I had a tough time trying to figure out this month’s pick. Maybe it’s because the end of the year is a little more stressful than usual. I couldn’t decide what I wanted. A tragic love story? A heist film? Perhaps something foreign? I’ve always loved the classic story of one individual against the system. Finally, I decided on all of the above, picking John Boorman’s Point Blank starring Lee Marvin.
Even though it now has a cult following it was overlooked when it was released in 1967. The mid to late 60’s was the cusp of the big studio/independent film transition. Unfortunately it got lost in the mix of more palatable fare. It’s the story of a determined man seeking revenge in a world that seems to have taken him for granted and left him behind. The world is about to find out it messed with the wrong guy. He just wants what’s his, now.
I first saw Point Blank during its initial run. It confused the hell out of me. Not because it has a complex plot. I was just used to a more linear story. I was overthinking the film instead of just letting it happen. This is not that unusual when you’re 13. My dad always told me “never try to anticipate the punch-line to a joke.” I started to apply that same rule to watching movies after seeing Point Blank. Adhering to that philosophy has greatly enhanced my film experience.
Even though the plot was muddled by my own impatience, the images of Point Blank stayed with me. Indelible moments that seared my mind and have yet to be replicated in any flick since. The dialogue is sparse and the abstract time line is confusing. It’s one of those films that makes you say to yourself, “what the hell am I watching?” Yet, it’s so compelling I dare you to walk away from it.
But it’s the fabric of the film, art direction, editing, lighting, musical score and the innovative cinematography that gives it the feel of a European art film combined with a classic American crime story.
Marvin loved the novel The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake and worked closely with Boorman on adapting it for the screen. It started a life-long friendship. They collaborated on several projects after that. But their first love, Point Blank remains their greatest effort. I’d argue that this is Marvin’s best performance. Angie Dickinson, John Vernon, Carroll O’Connor (pre-Archie Bunker) and Keenan Wynn round out the solid cast.
Film buffs consider Point Blank one of the most intelligent crime movies ever made. I’d recommend not thinking about watching it or thinking while watching it. Just watch it and enjoy.