Alan Parker's greatest achievement is probably this harrowing -- and infamous -- account of an American who foolishly tries to smuggle back drugs from his visit to Turkey. He's quickly made an example of and tossed into a revolting prison cell. After his 3 1/2-year sentence is nearly up, it's extended for 20 years. You can imagine how he feels, and are faced with the horrors of seeing it all on the screen. Based on Billy Hayes' book and a script from Oliver Stone, Midnight Express has earned a (rightful) reputation as one of the most distrubing films about third-world prisons... or any other prison, for that matter. All modern-day jail flicks owe it a debt.
To be fair, The Duellists (based on Conrad's The Duel) is a type of movie made often in the 1970s -- a low-tech but visually authentic historical drama. As with '70s westerns, the point was to make a new kind of period drama emphasizing cinematic realism at the expense of entertainment values (instead of the other way around). The film is based on a Joseph Conrad story about a quarrel between two soldiers in Napoleon's army which turns into an obsessive folie a deux. Kind of a Gallic High Noon, but not as entertaining as High Noon.
Continue reading: The Duellists Review
Today, that Vangelis score -- produced when everyone thought the synthesizer was a really cool idea -- probably wouldn't win the Oscar it won in 1981. And whether Chariots itself would win Best Picture (among the total of four awards it was bestowed) is a matter for debate.
Continue reading: Chariots Of Fire Review
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.