Fat City Screen 13 articles

Fat City

1972

Fat City Poster
  • John Huston's 1972 restatement of his theme of perpetual loss is intelligently understated, though the recessive camera compositions put an unnecessary distance between the viewer and the characters. Well acted by all, including Susan Tyrrell, Candy Clark, and Nick Colasanto.

  • Huston, who fought 25 professional bouts during his youth, was clearly invested in the material, as well as in his hungry young performers. Keach and Bridges, the skinniest pugilists to grace the screen since Robert Ryan stumbled through The Set-Up, both give graceful performances. Whether picking onions or walking into punches, melancholy Keach, just done playing a revisionist Doc Holliday, is particularly affecting.

  • Grainy, underlit, lap-steel-scored Americana about lonely, often times boozing souls at existential crossroads is kind of a sweet spot for me, so there was never any real doubt that I would enjoy this. I didn't, however, expect to find John Huston in such confident command of tone, coasting on an unassuming neutrality that siphons out any extraneous dimension of metaphor or subtext from the small-time boxing world he observes...

  • One could go on at length about the finely tuned ensemble acting... and Conrad Hall’s beautiful lit color photography, which tells us things about crummy bars in the late afternoon and car interiors at night that we haven’t seen since the 40s — in black and white. But the overriding triumph of Fat City is the nearly faultless direction, which uses these beauties not as distractions but as facets of a single vision.

  • Marvellous, grimly downbeat study of desperate lives and the escape routes people construct for themselves, stunningly shot by Conrad Hall... Huston directs with the same puritanical rigour he brought to Wise Blood. Beautifully summed up by Paul Taylor as a 'masterpiece of skid row poetry'.

  • Steven Soderbergh called my attention to this lesser-known Huston masterpiece in his journal entries for sex, lies, and videotape, and I wasn't remotely disappointed when I finally had an opportunity to see it. Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges are both utterly superb as small-time boxers desperate to escape their squalid surroundings, and Huston doesn't waste a frame in depicting the very real emotions and situations with which they grapple.

  • There’s no narrative build, per se. It’s just a succession of fleeting, semirealized hopes tamped down by disappointment after disappointment. Yet Huston and his performers give the material an elating, transcendental verve, especially during the sequences in which words fail the characters and interminable silences take over. That’s the sum total of Tully and Ernie’s final interaction, a pregnant pause in a run-down diner that seems as if it could extend for eons.

  • A film that attracted critical acclaim but is deserving of wider popularity, “Fat City” (1972), about an over-the-hill, alcoholic boxer, was filmed with downbeat radiance, a mix of professional and nonprofessional actors and indelible scenes between Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges.

  • Huston’s Fat City has increasingly been recognized for what it is, one of the greatest films of a great decade for American movies, and the purest distillation of Huston’s career-long engagement with doomed, hubristic personal quests and pyrrhic victories.

  • A different director might have fashioned the same basic material into something grandiose, but Huston errs on the side of understatement. Shot largely on location, this raw, pessimistic portrait of people struggling to keep from slipping all the way down reinvigorated the veteran director’s reputation, and stands as one of his best and most accomplished films.

  • The film is as stuck in a haze as its protagonists, with neither attaining sharpness or clarity, both shot in the dusky glow of DP Conrad Hall’s cinematography. All of which can be seen to devastating effect in the beautiful new Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

  • By the end of this delicately noir film, both men come around to cold truth. “Just when you get rolling, your life makes a beeline for the drain,” says Tully. Their trainers and their women flatter to deceive, and their delusions—the what-ifs and the if-onlys—chain them to squalid decline. *They* are the stuff that dreams are made of.

  • In this rueful, mordant film’s terrific final scene, Tully — stubbly, bruised, dirty, and drunk — pleads with Ernie to keep him company at a 24-hour diner. “You think he was ever young once?” Tully asks his obliging, still-adolescent companion as they stare at the wizened Asian man pouring them coffee, a question the washed-up fighter has clearly been asking himself for at least a decade.

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