Monday, December 15, 2008

The Osterman Weekend

THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND (Sam Peckinpah, 1983)
*** (A must-see)

Both a late entry in the '70s paranoia pantheon and an early-'80s greed-and-coke social satire , Peckinpah's final film is both about and indicative of madness and substance abuse. It would make a fine lower-half of the bill on a double feature with VIDEODROME. Though THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND is the lesser film I don't think it would suffer in comparison to VIDEODROME as the impulsive nature of Peckinpah's technique here would serve as an interesting counterpoint to Cronenberg's absolute control.

The film reveals its capacity for surprising sublimity in an early, sparsely motivated car chase sequence; one which likely serves as an action set-piece for convention's sake in both novel and screenplay but is transformed into something that transcends plot* contrivance to express Peckinpah's thoughts on montage. It's an effectively visceral rather than an intellectualized exercise.

No, it's not an exercise at all.

In this sequence, Peckinpah shows us a possibility of cinema because he has to. We're fortunate that he did so even as I suspect that the psychic toll, in whatever condition he was in and under whatever influence held sway over him when he cut that sequence together, to make that section of the film, at least, for himself in opposition to enemies real and imagined equally informed his direction of Helen Shaver in her chilling performance of an addict who breaks completely under serious stress.

*The volume of plot in this story is the equal of Peckinpah's disinterest in plot. The story just serves as an excuse to riff on the power relationships between people or between the individual and institutions.

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Blogger THHB said...

I just thought that Rutger Hauer was really cool---however, I am terribly mainstream--while I really like "Osterman" I count "NightHawks" as my favorite movie starring Hauer--Stallone and BDW also, for that matter.

6:15 PM  

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