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Friday 1 May 2020

Burl reviews Futz! (1969)

With a guttural cry we have Burl, living it up among the avant-garde! Yes, I have a very unusual picture to review for you today: it’s Futz! Some of you might wonder what Futz is, or how do I obtain some of this wonderful substance, and what is its consistency! Well, Futz is not a substance, but the name of a character in this deeply eccentric picture!
Of course it started off ‘pon the stage as an off-Broadway bit of hippie-era weirdness! Tom O’Horgan, who choreographed and directed things like this - ha ha, he later made that film of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, the one with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder - put together a cast plucked largely from the La MaMa experimental theatrical troupe, went out to Stockton, California with a film crew, and simply Futzed around!
Though adapted from the text by playwright Rochelle Owens, the screenplay, strangely enough, is by Joseph Stefano, who also wrote Psycho! Ha ha, odd! It’s set in the backwoods of hillbilly America and tells the story, or sort of tells the story, of a farmer called Futz and his great love for his pig Amanda! Oh, Futz does truly adore his oinker, and one night when old Oscar Loop, a neighbor, played by an actor who looks like René Auberjonois with his René Auberjonois-ness turned up another twenty or thirty percent, happens to peer into Futz’s barn and sees him making sweet bacon with Amanda, he like to goes crazy and descends immediately into a frenzy of rape and murder!
Loop is jailed for his crime and set to hang, but the community blames Futz for the crime just as much, repelled as they are by his simple act of swine-love! Futz gets pushed around an awful lot, but defends himself with every hick fiber of his being! Unfortunately, however, all these events lead to a tragic finale, demonstrating what happens to nonconformists in this hayseed burg! Ha ha! I guess the moral of the thing is similar to that of Easy Rider, if there were no motorcycles and Dennis Hopper was a pig!
“Now, I don’t want to start a ruckus…” one character says, but really the whole movie is a ruckus! It seems at times like a Bethel Buckalew picture, or a Buckalew-esque work, like Country Cuzzins or Sassy Sue or Tobacco Roody or The Pigkeeper's Daughter, or some other such erotic hickventure! Most other times it’s a big old experimental theatre bumkunis, which you will enjoy or despise according to your feelings about experimental theatre! Actors are forever pushing each other down, or else being pushed down and rolling on the ground, and there’s no shortage of facial gurning and cornpone shouting! There’s also a hefty lady who peels off her dress to go a-swimmin’ in the ol' mud hole! Ha ha!
There are a few familiar faces here, like Sally Kirkland from Hometown U.S.A. and Fatal Games, and Frederic Forrest from It Lives Again and Apocalypse Now! The Auberjonois-Plus who plays Loop is called Seth Allen, and he played Hungry Joe in Catch 22, which seems appropriate! Some of the acting is astonishingly good, it must be said, and other performances try hard but don’t quite make it!
Funny thing, it was shot by Vilmos Zsigmond, who was behind the camera on many fine-looking films, from McCabe & Mrs. Miller to The Witches of Eastwick, but at the time of this picture was making his transition from low budget weirdos to the big pictures that would make his name! There are some good visual moments in here, most notably a genuinely striking overhead spinning optical effect shot - ha ha, you’ll know it when you see it!
But if you don’t like stuff of this sort, this will be the longest ninety-two minutes you ever spend! If you get into it, you’ll find some compelling dramaturgy and a few emotionally penetrating moments! It’s not necessarily the kind of thing I gravitate to, but I appreciated what the picture had to offer! Ha ha, I give Futz two flaming mops!

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