8.05.2011

The Straight Story by David Lynch




I love The Straight Story.  Watching that movie, for me, is like listening to a favorite album I can just reset the needle on over and over again all day long on a lazy day around the house. I'm pretty sure Harry Dean Stanton is still around. He's always worth checking out, whatever role he plays. Sissy Spacek is phenomenal too as the developmentally disabled mother who's lost custody of her kids, living with her elderly father -- a recent stroke survivor (Richard Farnsworth) -- who's got one last mission in life riding a lawn tractor ... the look in her vacated eyes staring out the window, Sissy Spacek's ... makes me nearly despondent myself over her devastating loss, just contemplating it ... and all of it, her unspeakably sad loss, conveyed on film, completely without words. That's the power of great acting and great David Lynch film making. And that moving, melancholic soundtrack, written and performed by Angelo Badalamenti -- ahhhhhhh. Or the circulating, resplendent cinematography: the same images, like the chorus of a song, replayed with soaring power again and again. Images of bucolic farmland and pastures. Wide shots of wheat fields swaying in orchestral-like oneness with the autumn winds.

Haunts me, too, thinking that Richard Farnsworth took his life shortly after his majestic performance on that state-by-state trekking, three-m.p.h.-driving, lawn tractor odyssey, in The Straight Story, documenting the real life story of Alvin Straight's snail-pace journey across Iowa and Wisconsin on a ruby red John Deere lawn tractor. What determination! What commitment to a redemptive cause! And what a poignant crackup -- that crazy scene where he loses his brakes on that steep downgrade and finds himself sitting on a runaway lawnmower speeding down a hill toward imminent destruction! Not to mention the redemptive influence he has in the lives he encounters along the way, good Lord, especially that pregnant runaway girl leaving him a morning goodbye -- "I-got-your-message" -- of tied cords at the campsite along the road (I'm getting gooseflesh just thinking about it), on toward the quiet, contemplative reconciliation with his cancer-stricken brother, played by the incomparably gaunt and rickety, Harry Dean Stanton, approaching death: brothers who haven't spoken to one another once over some stupid argument they had, twenty-odd years ago. God,

that profound ending.

That stunning camera shot.

Those stars.

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