failure. Had this been a silent film it could have been a great film – even a masterpiece – but as it is, it is plain painful to watch the way Burum’s talent is wasted, one scene at a time.
The result is a soaringly overrated and pretentious film.
The Motorcycle Boy Reigns; one of the last shots in the film.
Looking at other Coppola-films, I find, although well made, The Godfather to glorify the Italian gangster. Coppola’s best film might very well be the post-modern and genre-transformative The Conversation.
Agree or diasagree? Feel free to sound off in the comments below 😉