Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lindsay Lohan, the Rev. Lawrence T. Shannon of Our Age

So poor Lindsay is arrested again after just getting back in rehab and now everyone's circled the wagons and has their tongues all out to be clucked. Well excuse me if I stand tall in her defense, brandishing a flaming piece of lumber from your witchy bonfire as I clear the area for some Richard Burton-style oration.

My resistance is probably partially due to being a fucked up alcoholic myself, partially it's my genuine distaste for mob mentality, but mainly I just think there's a Norman Bates-ish thing about it: persecute the young and beautiful and fucked up for the crime of stirring our hackles. Does Dreyer or Bergman or Russell make films about unattractive older women being burned alive as witches? No. Lindsay Lohan, you were made to be sacrificed on their altar of petty scandal.

And that brings me to one of my all-time favorite movies, which I just had the chance to revisit during a long summer cold, THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA (1964).

The story concerns the lusty, boozy reverend Lawrence T. Shannon (Burton), whose taken a job as a tour guide in Mexico for a bunch of pinched old Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers. Among the group is no less an icon of jail-bait than Sue Lyon, Kubrick's LOLITA from two years earlier. The leader of the sunday school teachers is a closeted dyke named Miss Fellows (Grayson Hall) who pours all her tangled up rage out at Burton for daring to act on feelings she's too repressed to even admit exist in herself. When Miss Fellows catches Sue Lyon up in Burton's room, his goose is cooked as she can't wait to get on the first available phone to her brother, a judge. In a last ditch attempt to save his job, the poor rev strands their tour bus at the foot of a hill leading up to the hotel run by a dressed-down Ava Gardener. Soon the poor rev is running from one co-dependent seductress to another, all the while spouting great gobs of philosophic brilliance.

Watching the film now, in the age of Lindsay-on-the-cross, it's pretty clear that those damn Sunday schoolteachers have won; they've spread their mundanity across the earth and man has been, in Burton's words in the film, "stamped, stacked... and canned." The sort of devils Burton wrestles with here have long since closed-up shop, been made to holler uncle by the sheer tedium of our allegedly less repressive society.

Well I thank the dark gods that daring, alcoholic visionaries like John Huston, Richard Burton and Tennesee Williams were able to leave such lovely relics of a bygone age behind. For NIGHT OF THE IGUANA is a film that pisses on the luggage of our mundane contemporary social mores. I can just imagine a wild-eyed Lindsay Lohan running up to Ava Gardner's hotel on the hill and hiding out in one of the bungalows, while the foaming-at-the mouthed Miss Fellows of the world come climbing up after, seething with their righteous contempt, brandishing cameras, tabloids, torches, and pitchforks.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, interesting and strangely apt comparison. I'm in your camp though, Lohan is being turned into a villain when all she really is a human being. What ever happened to human compassion, and concern? People like to see "heroes" and "beauties" destroyed, just as much as they like to put them up there. It's a shame.

    The Night of the Iguana is one of my favourite Huston films, as well as one of Burton's best performances. Huston always had a talent for using weather and temperature to increase tension, and it really works in this case.


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