Monday, September 17, 2012

Straw Dogs (1971)

Straw Dogs

Written by Sam Peckinpah & David Zelag Goodman
Directed by Sam Peckinpah

David Sumner...Dustin Hoffman
Amy Summer...Susan George
Charlie...Del Henney
Janice...Sally Thomsett

David Sumner is not quite the man his wife Amy wishes he would be. He's not exactly macho, he's an intellectual--an astrophysicist--whose work requires much silence, solitude, and ponderous thought. Although she tries to "mature" herself for him in small ways, such as learning chess, she is still very girl-like, flirtatious and desiring more of his attention. The majority of the attention she receives, though, is unwanted and comes from the help, a group of rowdy locals who spend more time leering at her and sniffing her panties than they do finishing the barn they were hired to rebuild.

After their advances go too far--which appears to be an epidemic in this rural community--David is forced to man-up to protect his home, his wife, and himself. The tag line says it all: "The knock at the door meant the birth of one man and the death of seven others!"

It's a beautiful-looking film, expertly crafted for maximum effect. The inherent differences between Amy and David create genuine affection and strife, and we find ourselves caring about both characters. There is a great deal of violence always bubbling just beneath the surface, and nearly all of the townsfolk come across as menacing.

The best character moment was between David and the local pastor, as a man of science and a man of faith engaging in a battle of wits. It was, sadly, far too short-lived of a moment. I would have loved an expanded scene.

It's a complex film that is undeniably the work of a genius, and yet I'm left unsure of how I feel about it. It can easily be viewed as misogynistic--even more-so than your typical Rape-Revenge film--and Peckinpah seems to be making some rather unsettling comments about the sexual nature of women. To go into it any further would run the risk of spoilers, but suffice it to say that Straw Dogs requires a much deeper analysis than I can give after only a single viewing.

And frankly, I'm not certain that I can wrap my head around another viewing. At least not for a while.

This IS a movie that should be watched, preferably with other film fans. However be prepared for hours of serious debate. It is a movie that was designed for discussion.

Rated R
118 Minutes

"I will not allow violence against this house."

1 comment:

  1. "Peckinpah seems to be making some rather unsettling comments about the sexual nature of women."

    You cannot win with this one. After two generations of militant feminism and demands to be treated equal, we are the first ones to pull the "sugar and spice" card in theses cases. Amy definitely loves her husband, but is sometimes looking for something extra. This is a truth we only admit to when it suites us. Otherwise we are "offended" at the thought of such a "vile nature." It is almost a Janus syndrom when it comes to sex.

    Good review of a good movie. One that they cannot make today, becasue is offends our little ol' sensibilities.


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