The Exiles Screen 19 articles

The Exiles


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  • While the mood—aided by contemplative narration from its three protagonists—is spot-on, the dubbed dialogue is so persistently lousy that it besmirches the proceedings’ otherwise-entrancing beauty. While the thin story is emboldened by fly-on-the-wall immediacy, its portrait of Native American men as loutish, abusive alcoholics unable to do more with themselves then beat up women and each other ultimately succumbs to the blunt stereotyping Mackenzie claims he sought to avoid.

  • The film has little interest in received notions of savagery or exoticism. Instead, its focus is on human behavior: What kind of fun do people without much money pursue on a Friday night? Maybe they drink and play cards; dance and carouse; watch TV or catch a movie. It’s tough to discern which activities were spontaneous or which may have been staged in this semi-fictionalized documentary. It all holds together as an episodic narrative, immersed in the circumstances of a few scattered lives.

  • A wrenching document of cultural dislocation and a remarkable record of a city that has vanished. In the late 1950s, it was still possible to think that all elements of society could share downtown Los Angeles. Since then, Los Angeles has become more segregated, and its downtown has been remolded over and over in efforts at gentrification that have never quite taken hold. The unassimilated, although pushed more and more to the margins, have continued to uphold their claims to its space.

  • Mackenzie's melancholic but clear-eyed vision of the different existences of men and women in this community – on parallel paths from heady dusk 'til sad dawn – bridges Cassavetes and many modern portraitists of gender-despair, such as Neil LaBute or Mike Leigh. The Exiles is a film to hunt down and savour – the kind of movie that instantly redefines our sense of cinema history.

  • It has beautiful high-contrast black-and-white photography, a dense and highly creative sound track, and moving portraits, and it's refreshingly free of cliches and platitudes--all the makings of an instant classic. Yet it vanished for almost four decades, until filmmaker Thom Andersen revived it by highlighting it in his remarkable essay film Los Angeles Plays Itself . . . You could also say that it stands outside any clear genre or movement, which undoubtedly helped condemn it to invisibility.

  • Mackenzie's talent is evident in his shot compositions, his heartbreaking close-ups, his thorough integration of settings and players, and his incredible use of lighting. This film is reminiscent of and every bit as good as Cassavetes’ Shadows, and possibly better for showing us people we almost never see on screen, even today.

  • With its weird, honking local pre-surf rock (by the Revels) and the beguiling intertwining of colloquial voices that sometimes mesh like blank verse, The Exiles is nearly as potent a dream as it is a document.

  • In its final form, "The Exiles" is almost unbearably intimate, allowing us to ride along for a raucous night on the town while simultaneously peering into its deeply conflicted characters' souls.

  • A portrait of a vanished community, “The Exiles” retains a contemporary relevance . . . Despite its compact time frame the film conjures a powerful sensation of purgatory: a night like many others.

  • For a film about Native Americans depleting what’s left of their lives in skid row haunts, The Exiles is a groovy visual experience. A streetcar descending a steep hill at night, lit up like a box of starlight. Mid-century Los Angeles architecture given the texture of gray flannel, leather, supple skin. Studies of Native American faces and bodies done over in the rock and roll pompadours, denims and poodle skirts that offer a quick fix sense of release/re-invention through assimilation.

  • The dialogue in "The Exiles" is looped in, giving the speech a chatty, floating quality that can be distracting at first. But actually, Mackenzie's rich and detailed sound design is one of the finest things about the movie. Pop hits from the period — by the Revels, Jerry Lee Lewis, and others — flow freely within scenes from jukeboxes, the sonic match to Homer and Tommy's greased-back hair.

  • The upshot of their singular collaborative effort is a beautifully photographed slice of down-and-almost-out life, a near-heavenly vision of a near-hell that Mr. Mackenzie situated at the juncture of nonfiction and fiction. He tapped into the despair of this obscured world while also making room for the poetry and derelict beauty of its dilapidated buildings, neon signs, peeling walls and downcast faces.

  • Kent Mackenzie's magnificent, long-undistributed, unclassifiable first feature, The Exiles, stands as a rare consideration of the inner and outer lives of American Indians in a big American city.

  • The actors lend their lives to the film, working closely with the filmmakers to shape a film that properly reflected many aspects of their daily lives. The result is not simply a document notable for its presumed authenticity, but also one that succinctly conveys the Indians’ extreme ambivalence about their place in American life.

  • Mackenzie plausibly conveys the impression (a remarkable one) of the viewer’s intimacy with the characters’ thoughts without letting their perspective override their tangible action. The two films [The Exiles and The American] have little in common, but Mackenzie is an artist whose style conveys substance; Corbijn’s style depends on the suppression of substance and takes the place of it.

  • Exile is a forced separation from home, but home can mean many things—a place, a community, an identity, a past, a sense of belonging and security. The Exiles observes all these sides of its subject with clear-eyed compassion and quietly devastating candor, tracing the repetitive cycles of lives without purpose or progress. This is a complex portrait of the reckless joys, as well as the melancholy and waste, of lives in exile.

  • The Exiles shows a lively, vibrant and adapting indigenous youth in a modern Western world. At times, that voice-over of Yvonne’s and Homer’s that allows us to feel like we’re going inside these young peoples’ mind also feels intrusive—but we can’t pull away. There’s something enticing about being an observer; something that makes us want to know *more* about how they think.

  • One of the greatest cinematic rediscoveries in recent years, Kent MacKenzie‘s 1961 masterpiece The Exiles is a revelatory landmark of American cinema, with its vivid, unflinching look at young Native Americans seeking escape from their lives in a run-down section of Los Angeles.

  • A prime exemplar of its vibrant moment, and deserves recognition alongside the other American independent features (ON THE BOWERY, SHADOWS, THE COOL WORLD) that tested the commercial viability of the nascent festival circuit... The final product resembles a master’s thesis: it demonstrates the depth of the candidate’s research and vouches for his formal sensitivity.

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