Friday, March 1, 2013

The Last Detail (1973)

Oh Jack Nicholson, how I love thee!

Hal Ashby, Otis Young, Jack Nicholson

The same is true for director Hal Ashby who also directed probably my favorite film of all time, Harold and Maude.

The Last Detail was last night's showing in my film class.  And we laughed a whole bunch.  Constant laughing for 103 minutes, even though the underlying reality is SO SAD.

Come to find out, this movie also had Robert Towne on board, who penned Chinatown, as the scriptwriter (adapting the novel by Darryl Ponicsan), and Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver) as the cinematographer--Chapman has a great bit part as the taxi driver who gets the three marines to the nearest "cat house."

Otis Young is great as Nicholson's Buddusky ("Bad Ass") partner, Mulhall, in this journey to take 18-year old convict Meadows (Randy Quaid) to a Portsmouth prison.  And his crime? Stealing forty dollars from a charity box and not even getting the forty dollars.

I started off saying to the class something like, "Okay, get ready for some male bonding."

 Look at the depth of field in this shot!

I also tried to tell them why Hal Ashby is my favorite director, but it's not so easy because he doesn't have the best picture awards to back me up or the virtuoso-type shots that some film students love.  "He's really good at what he does, but it's subtle," I told them.  "You'll see how much Wes Anderson is influenced him when we study Wes Anderson later on."

Hal Ashby is really good at editing first of all.  He was an editor first on such films as In the Heat of the Night. Secondly, this movie has a kind of realism that you will never see in a Hollywood movie EVER.  And finally, he lets actors really shine.  John Voight, who Ashby directed in Coming Home (also a must-see film) talks in an interview about how one time he was messing up his lines and Ashby told him not to worry about it, that they were making a movie and what could be greater than that--Take all the time you need. Voight starts to choke up after saying that.

What I love about this movie is how it's a journey, but it also is a movie that shows you how to be adventurous, how to be curious about things going on that you might not understand (like chanting), how it's okay to get angry sometimes, how we're all in some kind of prison so we just have to really savor the few moments we are free.

Jack Nicholson, the king of helping people with low self-esteem onscreen.  I will forever by grateful.