Close Up

3 - 24 September 2015: Fat City

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Fat City
John Huston
1972 | 98 min | Colour | Digital

"Former boxer Leonard Gardner adapted his own extraordinary novel for Two-Lane Blacktop’s Monte Hellman. When Hellman had to heartbreakingly decline due to contract conflicts, John Huston returned to the arms of critics and the public with the inconspicuous naturalism of his version of Fat City. Acutely rendered shadows and light describe the dingy edges of desperate lives who accumulate around the gym, the bar, flophouses, onion fields – nonetheless flickering with ideas of something grander. A faded, unglamorous boxing film with no precise rises or falls, Fat City instead observes the repercussions of the perpetual expansion and deflation of egos battered by more than fists. Huston – also a one-time fighter – invisibly directs a cast of unprofessional actors and actual boxers with Stacy Keach’s washed up fighter, Jeff Bridges’ conflicted neophyte and Susan Tyrell’s uncannily channeled alcoholic. Both dignified and defeated, they populate a Stockton, California skid row also on the edge of destruction; the very day after the final shoot, large swathes of the film’s locations were razed making way for freeways and redevelopment. Fat City captures moments – both fleeting and eternal – of a particularly American vein of beauty, humor and pain and inscribes them with such unaffected detail the film seems less a projection than an unobstructed view from across the tracks." – Harvard Film Archive

Part of our New Hollywood season