U.S.A. • 1972 • COLOUR • 100 MIN

‘Fat city’ is a jazz musician’s term, meaning limitless possibility, that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is the mirage that links the film’s two main characters, an over-the-hill boxer (Stacy Keach) with delusions of future glory and a young hopeful (Jeff Bridges) whose life will probably go the same way. This is not about champions or even contenders: it is, says Huston, ‘about people who are beaten before they start but who never stop dreaming.’

Finely adapted by Leonard Gardner from his own novel and photographed by Conrad Hall with a keen eye for the contrast between dingy bars where men dream their dreams and harsh sunlight where they live their lives, ‘Fat City’ was gratifyingly received as a great comeback for Huston. One can certainly see its influence on a movie like Clint Eastwood’s ‘Million Dollar Baby’ (2005). Stacy Keach has never been finer; and the use of Kris Kristofferson’s song ‘Help Me Make It Through the Night’ adds another layer of poetry and poignancy to this dignified drama.—Neil Sinyard.

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