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Patty Hearst – 1988 Schrader
- There are two films here within one—the opening first 30 minutes or so, the part where she is captured and held capture is brilliant cinema- a fever dream montage of arresting images, lighting and camera choices – elliptical and repetitive—very much like the entire running time almost of Mishima – Schrader’s best work. After that, the film settles into a (still interesting but cinematically unspecial) more normal narrative/drama.
- Opens with a long lingering tracking shot of Patty (a really superb Natasha Richardson) on campus prior to the kidnapping — Schrader freezes the camera on her at the end of the shot and then drops a heavy procession score on her as we zoom in on actual photographs of her
- Voice-over inner monologue—this is the writer of Taxi Driver after all—and the diary writing of First Reformed, Mishima, Dafoe’s voice-over in Light Sleeper
- Schrader is very active with the camera- tracking away from her in the closet—putting us in her headspace and fear
- A dazzler at 8 minutes (a shot and set that would be repeated later) as light pours into the circles on this creative set – here on Ving Rhames– see above
- The white background, Wellesian low-angle shot creating faceless silhouette figures when they confront her in the closet—repeated
- 10 minutes in we’re tracking in on the all-red bathroom
- The camera is in motion as we blur the lines of her dreams, reality, brainwashing starts — images of her childhood flash in- trauma—similar to the jump cut aesthetics pioneered by Resnais in Hiroshima Mon Amour and used in films like Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy with Joe Buck’s haunted past/incident
- I think there’s a bit of smart casting in having the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave (Richardson) play the bourgeois heiress (of sorts) here — certainly a figure of elitism and arrogance
- There are some formal problems with the film—the pictures of Hearst’s childhood in the opening clashes a bit with the expressionistic fever dream— as does the exact date coming across in plain white titles during the film—are we creatively putting ourselves in her shoes like Polanski’s Repulsion? Pre Lynne Ramsay trauma tone poem? Or is this a docudrama like The Battle for Algiers?
- Ving Rhames is revelatory in 1988—strong, commanding, the “profit” speech.
- At 71 minutes as if a mini call-back to the first 30 minutes we have Richardson’s Hearst pass through a series of tinted colored windows- a nice touch and then back to the circle set-piece room at 95 minutes
- Recommend but not quite in the top 10 of 1988 — if Schrader carries that first part of the film all the way through we certainly would have something special