105 minutes| U.S.A.| 1981| Colour| 35mm

This film screened 25th February 2010.

Perhaps the most shamefully neglected masterpiece of 1980s American cinema, this complex and compelling modern film noir actually improves on its source material, Newton Thornburg’s fine post-Vietnam novel Cutter and Bone. Whereas the novel spells out all the details, the film (brilliantly directed by Czech emigre Ivan Passer) remains tantalisingly ambiguous on the question of guilt or innocence as a bitter, horribly mutilated Vietnam vet (John Heard) and his two cohorts (Jeff Bridges and Lisa Eichhorn) hunt down a rich Santa Barbara oil tycoon in the belief that he murdered a young woman and dumped her body in a trash can. A strong sense of ambiguity also applies to the relationships between the three main characters who are amongst the finest portraits of disillusioned American outcasts ever captured on screen. Heard is extraordinary as the paranoid Cutter, but he’s matched by Bridges’ turn as the ageing beach bum who fears commitment.

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