Monday, January 13, 2014

Deliverance revisited

This is my second blog post on this movie. I have been known to be obsessed on things from time to time.

I've seen this one countless times, and it's hard to believe it first hit the screens in 1972.  Last time I watched it -- a few years back in Oregon -- I particularly enjoyed the vistas of the wonderful, wild and scenic Chattooga River, which forms the border between Georgia and South Carolina way up in the northeast corner of this state. 

This viewing followed a series of events and included some new stuff on this new deluxe edition.

Pat Conroy (a student of James Dickey, who wrote this story) mentioned in his recent book The Death of Santini that Dickey's son, Christopher Dickey, had written a particularly good story about Dickey and particularly about father/son relationships, called The Summer of Deliverance. I got this one from the local library and read it, found it fascinating. The title is a bit of a play on words -- a couple of chapters are devoted to the filming of Deliverance, but it seems to mostly refer to a summer he spent late in his father's life mending what had been a contentious relationship. Chris Dickey is a journalist, a fine writer in a much different genre from his poet father.  Reading the book led me to want to watch the movie again, after reading so much 'behind the scene' stuff. Had to order it through our library system, ended up with this deluxe edition which is remastered (great graphic quality) and has lots of footage from filming as well as current-day stories and retrospectives from the four stars, the director and cinematographer (all still living and working) as well as narrative from Chris Dickey (who was on the film crew) and even a few bits of video of James Dickey reading some of his poetry or walking about the campus where he taught. I spent an hour or more watching and wallowing in these before watching the film.

Unlike most movies, this one was filmed sequentially, as they ran the river. Access to the river was limited enough that I expect reruns would have been too problematic. None of the actors had ever paddled canoes and all but Reynolds were given basic instruction (Reynolds refused, said he wanted to run it 'cold'). They did all their own paddling, all the rapids, everything. By the time they reached the end of the river it was clear that they were much more confident with the paddles and boat-handling! Reynolds even did his own stunt work in going down the big waterfall at the end -- the rest had better sense, I guess. Because of the dangers involved, the movie was filmed without insurance because they couldn't get insurance. Interestingly enough, filming sequentially also left the actors with time to build up some anticipation, anxiety and trepidation regarding the upcoming rape scene, which apparently helped all of their performances.

Refer to obsession, above, but I thoroughly enjoyed all this background info and enjoyed this viewing far more than any of the prior viewings. The beauty of the setting -- Rabun County -- was breathtaking. It was great to see the river again (I've paddled section II, the 'tame' section, have done several hikes/backpacks along the river, have visited some of the big rapids (Class III, IV and V on Sections III and IV) on foot, have explored section I which isn't particularly navigable (still a relatively small stream up there).  Aside from the physical beauty, I think I saw for the first time the overall beauty of this movie (the story isn't always beautiful, but taken as a whole, it's a beautiful work of art). There has to be some reason it's been so iconic for 40+ years.

No plumbers yet, in case anybody's curious.

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