Cockfighter (1974)

“Cockfighter” (1974)



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I really have a sympathy for the kind of film-making this film aims at. I respect the intentions, i am always able to live in the environments films like this try to create. But when this sort of film fails, it’s never a glorious failure, nor an interesting one. The thing slides to fields of boredom and emptiness.

For what concerns direction and, to me, acting, this film fails totally. Not because it’s incompetent, simply because it’s not engaging, there is not a visual idea Hellman tries to explore. This is his only film i’ve seen so far; here he connects his narrative to the character, the actor (who apparently starred in many of his other movies). It is what certain film writers define as “character study”. Well, i think that may be done, if the character is interesting, and that depends on whether the actor is interesting as an actor and as a person. So this drastically reduces the possibilities of success in such a kind of film. I didn’t think Warren Oates was interesting enough for me to follow him willingly. This made the film as uninteresting in its content as the life of the straightforward cock trainer.

But something redeems all these flaws. the cinematography is unobtrusive and beautiful in many ways. Almendros was one of the cinematographers who could masterfully move away from protagonism and yet build a worthy mood we want to get into. Pairing with Truffaut, he gave us some exquisite moments of minimal photography, in the sense that he transcends through an apparent “naturalism”. Striking… If you watch this film you may be led to believe, like i did, that some of it was bureaucratic work Almendros had to do to narrate the boring character Hellman proposes, but other moments are shining and worth watching. Among those are the cock fights. the cock close-ups are beautiful, and the careful editing allows the fight scenes to be really tough. The inner sets, when associated to intimacy, are also cozy and mood evoking. Apart from those, you’ll want to see a certain scene: it’s by a lake, the protagonist and his lover caress each other, and talk about their life and relation. The shot starts as a close-up of their faces, over a totally white background. Than the camera slowly zooms out, reveals the environment, and that’s when we get the lake. All this is done with a subtlety which is really hard to see. This shot will be with me for a long long time.

My opinion: 3/5 watch it, for the cinematography, only.

This comment on IMDb


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