"I Can Eat 50 Plates Of Beans"
February 26, 2012 11:12 PM   Subscribe

"As such, the film offers an interesting mix of, on the one hand, the surreal impossibility of reasoning with the state and its hired representatives (similar, say, to the writings of Franz Kafka); and, on the other, what seems to be a particularly American breed of libertarianism, one in which even parking meters can be interpreted as 'just a lot of guys laying down a lot of rules and regulations,' where all instances of authority are meant to be, if not resisted, than at least publicly mocked and undercut."--BLDGBLOG weighs in on the classic American film Cool Hand Luke (theatrical trailer). Part of a series entitled "Breaking Out & Breaking In"
posted by bardic (15 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
So badly written that I have trouble giving any attention at all to its analysis.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:27 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

This guy's head will explode if he ever sees "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
posted by ShutterBun at 4:03 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Gotta say, not a whole lot here to work with. I see you've indicated a certain overthinking going on, bardic, in this little essay (with your plate of beans reference in the post title), but it seems rather high school-level philosophizing to me. So, yeah, maybe school lunch plate of beans?

The thing that always bugged me most about Cool Hand Luke was that subtle-as-a-wrecking-ball crucifixion imagery at the end of the 50 eggs scene. Yeah, yeah, Luke is Jesus, got it. The thing I always loved best about it was the warden's line "whut we hay-yuhve hee-yah... is a fail-yah tuh c'myoonicate".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:04 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Obligatory I can over-think 50 plates of beans?
posted by fusinski at 5:38 AM on February 27, 2012

Fusinski, NOBODY can over-think 50 plates of beans.
posted by newmoistness at 6:32 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fusinski, NOBODY can over-think 50 plates of beans.

I'm now picturing a MeFite over-thinking 50 plates of beans against 50 different competitors, a la Bobby Fischer.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:17 AM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

So badly written that I have trouble giving any attention at all to its analysis.

Shut your mouth about my BLDGBLOG.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:50 AM on February 27, 2012

Just read the two posts devoted to The Great Escape and...wow...thin, thin stuff, indeed. And by "thin" I mean "makes warm bath water seem like reduced veal stock". Comparatively, the Cool Hand Luke post reads like a Masters thesis.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:56 AM on February 27, 2012

Shakin' the branches, Boss.

Shakin' the branches.
posted by Herodios at 8:59 AM on February 27, 2012

Whether it's a paean to libertarianism or just a flick about a loser trying to buck the system (as a great many movies in the late 1960s and 1970s were), it's still a classic. Every time I watch it I'm reminded that it was one of my dad's favorites.
posted by blucevalo at 10:34 AM on February 27, 2012

Cool Hand Luke is one of my favorite movies.

My theory is that it is about the easy emptiness of allegory. The film couldn't be more explicit. As flapjax notes, "Luke is Jesus. Yeah, got it." But that's not the whole of it. Luke is a Christ figure, but he's a wholly human one. His suffering and death are ultimately meaningless, but become meaningful in the re-telling. The film is about accidental apotheosis - Luke goes out of his way to REJECT God, singing "Plastic Jesus" when he hears about the death of his mother, sardonically referring to God as "boss", which explicitly connects God to the authority of the state exemplified by the cruel field boss, Captain, and, right before his death, looking toward the empty ceiling of a lonely church and asking: "Ya hear that? Are ya hearin' it? Come on. You're welcome to it, old-timer. Let me know You're up there. Come on. Love me, hate me, kill me, anything. Just let me know it... I'm just standin' in the rain talkin' to myself.”

But he can't stop the story he has set in motion. Stories make myths and myths make martyrs and martyrs make men think they have stumbled onto meaning, even if they're just staggering drunk through a parking lot, "chewin' up municipal property".

George Kennedy's Dragline functions as both Peter and Judas. He is the chain-gang leader before Luke, and he betrays Luke at the end. Luke commissions Dragline his successor immediately before Dragline betrays him: "I done enough world shaking for a while, you do the rest of it for me."

And he does. Dragline retells his story to the other men on the chain-gang. And it is through the that retelling (and Paul Newman's smile) that the events of Luke's life and death are re-imagined and his savior status reified.

So these men, broken on the wheel of the state, discarded by society, ostracized and dehumanized and forced to work as the very apparatus they most detest, these men find hope and meaning in NOTHING. In the life of a hapless nonconformist who salvages his dignity with acts of hopeless, absurd rebellion, knowing he's going to be crushed.

β€œHe was smiling... That's right. You know, that... that Luke smile of his. He had it on his face right to the very end. Hell, if they didn't know it 'fore, they could tell right then that they weren't gonna a-beat 'im. That old Luke smile. Old Luke, he was some boy. Cool Hand Luke. Hell, he's a natural-born world-shaker.”

Luke is an empty Christ. His story is devoid of redemption. He leaves us with just a smile. And for men who have been reduced to nothing that is enough, because it HAS to be enough.

Because sometimes, nothing can be a real cool hand.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:06 PM on February 27, 2012 [8 favorites]

Whether it's a paean to libertarianism or just a flick about a loser trying to buck the system (as a great many movies in the late 1960s and 1970s were), it's still a classic.

Agree with all my heart, blucevalo.

Also, even if I didn't hugely care for the main essay, I am delighted to learn via the OP's wiki link that the original author of Cool Hand Luke, one Donn Pearce is still alive. He is 83.

Also that Pearce was a young badass himself, eventually spending 2 years in a Florida chain gang (for non-violent crimes). He then later shaped some of these experiences into a first novel (MEMO to James Frey - this is how it's done! You go through some serious personal shit - then you work hard to transform it into art!), Cool Hand Luke.

The novel was published by Scribners in 1965, and Pearce also co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for the 1967 movie. (And makes a cameo in the film as a convict called Sailor).

Wiki also says Pearce - who became a successful journalist - published a 4th novel in 2005 to excellent reviews, and that "in 2011 a dramatization of Cool Hand Luke played on London's West Side".

Also on preview, BitterOldPunk - that was completely brilliant.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:25 PM on February 27, 2012

We're now into much more interesting territory than the OP.

One key detail in the being-and-nothingness of the movie that's absolutely key is the postcard Luke has made when he's on the lam where he's whooping it up with showgirls. It becomes a talisman for the other inmates, this vessel into which they pour what remains of their free souls. And then Luke comes back and tells them it was all just a cheap forgery.

They keep pestering him to redeem their caged existence, and he refuses.

"The picture's a phony. Cost me a week's pay . . . The picture's a phony. I had it made up for you guys . . . Nothin'. I made nothin', had nothin'. A couple of towns, a couple of bosses. I laughed out loud once, they turned me in. . . GET OUT THERE YOURSELVES! STOP FEEDING OFF ME!"

Whether you want to take that as a rejection of religion, or salvation, the whole desperate human yearning for a higher meaning, in any case it lays the movie's central theme out pretty clearly. Nothing's a cool hand, in a sense, because there isn't anything else. Never was. It's Sisyphus learning to smile as he heads back down the hill to collect his rock again one more time.
posted by gompa at 12:39 PM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's key that I start proofreading my posts for repititions before posting . . .
posted by gompa at 12:50 PM on February 27, 2012

Donn Pearce is still alive. He is 83.

And his book's great, if you're a fan of the film (like me). Has a flashback describing what Luke was up to, in Europe, during the war.
posted by Rash at 4:33 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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