Escape from New York (1981)

“Escape from New York” (1981)


postmodern blinks

Carpenter has a very special talent to give his films a mood, an environment, the taste of a specific world. That mood is almost always associated to a very strong sense of place. Many of his films are physically located within some recognizable area, related or not to our real world and if so, always twisted in some cinematic (visual) way.

I believe he always starts the conception of each film with this idea of place and mood. Than he builds a story that allows him to explore that mood, usually something trivial and unimportant, existing to support his cinematic vision.

Here we have it. Manhattan, one of the most recognizable places in film world. Twisted to become an assumed apocalyptic world. (the fact that Plissken enters it by plane, landing on top of the WTC is an unintentional irony, 20 years before the attacks).

He uses Kurt Russell, someone who can be trusted to the kind of role he has: physically self- aware, stylish, deliberately empty. He is a nice guy, because he plays this parts with a second layer of self-reference, a blink to the audiences, always: he’s playing a role which he knows can’t be taken serious, and we get that, we know we are watching a guy acting a role while he makes fun of it. This something Bruce Willis or George Clooney are also capable of doing. It’s fun that 25 years later Russell would participate in a Tarantino film that references with a similar sense of irony these films already not serious, and the ones before this one. Russell participated in the 2 layers of irony. That’s good.

But Van Cleef is even better. He was a supporting actor in first generation westerns. He lived to become a main actor in 2 of Leone’s ironic genius westerns. And here he still has the opportunity to enter a new stage of film irony, playing a character who manipulates and observes this western of a solitary hero fighting low moral for self-benefit. 3 layers in film world, he was in them 3. That’s remarkable.

After this, Carpenter gives us all sorts of visual treats, to enrich the bizarre feel of this world. This is a worthy experience, a kind of Blade Runner without anything serious to say. It doesn’t change you, but it’s worth the ride.

My opinion: 4/5

This comment on IMDb

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