Monday, October 25, 2010

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

It was an unintentionally ironic decision of mine to watch “Cool Hand Luke” after “The Conformist”. While the “The Conformist” tells the tale of a Fascist spy on a mission in France, “Cool Hand Luke” tells the tale of a war hero who refuses to confirm to his life in prison.
Paul Newman, at the beginning of the movie is shown cutting down parking meters and is caught by the Police. He is sent to two years in prison where he becomes part chain gang road workers. He soon befriends the other inmates at the person with his cool, tough exterior. He is closer to Dragline, a tall well-built inmate, who runs the gambling ring inside the prison and they get along well. Soon Luke is rises to be everyone’s hero with his crazy antics and fearlessness. He garners reputation as the tough man.
While in prison, one day Luke’s mother visits him and tells him that prison life ought to change his erratic lifestyle. She informs him that she is really sick and will die anytime soon. Soon after she leaves, she succumbs to her illness and Luke is sent to confinement aka “the box” as the warden explains that prisoners with dead mothers have a tendency to escape. Luke being the naturalistic world changer does exactly the same and escapes the prison with help from his friends only to be captured again.
But his unquenchable spirit ignites another escapade which too ends to the same fate. But this time he has the prison authorities on their nerves who makes him dig a grave and fill it up again after a tedious day in order to break his spirit. They succeed as Luke finally falls at their feet begs them. This submission of Luke’s is received with hostility by the other inmates and they abandon him. Having become loyal and closer to the prison guards he gains access to the chief and the prison truck, which he one day out on work, hijacks along with Dragline and tries to escape. But instead of trying to escape, Luke confronts God, whom he have been shunning for a long time, at a church and asks him what he wants him to do. Meanwhile, Dragline who has been captured by the Police enters the church and asks Luke to surrender to the Police peacefully, who otherwise are going to kill him. Luke looks out the window and shouts “what we’ve got here is failure to communicate” the same line uttered by the Captain at the beginning of the movie, portrayed by Strother Martin (who plays Chong’s father in Cheech and Chong Up in Smoke). He is immediately shot down by the chief of guards, No Eyes. The Police take him to the Prison clinic instead of a Hospital located near, giving ample time for Luke to succumb to his wounds. As he sits in the car, waiting for his destiny, he faintly smiles in his typical style to Dragline as they drive away into the night.
Cool hand Luke is the product of then growing grudge of people against establishment; sort of an artistic rebellious outcry representing the people’s resentment against their government in the vicinity of the Vietnam War. It is similar in themes with other movies that had grown or rather matured in their handling of violence like Arthur Penn’s Bonnie& Clyde, signaling the start of the New Wave of Hollywood Cinema. It is symbolic in its travails that of one man’s constant fight for freedom and his longing to escape the claws of his oppressors. It also raises questions about faith as Luke who in the beginning is an atheist and at the end turns to god for answers.
Paul Newman is brilliant as the eponymous character. The role was originally offered to Screen legend Jack Lemmon, who after reading the script, suggested the name of Paul for the role and chose to stay on as the producer on the project. George Kennedy’s performance earned him an Oscar for actor in a supporting role. Screen writer Donn Pierce had actually some time in Prison and in a chain gang for safe breaking. His real life experience has been realistically transferred to the silver screen. All in all this movie is a spirited one depends the way you see it. At the end of the movie we really don’t know whether Luke survives or not but my guess is he survives that too just the way he kept getting up during the boxing match , just the way he ate 50 eggs, just the way he escaped the prison 3 times because


Post a Comment