There is much to praise here in Walter Hill’s 1981 thriller and between this and 1978’s The Driver I probably need to take a deeper dive into Hill’s filmography
Shot on location in the swamps of Louisiana near East Texas—an indelible character in the film – impossible to duplicate—gorgeous Spanish moss—Hill makes the smart decision to shoot the soldiers in long shot or medium long shot to capture the swamp— Hill isn’t quite on this level but it reminded me of Mikhail Kalatozov’s Letter Never Sent
A war film? Sort of- a thriller for sure maybe closer to Deliverance (a conscious comparison the marketers at least made with the poster)—but also an allegory—every critic talks about this being Vietnam, the Cajun natives (often peaceful here until attacked and we see a village without technology) but Hill denies that intention. It doesn’t matter really. It could easily be a Native American allegory as well and work well. They do steal their canoe and that’s what starts the wheels of the narrative in motion. The helicopters here are Vietnam. But it has a backwoods authentic feel for sure- never pandering to the native Cajuns.
It predates it but Jim Jarmusch would use the swamps here in the third leg of Down By Law (1986) for the prison escapes.
Ry Cooder’s score is as much a character as the swamp—minimalist. Impressive. This is three years before his work with Wenders on Paris Texas and that sublime score
Story of the Louisiana national guard- but again about the arrogance of the soldiers—they fire blanks at the Cajuns after stealing their Canoe.
Like Deliverance works a horror film as well as they are haunted by a killer/killers in the woods—Predator works the same way.
A gorgeous dissolve at 22 minutes blending the swamp backdrop. It’s clear Walter Hill has seen Apocalypse Now a few times.
Slow-motion shootout—Hill isn’t quite Peckinpah but who is?
At 82 minutes a great shot of a face in the front left foreground of the frame and Keith Carradine and Powers Boothe in the background right- depth of field
A very good cast. The intensity of Boothe stands out—Fred Ward is good as always as part of the ensemble
The ritual dance finale with the slaughtering of two pigs interwoven- absolutely Coppola and Apocalypse Now
[…] Southern Comfort – W. Hill […]