Monday, November 13, 2006

The Proposition

Call this an Australian western. It's visually stunning. I've never see the Australian Outback photographed like this. It's also incredibly violent. There were times when I almost had to turn away. Lots of dirt and filth, and more flies that I've ever seen in a movie before.

Here's the deal: an outlaw family, led by Danny Huston as Arthur Burns, lives according to the principle laid down by The Misfit in Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find." You remember. "No pleasure but meanness." The opening credits reveal what they've done to another family of three, and it's not pretty.

Then comes the opening scene, an intensely kinetic gun battle in which Mikey Burns (the slow one) and his brother Charlie are captured. They've left the gang, for whatever reason, and now they're in big trouble. Captain Stanley (great performance by Ray Winstone, but then all the performances are good) makes Charlie a proposition: kill Arthur, and Charlie and Mikey will be pardoned. What happens after that is best left to you to discover. As mentioned above, some it might be tough to take if you're a wimp like me.

The movie deals with some of the same things American westerns do, like the attempt to "civilize" an unsuspecting country, often using methods as terrible as those the outlaws themselves resort to.

And then there's the problem of the aboriginals. This is the only movie I've ever seen that begins with a warning that "some scenes may be offensive to aboriginal peoples." The methods used against them are certainly as brutal as those employed by the Burns gang.

Check it out and see what you think. There don't seem to be any easy answers, and the movie never compromises the moral ambiguity it presents.


  1. Todd Mason5:09 PM

    Haven't seen this one yet, but you might dig the cinematography of both WALKABOUT and THE LAST WAVE...though I suspect you might've seen these...

  2. I thought it was the best movie I saw last year (at theater with a crowd of 2) despite my horror at some of the violence. The first and last scenes were simply horrifying but never gratuitous.

  3. Todd, I've seen both of those and enjoyed them.

    It was a DVD, Cap'n.

    I agree, Patti, that it was a really good movie, and an unflinching one. Certainly not gratuitous. The violence was the point.

  4. Great call, Bill. Easily one of my favorite movies of this year. I just read that the director John Hillcoat has signed on to the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel THE ROAD. His take on the end of the world should be frightening.

  5. Hillcoat should be perfect. The Proposition is a lot like McCarthy's Blood Meridian.

  6. Hillcoat and Cave's earlier film GHOSTS OF THE CIVIL DEAD is also quite striking. I haven't seen THE PROPOSITION as yet, even though it was screened in theaters in Finland (and Hillcoat was doing PR here), but don't have time to visit cinema theaters as much as I'd hope to.

  7. gerard3:59 PM

    I ordered this for my library but have not yet checked watched it out myself. One of the pages here said to me, "It's a western, it's in Australia, it has Guy Pearce, who couldn't like this?"

    I said, "My wife." I bought the DVD after seeing Nick Cave wrote the script.

  8. I watched it when my wife was gone. She would have hated it, I'm sure.

  9. I also watched it without my missus. And I also thought it was one of the best films I've seen this year. Even though I was waiting for the violence to become gratuitous, for some kind of wrong note to be hit, it never happened.

    And the soundtrack by Ellis and Cave is pretty awesome.