John Boorman's "Point Blank"
August 1, 2010 7:52 PM   Subscribe

What makes Point Blank so extraordinary, however, is not its departures from genre conventions, but Boorman's virtuoso use of such unconventional avant-garde stylistics to saturate the proceedings with a classical noir mood of existential torpor and romanticized fatalism. (previously)
posted by Joe Beese (25 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
It certainly is one of the best films, and Marvin makes it that much better.
posted by Jeff_Larson at 8:21 PM on August 1, 2010

I thought that said Point Break. I was ready for some serious analysis.
posted by lumensimus at 8:29 PM on August 1, 2010 [22 favorites]

I thought it said Grosse Pointe Blank, and it still kind of made sense.
posted by oulipian at 8:34 PM on August 1, 2010

I seriously read this post as if it were about Grosse Point Blank. Existential torpor and romanticized fatalism? Yeah, I could see it.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 8:35 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I'm not buying the author's interpretation. Point Blank is not An Incident at Owl Creek Bridge, fer cryin' out loud.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:36 PM on August 1, 2010

I've been meaning to check out this flick as I have heard it's something of an ancestor/cousin to The Limey.

And The Limey is one of my faves. This could be the push I need to finally check it out.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:37 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't walk down a long hallway without the relevant scene from this film starting up in my head.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:41 PM on August 1, 2010

TVtropes says the whole movie is Walker's dying dream and that Boorman confirmed this in an interview. Unfortunately, there's no citation.

Here's a wonky pomo view from an academic.

Some good background on Point Blank inside a review of the utterly horrible remake (which has got to be Mel Gibson's worst film and that's saying a lot.)

This is a nice backgrounder on Boorman with citations of articles about him (sadly few are on the web.)

Point Blank (1967) - Classic Film Review
John Boorman's Hypnotic Neo-Noir Rewards for Repeated Viewings

Point Blank compares well with Performance, The Limey, High Plains Drifter and Get Carter. Which, come to think of it, would make a lovely little film series.

Here's some posters in a blog post.

And finally, a report on Boorman talking about his work at the Montreal film festival.
posted by warbaby at 8:43 PM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

I seriously thought it was about Point Break too, but I didn't want to lead the thread with that. Glad I didn't have to!
posted by Ouisch at 8:44 PM on August 1, 2010

Influenced by the French New Wave's radical formal innovations, the European ennui of Michelangelo Antonioni's films, and the genre revisionism of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, Boorman set out to make a thriller that looked and felt like nothing else before it, using widescreen Panavision cinematography, explosive colors, and a multi-layered soundtrack to re-envision the noir picture as highbrow Euro-art film.

That Slant article is really sharp, thanks (but probably could use a spoiler warning, what with that interpretation at the end). I hadn't seen any Antonioni before Point Blank but now that I have, the connection makes a lot of sense. And the article's dead-on about the way Boorman used modernist architecture in the film, along with the beautifully odd editing, sound and color. I went in expecting a standard tight little noir and immediately fell in love with the fucked-up angular style. I literally had my mouth open at how wonderfully strange it was.

In related coincidental news, I just finished the first Dortmunder novel last night and was happy to find out that it was turned into a movie with Robert Redford, George Segal, Zero Mostel and Ron Liebman, directed by Peter Yates a couple of years after he did Bullitt. Not expecting Point Blank or anything, but it might be good.
posted by mediareport at 8:55 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

mediareport: 'The Hot Rock'? Yeah, it's really good fun, and delightfully gritty like so much stuff that Redford did in the 70s (see 'Three Days of the Condor' or even 'The Candidate').

Worth seeing even if only for the helicopter footage of the then-new WTC.

Sigh. I grew up on the neorealist and French new-wave influenced American movies of the 70s, and I long for new films like that; the last great example that comes to handily to mind was 'Ronin', and that was over ten years ago now. I'll happily trade 'Public Enemies' for 'The Seven-Ups' any day of the week.
posted by MarchHare at 10:08 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's intrigues me how people do not "get" POINT BLANK. The thing is clearly a fantasy. The "freeze frame" under the title credits actually is not -- you can tell that Walker is simply standing stock still, but moving ever-so-slightly.

Walker also never kills anyone in the entire film. People die, but not by his hand.

And he is able to engage in feats of superhuman strength, like blithely breaking the binocular scope in order to turn it the direction he wants.

It's a remarkable piece of cinema, and worth watching more than once, and worth attending to while watching.
posted by peterme at 10:26 PM on August 1, 2010

I get my two fave Lee Marvin films confused - is Point Blank the one where he punches a guy in the nuts? And Prime Cut is the one with the threshing machine? The part where Marvin's face is slow-dissolved at the end is super creepy. It's almost a Zen kind of "action movie".
posted by stinkycheese at 10:31 PM on August 1, 2010

I get my two fave Lee Marvin films confused - is Point Blank the one where he punches a guy in the nuts?

I could believe that this is every Lee Marvin film. (Except maybe Hell in the Pacific—I was wondering as I watched the nightclub clip where I'd just seen him.)
posted by kenko at 11:32 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I want my money. I want my $93,000.

Well this has inspired me to watch it again, as I on a bit of crime kick at the moment. Pity it's not available on DVD in the UK...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:22 AM on August 2, 2010

Boorman's virtuoso use of such unconventional avant-garde stylistics to saturate the proceedings with a classical noir mood of existential torpor and romanticized fatalism.



These go to eleven!
posted by Sutekh at 3:21 AM on August 2, 2010

One of the greatest films I've ever seen. Seen it on the big screen whenever I can. Have the Japanese poster too. So hope it comes to Blu Ray. It deserves it. I could bore you all for days about how much I love it. But this great post and the comments shows I'm sure not alone...
posted by The Salaryman at 5:02 AM on August 2, 2010

One of my favorites. Thanks for this post.
posted by box at 5:16 AM on August 2, 2010

I always forget that Point Blank is a Boorman film. I always think of Emerald Forest, Zardoz, Deliverance etc. Checking IMDB, Beyond Rangoon was his too (which makes sense) and he's currently remaking The Wizard of Oz. (WTF?!)
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:59 AM on August 2, 2010

The Killers was decent but I think dated if seen now. Too much Tarantino and and decades of violent movies/TV make its impact a little less. I'd like to watch Point Blank and see if I feel the same way.
posted by spicynuts at 7:17 AM on August 2, 2010

Damn it, I read Point Break also especially because the descriptions "classical noir", "existential torpor", and "romanticized fatalism" seemed to fit so perfectly (well, the noir bit had me a bit confused, but still!). Plus I've always felt it was a far better film than most critics gave it credit for and so was happy to see it get it's day in the sun. Er, and sorry for the tangent.
posted by bfootdav at 8:12 AM on August 2, 2010

I think Point Break *does* have something of a mock-serious critical following, actually.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:14 AM on August 2, 2010

I'll happily trade 'Public Enemies' for 'The Seven-Ups' any day of the week.

Ok, that got me looking:

The Seven-Ups is just as interesting when it isn't concentrating on action; the script draws the viewer in by letting them figure out the personas and events driving the story instead of spelling it all out, and Philip D'Antoni directs the film in a confident style, giving it a gritty yet stylish look and underplaying the dramatic moments to give them greater effect....boosted by solid, naturalistic performances from a quality cast....the action lives up to the tough nature of the storyline (the central car chase is truly breathtaking) and the unexpected ending finishes the film on a haunting note.

All in all, The Seven-Ups is one of Hollywood's best police-oriented thrillers from the 1970s and a must for those fond of this subgenre.

Ookay, and that got me Netflixing, where I found my new favorite customer review:

I only gave it two stars. This should have been at least a 4 star movie for me. I'm a huge fan of Bullitt and The French Connection. Why the disappointment? Where to start? How about the dubbed-in engine sounds on the Ventura, a 307 or 350 automatic that sounds EXACTLY like the Bullitt Mustang 390/4 speed??? You can even hear the double clutching! Odd for an automatic.
posted by mediareport at 10:14 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Lee Marvin would clean up the floor with Mel Gibson and pretty much any other living action movie hero.

And ..... I think there are many who agree that "Point Break" is an underrated movie. I can't remember where I read it, but I do think it has gotten its props among those who give good movies the boost they deserve.

spicynuts: The Killers was decent but I think dated if seen now.

The 1962 version for some reason seems more dated to me somehow than the original 1946 version with Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner, which is one of the all-time great noirs -- and those are never dated.
posted by blucevalo at 1:29 PM on August 2, 2010

John Boorman is really auteury, and lucid about it. Point Blank kinda isn't my cuppa, but the colors are amazing!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:16 PM on August 2, 2010

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