“You are the most obedient man I’ve ever met in my life. Look at me. Aren’t you?!” - Natalie Ravenna
Where does the line between pretentiousness and art meet. I honestly don’t think any director sets out to make a pretentious film, and maybe a director can never really make a pretentious film, it is only the viewer who can call it pretentious. The viewer comes to this conclusion based on the viewing of the film itself and some preconceived notions that they themselves bring to their viewing. I’m not sure anything can be objectively pretentious.
However, I do believe that a director can make a film that is more of an experiment that an actually movie. Making a film is only one form of art, the process of making that film is an art in and of itself. So can a film be pretentious, but the process of making that film not be pretentious?
I ask this question because after finishing Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rain People, I’m pretty sure Francis Ford Coppola, must have know that some people would find this movie pretentious, but the more I think about the film, the more I realize I that Coppola wasn’t so much making a film as he was conducting an experiment.
And as an experiment I think The Rain People is an overwhelmingly success, but as a film I’m not so sure that it isn’t one of most pretentious film I have ever seen.
I call The Rain People an experiment because that is exactly what is was. A young Francis Ford Coppola set out to make a road movie without a script, and according to him studio approval. He set out in an eight passenger caravan, and traveled with the cast to eighteen different states looking for locations to shoot, improvising dialogue along the way.
A young housewife Natalie Ravenna (Shirley Knight) finds out that she is pregnant, which throws her into an emotional tailspin, not ready to be mother she decides to leave her husband and take off on a road trip to not place in particular.
As she comes to terms with the fact that she is carrying a child she meets a drifter named Killer (James Caan). Killer whose real name is Jimmy Kilgannon, was once a star football player who sustained a severe head injury, causing permanent brain damage, and leaving him a childlike minded drifter. As Natalie and Killer bond over their trip, she beings to understand what she wants out of life, as Killer begins to open up about his past.
Natalie begins to wonder if she should go back to her husband or stay with Killer. Her decision becomes more difficult when she meets Gordon (Robert Duvall), an attractive, widowed, highway patrolman.
When Gordon’s daughter comes around unexpected secrets are revealed about Gordon, Natalie, and Killer, leading to a violent conclusion for the trio.
To call The Rain People a success would be correct, to call it a failure would also be correct. The film itself is a work of art made up of many beautiful shots, powerful performances, and at times riveting dialogue, but in my opinion it isn’t a very good film. It may not be a pretentious film, but after watching it a second time I couldn’t help but find it pretentious. However, with any good work of art it is always up to debate.
The Rain People is a very interesting film due to it’s production process, while often beautiful to look at, watching it can be a trying experience.
“You can escape purgatory, but you can’t escape Hell.” - Priest in My Left Foot
This has been day 24 of 30 VHS In 30 DAYS. My journey to the center of VHS Hell. Special thanks to I Luv Video in Austin, The World’s Largest Video Store, for being my spiritual and literal guide through VHS purgatory.