Southern Komfort


As I waited to get blood drawn yesterday, I picked up the last issue of Time Magazine and noticed an article titled “Can This Man Save The Movies? (Again?)” with a picture of George Lucas. Admittedly, I didn’t read the article; but what struck me was the idea of George Lucas “saving the movies … again.” The thought depressed me, considering that I attribute the decline of sophisticated filmmaking to George Lucas (and Steven Spielberg). However, the article might have been solely about making money – for which Lucas is the Golden Boy.

I was reminded of this cultural demise as I watched Southern Comfort this weekend for the umpteenth time (I bought a bootleg copy in Indonesia in 2004) because it’s such a great all-round film – excellent storyline, acting, cinematography, amazing sound track etc. It was released in 1981, which was around the beginning of the end. Directed by Walter Hill, who also directed The Warriors (I think this has currently been turned into a play — scary) and the TV series Deadwood, the film stars Powers Boothe, Keith Carradine, and Peter Coyote as part of a National Guard squad conducting a weekend survivalist training in Louisiana swampland. The exercise takes a very terrifying and creepy turn when the troop, full of hubris, testosterone, and a hunger for the prostitutes waiting for them at the end of their game, steals the canoes of a local Cajun community.

The film has many parallels to Deliverance (also a great film), though the layers are deeper and more interesting. Ry Cooder’s musical brilliance really tops it off, as does the whole Cajun dancing/pig roast scene!! Oh yeah, and the trucks!!!


Funny, as I was writing this, the knife guy pulled up across the street and he could easily have been in the film. He comes every couple of weeks to sharpen the knives for the Le Beau Nob Hill Deli. He has a beautiful old truck with an A-line, wood paneled roof over the back that houses his sharpening wheel. I just ran out and had all of our knives and my scissors sharpened.

Along another stream of thought that came up while I was watching this film was remembering when I saw it in Indonesia. I watched it in my hotel room on my laptop, with a 103-degree fever, moaning, and drifting in and out of consciousness and I found it to be the perfect atmosphere for experiencing the film. Similar was when I watched Sergei Parajanov’s Sayat Nova (Color of Pomegranates) as I laid on my couch bleeding and aching with excruciating menstrual cramps, and again drifting in and out of consciousness. It was the most perfect experience of the film.

It could be yet another next trend for Relational Aesthetics – arranging screenings of films around the perfect experience for the viewing the film. (yes, I’m being facetious.)