Tag Archives: Mel Gibson

The Measure of a Man (2015)

A film like The Measure of a Man needs the right actor in the leading role, and Vincent Lindon is the right actor. He’s not commanding, but he’s dignified; he’s not emotive, but he’s emotional; he’s not a force of nature, but if he is then he’s a fault line waiting to quake. He’s always just about to boil, “simmering”, maybe, but then again there’s even less violence in his demeanor than there is in a pot of increasingly hot water. Lindon is simply comfortable, at ease and natural in a tie or a T-shirt, genuine as if he’s blissfully unaware of the camera in his face (and in Measure it’s really in his face).

On the other hand Lindon’s character, unemployed factory worker Thierry Taugourdeau, is decidedly uncomfortable. There are very few opportunities for Thierry to just loosely enjoy life in his own body in the manner of the actor portraying him; Thierry can’t afford that. He’s confronted with his financial realities during every waking moment, sometimes explicitly and sometimes during a scene of him dancing with his wife, and Measure presents Thierry during a time in his life when his employment is everything. He’s like a saggy old Augie March in a rotation of labor by necessity instead of by election; instead of working in jobs dictated by his pride, he takes what he can get and usually has to suppress that pride.

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Point Blank (1967)

Parker is many different people at the same time. He’s a lover, a hater, a criminal, a vigilante. He’s driven by greed, but then he doesn’t care about money. He’s driven by revenge, but then he doesn’t seem to know when he’s gotten it. In John Boorman’s Point Blank, Parker’s not even Parker — he’s “Walker”, a change made for reasons unknown. Lee Marvin is the man in the role for this go-round, but again, Parker’s never the same guy twice. Marvin was only the first to walk in Parker’s shoes (park in Walker’s?), followed over the years by Jim Brown (Parker changed to “McClain”), Robert Duvall (“Macklin”), Peter Coyote (“Stone”), Mel Gibson (“Porter”) and Jason Statham (finally, just “Parker”). Technically, there are as many Parkers as there are James Bonds.

One of the few people who rival the bank-robbing Parker in terms of crisis of identity is Parker’s real-life creator Donald E. Westlake. Westlake has more than a hundred books — hardboiled crime novels, comic capers, science fiction yarns, nonfiction, biographies and, oh, let’s not forget: porn — to his credit, very few of which are actually published under his name. Westlake had no fewer than seventeen pseudonyms over the course of his lengthy writing career. Curt Clark, Tucker Coe, Barbara Wilson, Judson Jack Carmichael — they’re all Westlake, though none of them are.

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The Mosquito Coast (1986)

In many ways our Director Series on Peter Weir can be seen as an excuse to write about The Mosquito Coast, which is the logical culmination of the “early stage” of the director’s career and gateway to those brilliant films that would follow (though calling that Weir’s “later stage” makes it sound like his directing career is a slowly advancing disease). Coast would follow Gallipoli and The Year of Living Dangerously – two well-received Australian films that helped launch Mel Gibson into superstardom – and Witness, which would prove to be Weir’s first American film. The greatness of Dead Poets Society would follow. It’s The Mosquito Coast, though, that’s arguably the most ambitious of any of these films.

And that’s fitting, because although Gibson’s Guy Hamilton and Harrison Ford’s John Book and Robin Williams’s John Keating could conceivably all be described as “ambitious” in one way or another, it’s Ford’s Allie Fox that allows his ambition to get the better of him. Fed up with just about every aspect of America, inventor Fox uproots everything and takes his family deep into the South American jungle. They make a new home – “home” a term used liberally here – on the Mosquito Coast, where Allie’s latest creation provides something magical for the local population: ice. Helen Mirren and River Phoenix appear as Allie’s wife and eldest son, who essentially allow themselves to be dragged into the jungle by this iceman simply because they love him.

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The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)

After their 1981 collaboration on Gallipoli, Peter Weir cast the young Mel Gibson again the following year in his feature adaptation of the C.J. Koch novel The Year of Living Dangerously. The film would ultimately end up being one of the first collaborations between an Australian studio and a Hollywood studio, and thus the most ambitious Australian film to date. Good news for both the director and the actor, then, that the movie ended up being one of the year’s finest achievements. If Gallipoli was the announcement of Weir as a commanding big-budget filmmaker and Mel Gibson as a major star, The Year of Living Dangerously was the solidification of that announcement.

The storyline(s) are admittedly numerous, often incomplete, occasionally downright implausible. The historical accuracy isn’t necessarily…accurate. Yet none of that really matters in the grand scheme of Living Dangerously because the characters and the atmospheric beauty of the picture are so absorbingly irresistible, and because the meandering and multifaceted plot is probably actually more true to life. Lives don’t play out in neat one-two-three act scenarios, and the subplots each of us tends to engage in hardly ever come to definitive “ends”. Love comes and goes, things become more important or less, people we thought were one way act another – all of these expressions are at the heart of The Year of Living Dangerously, and the overall impact far outweighs that of a great number of films preaching straightforward plots and historical accuracy only to forget to leave some breathing room for a little passion.

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Gallipoli (1981)

Gallipoli is arguably the feature that catapulted both Mel Gibson and Peter Weir onto the international stage. Though both the actor and the director had found success in the years prior – Weir with The Cars That Ate Paris, Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave and Gibson with Mad Max – their first collaboration would prove to bring out the best in both of them. Gallipoli spawned plenty of war films and series that would attempt to ride that wave of popularity, but to this day it still remains one of the greatest WWI films out there.

Gibson stars alongside Mark Lee, the latter of whom actually has the larger role despite Gibson’s mug being the only one plastered across the U.S. marketing materials. Lee is Archy Hamilton, hopeful young sprinter from Western Australia who continually hears of the efforts of the Australian Imperial Force on the peninsula of Gallipoli. He first crosses paths with Gibson’s Frank Dunne during a footrace, after which both men travel together to Perth in order to enlist. Their journey is long and full of joy and laughter, but it eventually takes them to the front lines at Gallipoli. Here they confront the reality of war, attempting to hold onto whatever remnants of home they can in the face of such horror.

To be sure, there are no shortage of “loss of innocence” war films. You could even argue that all war films address this in one way or another, even if it’s tangentially through a supporting character or two as in the likes of The Hurt Locker. Not only does Gallipoli get credit for being a precursor to some of the best WWI films of our era, but it’s also worth paying attention to the structuring of the film as a kind of growing, building framework on which we can hang this theme as the credits roll. First off, the focus is very much on Archy and Frank for the entirety of the movie – we only see the battlefield when they see the battlefield, and any notions we have of the war are stemmed from the opinions of the people they meet and the newspapers they read. In this sense, the war is almost a backdrop for a tale about two friends, and Gibson himself expressed as much in an interview (according to the almighty Wikipedia [so it’s gotta be true!]).

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